Amy's Book Blog
Welcome back to The Book Centre Blog! This month we are highlighting our wonderful children's books of the month, picked carefully by our Children's Book Buyer Amy. We also have a special guest on the blog as Judi Curtin answers a few questions about her latest book Lily Steps Up.
We are making a conscious effort to support Irish authors this month (and every month!) so three of our four books have Irish connections. First up is This is Not an Alphabet Book:The Case of the Missing Cake. This is a great story written by Irish man Eoin McLaughlin with illustrations by Marc Boutavant. This is a hilarious picture book suitable for 2-6 year olds. A cake has been stolen but as we go through the alphabet it appears as if the culprit may be hiding in plain sight...children will adore this misleading story of mischief.
Our pick for 6-9 year olds is a Investigators: Take the Plunge by John Patrick Green. Mango and Brash are detectives and their next mission is preventing a code from falling into the wrong hands. What could possibly go wrong? A hilarious story of mishaps, if your child loves Dogman they need to read Investigators! Our teenage book of the month for April is an epic fantasy novel by Clara O'Connor who is Irish but based in LA. Secrets of the Starcrossed is set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell with a mix of the modern and the classic. Cassandra must choose between the life she always knew or rebel for love and what she believes is right. A heartstopping plot, romance and rebellion-this has it all!
Lily Steps Up is our choice for 9-12 year olds, and this may be one of our favourite books in a while! Lily is determined to help her friend Nellie who was separated from her family in the workhouse, but what if she must sacrifice her own livelihood to do so? This is a story with friensdship at its heart, one that both children and adults will enjoy. We were incredibly lucky to have Judi Curtin answer a few questions for us below! Enjoy and happy reading!
Interview with Judi Curtin
Amy- Was it important for you to write about the plight of families who entered the workhouse in Lily Steps Up?
Judi- I started researching workhouses in 2019, when I was writing Lily at Lissadell, and was shocked by much of what I read. I was particularly moved by the thought of whole families being split up, and perhaps never finding each other again. When I came to write Lily Steps up, I knew Nellie’s lost family had to be a big part of the story.
Amy - Friendship is a theme in most of your books, and I think all of us would love a friend like Lily! What do you think makes Lily such a good friend to almost everyone she meets?
Judi - Yes, you’re right – I love writing about friendship. I suppose Lily’s best qualities are her loyalty to her friends, and her determination to find good in people. Even in the beginning, when Nellie was so rude and unfriendly, Lily gave her a chance, and tried to find the lovely girl hidden inside. Lily tries to take people at face value, which is why she manages to be friends with Maeve who is rich and pampered, and also with the servants, whose lives were so different. Even when Lily’s life was going well, she thought of her friends, and how she could help them.
Amy - What advice would you give to somebody starting to write historical fiction for children?
Judi - Go for it! At first, I wasn’t sure if historical fiction was for me, and I was a bit put off by the amount of research I’d have to do. After a while though, I discovered that I love research, and had to discipline myself so that I’d eventually get the book written. I’d advise choosing a historical period that interests you, as you’re going to be spending a lot of time there. The Internet is of course a great resource, but don’t forget libraries, which can supply all kinds of helpful books.
Amy - Describe Lily Steps Up in three words! Judi - Friendship. Fun. History.
Amy's Book Blog - Nature Books
Isn't it lovely to have some sunshine? And what better way to celebrate than getting outside into our gardens, a local beach or even a park that is close by. Nature has never been as important to us all as it is now. Here are my top picks in children’s nature books to get the whole family out and about this spring. All available to buy on our website. There are two new titles in this great series for younger readers,
Lift and Look Trees and Lift and Look Bees . The perfect books for little ones this Spring, they are colourful and the lift the flap element keeps children engaged. They will learn about what bees do that is so important for our planet and how trees change throughout the seasons.
For children from five years old right up until twelve there are brilliant spotting guides that are activity based and will keep children active while learning about their surroundings. One that I highly recommend is the RSPB Nature Guide to Wildlife. It teaches children (and adults!) where to look for plants and animals no matter where you are. It is also jam packed full of information about sea creatures, flowers, and much more. Another fantastic Guide is the Nosy Crow’s 2021 Nature Month-By-Month . I love this one as it shows us what to look out for in each month of the year. It also has simple activity ideas and gardening tips!
We cannot discuss nature without discussing climate change, and especially for older children it is important we teach them about it and how our actions affect our environment. Most importantly then, how can we help? Well Usborne’s Looking After Our Planet tells us how. Perfect for ages six and above, it helps us understand why reducing our waste and recycling, among other things, is so important. I hope these books inspire some of you to get outside, no matter where you are! See you soon for more recommends!
Amy's Book Blog - My Favourite New Books in 2021
There have been some fantastic new children’s books released in the last month, and it is such a shame they are not getting their time to shine with our bookshops closed to the public. Here are just a few of our favourites, and all are available to buy now through our website. The first is a picture book written by Irish author Patricia Forde and illustrated by Rachael Saunders. ‘Fidget The Wonder Dog’ is a celebration of pets. Fidget accidentally loses his way but is brought back to his worried owner in the end by a kind stranger. Perfect for reading aloud to little ones.
A very timely publication given the current situation is ‘The Worries’ by Jion Sheibani. Sohal draws his worries one night to make them less scary but wakes up the next day to find they have come alive! A story that is full of fun and laughter for 6-8 year olds but also has important messages about worrying.
One book that stands out as a sure favourite in the making is ‘Stick Boy’ by Paul Coomey. Stick Boy is the only stick person in his whole town and it is not easy. Can he avoid bully Sam for much longer? A funny, adventurous book that has a nice mix of text and comic strip. Perfect for fans of Dogman that may need a little extra to stop them gobbling up the Dogman books in half an hour!
For teenagers the standout novel this month has to be ‘The Henna Wars’ by Adiba Jaigirdar. A touching novel about a teenager trying to figure out if she can truly be herself without losing her family, something that only becomes harder when Nishat meets Flavia. An amazing book about first love and we are so happy we picked it as our January book of the month. Don’t forget that all of these books and more are available on our website. Books are the perfect escapism for the young (and old!). .
Children's Story Time With Amy
Amy reads 'The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Book' - A playful rhyming story by Lucy Rowland, with hilarious illustrations from Ben Mantle. When Ben's mum gets distracted halfway through his bedtime story, he decides to finish the tale himself. There's only one problem – he can't quite read yet. To Ben's surprise, the three little pigs come knocking on the door, and the big bad wolf isn't far behind... But this time, will the story have a different ending? Click here to watch the latest episode of Story Time With Amy.
Amy reads 'Wee Donkey's Treasure Hunt' - The Jeanie Johnston (Dublin), Glendalough, Blarney castle, Giant’s Causeway, Tara, the sea on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Book of Kells in Trinity are just a few of the places Wee Donkey visits to bring her grandad a souvenir. . . Click here to watch!
Amy reads 'The Girl and the Dinosaur' - A masterpiece of storytelling with evocative and stunning illustrations, destined to be read for years to come. The wishing stars burn bright tonight, the air is thick with dreams, And a deeply sleeping dinosaur is waking up, it seems . . . . Click here to watch!
You can watch all past episodes of Storytime With Amy on our YouTube channel here or on IGTV through our Instagram accounts!
New Children's Books
New childrens and young adult fiction & non-fiction books...