Fairytale retellings & International Children’s Book Day

Today is International Children’s Book Day, and there’s a whole bunch of events going on today – see here!

IBBY Ireland have also launched a new resource website, Imagine Nations.

And finally there is a shiny fairytale retelling collection from Irish kids’ writers available for download here, including a story from yours truly, and some terrific retellings by Deirdre Sullivan, Anna Carey, Dave Rudden, Sarah Webb, Sheena Wilkinson, Ruth Long, and others.

Fairytale retellings! So shiny!

HCA Launch Invitation

Book-review post!

More book reviews! Two 9-12s, one new adult, one YA.

Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck
Latest Wimpy Kid is a quick, fun read, as ever. Things aren’t going well for Greg ever since Rowley, of all people, acquired a girlfriend, but he’s determined to turn things around, with the help of a Magic-8 ball to consult whenever a decision needs to be made. There’s plenty of snark about how-life-is-in-series-fiction, school policies, and family interactions. Delightful.

Ann M Martin – Family Tree #2: The Long Way Home
This is the second book in Martin’s quartet about a family throughout the twentieth century. I wasn’t as crazy about Dana as I was about Abby – but I loved seeing the characters from the first book grow up and change as the years progressed. Basically, there’s so much stuff here that happens to Abby, but viewed through the unsympathetic lens of her daughter, and I would have adored to get her viewpoint a bit more. Sigh. But Dana’s ambition is certainly fascinating, and the details about publishing and the art world and school just suck you in. Looking forward to reading the third book. Set in the 1980s, which is apparently historical fiction now (yikes).

Esme Taylor – All I Want For Christmas
Keris Stainton turns her hand to NA – I am fond of her YA so wanted to try this out, and it’s definitely worth checking out. A lovely Christmassy novella featuring love, sex, friendship and family – it’s a quick read but not superficial. Enjoyed it.

Christa Desir – Fault Line
Read this book. Read it. It is astonishingly, astonishingly good and heartbreaking and uncomfortable in places. It’s the story of a teenage boy, Ben, whose girlfriend Ani is raped – and what happens afterwards. Their own burgeoning relationship is portrayed wonderfully – she’s tough but not a cliche, and he’s a decent guy without being sickly sweet. When the event happens – and it’s made public, in a ‘what that slut let those guys do to her at that party’ way – it is awful and unbelievably authentic. Ben wants to help, but doesn’t know how – he also has a lot of anger about it, towards a number of people – and Ani’s response is to try to prove none of it matters by hooking up with more guys, to start to see herself as an object. There are no easy answers here, and it’s a really intense read, and I highly recommend it.

Book-review post!

Oh, so much catching up to do on books I have read in the last… several months. Let’s get started!

Anne-Marie Conway – Forbidden Friends
For 9-12s, this is a story about two girls whose families are bound together by an accident that happened years ago. When they meet on holidays, they have no idea of the secrets they’re about to uncover… cue ominous music. Told from dual perspectives, it does a good job at getting inside both their heads and exploring their concerns. Would be interested to read her other books.

Meg Rosoff – Picture Me Gone
Latest Meg Rosoff is dreamy and quirky, focusing on a watchful and precocious twelve-year-old girl on a road trip with her father to find a friend of his. The adult world is filtered through her sensibilities and it does that very unusual thing in YA of being about a younger character who benefits from being read by an older reader (see also: Emma Donoghue’s Room and John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which are not YA but work in a similar fashion). Not much happens, but it is a lovely read.

K.A. Tucker – Ten Tiny Breaths
New adult. Kacey’s haunted by the deaths of her parents in a car crash, and has run away with her younger sister – she’s old enough now to take care of them both. She’s tough – for which read: dysfunctional – and she doesn’t let anyone in. So why does hot new neighbour Trent get to her so much? And as they get closer, it becomes clear he has secrets of his own… (dun dun DUN!)
This was a good read, but formulaic enough – I have yet to be wowed by NA.

David Levithan & Jonathan Farmer – Every You, Every Me
Oh David Levithan, how you love the collaborations. This is a blend of text and photo and it’s about this girl who is no longer around, and we’re left wondering why…
Shocking confession: I was not mad about this. Obviously there are gorgeous bits in it, it being a Levithan book, and there are some cool typographical things done that work really well, but there was nothing overly surprising in there and it lacked some of the loveliness of his other books.

Julie Halpern – Have A Nice Day
Sequel to Get Well Soon, which I adored. Anna’s just out of the psychiatric hospital and back in the real world, dealing with all the issues there – I loved this thematically but was less adoring of its execution.

Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle – Let It Snow
Three novellas by three YA writers of joy. I’d read work from all these writers before. I was underwhelmed in the extreme. They’re fluffy holiday stories – competent but not ‘wow’ worthy in the way that I’d expect from these guys. And also no redeeming cheerleaders whatsoever. Meh.

Right. Next book-review post I promise there will be something gush-worthy instead of ‘ah yeah, sure it’s grand’. :)

Some things of joy

January can be gloomy. Here are some delightful things to help alleviate said gloom:


#1. ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen, which is possibly the most joyful thing I have encountered since Tangled. It has everything! Everything! Sisters, snow, innuendo, musical numbers, plot twists aplenty, acts of true love thawing frozen hearts… I adored it. And I am a huge fan of Idina Menzel, and Kristen Bell too, so that helped.

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#2. Speaking of… Veronica Maaaars! I loved the TV series – that first season in particular is just extraordinarily good – I am so excited about this movie. I may have a VMars Kickstarter backer t-shirt, yeah.

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#3. So I have not yet seen most of what has aired of How I Met Your Mother‘s final season, but I just had to check out the 200th episode (credit sequence above), ‘How Your Mother Met Me’, and it is both a thing of joy and of heartbreak. Oh, Cristin Milioti.

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#4. To cancel out the heartbreaky moments of #3, another song from Frozen. Sure why not.

Dear Wicked: because I knew you, I have been changed for good

When I love things, it is often obsessively. There’s a reason my favourite book of the year was one called Fangirl. I rewatch TV shows I love, revisit books I’ve adored, and occasionally there are musicals I might go see more than once. Or twice. Or more…

Wicked_2010.jpghiresI’ve noted my love of Wicked here before, but with its recent (still ongoing) arrival in Dublin, I’ve found myself talking about it a lot more. And the main thing that always comes up is how rare it is to have a musical where the main relationship isn’t romantic and it isn’t about heartbreak – it’s about the friendship between two girls, one who grows up to be a Good Witch, the other the Wicked Witch of the West. The best song in the whole show – ‘For Good’ – is a duet between the two of them, and the most tearjerking moment (okay, one of them) involves their dancing awkwardly into friendship together. I can think of so very things in the media – especially things aimed at adults – that devote that much time to acknowledging that female friendships are hugely significant things, rather than things that either support or get in the way of the relationships with the menfolk. There’s a love triangle in Wicked and while it’s certainly not incidental, the main focus is on the Elphaba and G(a)linda dynamic. We’re rooting for Fiyero and Elphaba to get together, for the smart, awkward, green girl to get her guy, but we’re also rooting for G(a)linda not to get hurt, because even though she’s ridiculous at times, she grows and develops and is someone the land of Oz is lucky to have by the end of the show. The two girls are pitted against each other in so many ways – academically, socially, romantically – and they end as friends rather than rivals. (This is a rare thing. Do you know what else does this, by the by? Legally Blonde. Just sayin’.)

But there’s so much else that I love – the fact that there’s so much story there, the way each song moves the plot along, the way that it addresses issues of truth and good versus evil and propaganda and history. The fact that it itself is fannish – it’s revisiting The Wizard of Oz and throwing in all the little references (“There’s no place like home,” Elphaba tells her sister at one point) that those familiar with the original source text will appreciate. It is the best kind of fanfiction – the sort that makes you completely re-evaluate the original material. The sort that does things with someone else’s characters to make them more layered and nuanced. It’s an incredibly satisfying show to watch.

And it is basically an anthem for the awkward, the quirky, the difficult. Elphaba is snarky and talented and hopeful and above all passionate – passionate in her irritation with and later adoration of Fiyero and G(a)linda, her faith in the Wizard, her desire to save the animals, her frustration that nothing’s working out and that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. She’s brave and determined and prickly and she gets her very own story after being the villain in someone else’s, and it’s glorious.

This show makes me happy. In part because there are so many people who have changed me ‘for good’, especially so many kind and smart and inspirational women that I know, and it is so rare that we acknowledge that in grown-up life there are significant non-romantic relationships that happen. And in part because it is just so damn pretty.

And, y’know, what use is the internet if you’re not using it to gush over the things you love at least some of the time?

Favourite YA Books of 2013

It comes around so fast… my favourite YA books of 2013.

The list
(in no particular order)
Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl
Robyn Schneider – Severed Heads, Broken Hearts
Deirdre Sullivan – Improper Order
K A Barson – 45 Pounds (More Or Less)
Beth Revis – Shades of Earth
Katie Coyle – Vivian Versus the Apocalypse
Elizabeth Wein – Rose Under Fire

The breakdown
Dystopian/sci-fi: 1.5
Contemporary/realistic: 4.5
Historical: 1
Authors I’d read before: 4
Authors new to me: 3

Trends
- Fewer titles here than usual but more on the ‘read but not published in’ list.
- Contemporary is winning out here. (Counting Vivian as sort of half-contemporary and half-sci-fi.)
- Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is without a doubt the book I have gushed over the most this year. Except maybe Eleanor & Park. Both of these I plan on rereading very soon.
- The book from this list most likely to make you cry: Rose Under Fire.
- All lady writers. I make no apologies.

Bonus mentions
(read in, but not published in, 2013)
Jenny Hubbard – Paper Covers Rock
Erica Lorraine Scheidt – Uses For Boys
Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor & Park
Amy McNamara – Lovely, Dark and Deep

Past years:
Favourite YA books of 2012, 2011, 2010.