Monday, 22 December 2008

Clare County Library in the Community

In a new development during 2008, Clare County Library took a small section of its treasured material from the Local Studies Centre on tour to Day Care Centres around the county. A selection of Clare Champion newspapers from the 1950s and 1960s was transported to Day Care Centres in Miltown Malbay, Kilrush and Kilmaley where extracts were read and discussed, prompting lively discussion and evoking memories of times past. Old photographs, articles and other historical ephemera from the Local Studies Centre were also displayed and enjoyed.

Reminiscence is something we all do and the older we get the more likely we are to fall back on our memories. This activity, as well as being interesting and informative, can have a great therapeutic effect on people who suffer with memory loss of recent events. Tapping into a person’s past can not only reveal a rich seam of insight and wisdom, but it can be a real tonic for someone who has memory difficulties as a result of their condition. The benefits of this form of Reminiscence Therapy are now widely recognized and further library visits are planned over the coming months.

Clare County Library's Local Studies Centre is open to the public free of charge. It is a reference library and research centre dedicated to the collection of material on any aspect of County Clare and is located at the Manse on Harmony Row, beside the de Valera Public Library in Ennis. Books, journals, newspapers, photographs, maps and other valuable material relating to County Clare can be found here. The Centre also houses a collection of Irish interest material. For further information phone 065-6846271 or email

Books Into Movies

InkheartHaving enjoyed a thriving relationship with the film industry in recent years, children’s book publishing may not be so lucky in the future as it is feared that the economic downturn may well see Hollywood cutting back on the number of book-based films. According to The Bookseller “interest in big fantasy films is on the wane.” These were the major block busters of recent years. It is strongly predicted that film interest will return to the Shrek type movie which appeals to parents as well as children. Recent book- based films include Inkheart based on Cornelia Funke’s book by the same name and Twilight based on Stephanie Meyer’s international bestseller.

New releases to look out for are Coraline by Neil Gaiman, author of this December’s hugely popular Graveyard Book, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak in the Autumn of 2009. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, are both due to launch in Spring 2010. In the world of teenage books, Louise Rennison was crowned the Book People’s first ever Queen of Teen in September 2008. The movie Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging was released in July 2008 based on the first two books in The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series which have so far sold 1.7 million copies.

The ongoing issue of age banding children’s books

The ongoing issue of age banding children’s books was one of the major stories in children’s publishing during 2008. Many publishers feel that age guidance showing on books will increase sales while most authors oppose the initiative saying that it will have a negative impact. Two of the biggest names in children’s writing, Anne Fine and Philip Pullman are against age guidance. Both have accused publishers of putting book sales at risk by banding books for specific ages. According to Fine, no child would pick up a book that was aimed at a younger readership than themselves.

Sports Book Awards

Crashed and Byrned: the Greatest Racing Driver you Never SawCrashed and Byrned: the Greatest Racing Driver you Never Saw by Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes won the William Hill Irish Sports Book of the Year Award for 2008. The book details the story of Tommy Byrne from Dundalk, and his controversial career in motorsport. From a poverty-stricken childhood in Dundalk to becoming the only racing driver that Ayrton Senna ever feared and how it all went wrong when he was so close to the top of world motorsport. Byrne’s tale is one of the great untold stories of Irish sport. He depicts his tough battle to the top and his spectacular fall from grace when, for a brief period, he was arguably the world’s greatest driver. The book goes into every harrowing detail of Tommy’s life from his fame in motorsport, to his drug problems, driving for a billionaire madman and working for gun-toting Mexicans in the 1990s. Sonia: My Story by Sonia O’Sullivan, one of Ireland’s best ever athletes, was one of the six shortlisted books for the award. Ronan O’Gara’s story of his glittering career with Ireland and Munster also made the shortlist. Keith Duggan’s depiction of life behind the doors of Mayo football, House of Pain, was also in contention. The shortlist for 2008 was completed by two horse racing books focusing on a couple of Ireland’s most famous and interesting characters, jockey Mick Fitzgerald with his story Better than Sex which was written with Donn McClean, and trainer Mouse Morris who tells his extraordinary tale of life within horseracing. Tony Kenny of William Hill said, “The top six for this year’s award shows how great the competition is. We have stories of success, failure, happiness and heartache and all six are brilliantly written by some excellent sports writers. With a range of books covering five different sports, it highlights that the standard of Irish sports books is getting better every year.”

This is the third year of the William Hill Irish Sports Book of the Year Award. The inaugural award was won by Paul McGrath with Vincent Hogan for Paul’s autobiography Back from the Brink. Last year’s award was won by Trevor Brennan with Gerry Thornley for Heart and Soul, which documented Trevor’s highs and lows through his rugby career in Ireland and France.This year’s judging panel was made up of eleven of Ireland’s best sports commentators and experts including George Hook, Eamon Dunphy and Matt Cooper. Former England batsman, Marcus Trescothick's autobiography, Coming Back To Me, has won the overall William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for 2008. 'This is only the second autobiography to win the Award' said Hill's spokesman and founder of the prize, Graham Sharpe, 'The judges felt it fearlessly tackled one of the great taboos of elite sport.' The book deals not only with cricketing matters but also most notably and movingly with Trescothick's battle with mental illness which resulted in his withdrawal from the England side - a subject rarely tackled with such outstanding honesty in any autobiography, let alone a sports book. A report in The Observer said that the account of his illness was far more captivating than the account of his cricketing achievements.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Life Magazine Photos online

A view of a butcher's shop in Ennis, by Hans Wild,  Life Magazine onlineOne of the biggest photo collections in the world is now available to the public online. The bulk of the archive is from Life magazine, the premier platform for photojournalists in the 20th century. About 10 million images will eventually be available with 20% of these online initially. It is hoped that the entire archive will be available by the first quarter of 2009. Roughly 97% of the archive has never been seen by the public before. The collection includes the entire works of Life photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gjon Mili and Nina Leen. Some of Dorothea Lange’s Dustbowl photographs are included, but not her 1954 photographs from Clare. To date, only three photos of the county are included, taken by Hand Wild in the 1940s. The project was made possible due to cooperation between Google and Life magazine. However, some professional photographers are questioning the legality and integrity of the entire project. See for the online photos. Above image: "A view of a butcher's shop in Ennis, by Hans Wild", Life Magazine.

Irish Books for Christmas

Where Clare Leads Ireland FollowsAs usual there are plenty of new books available in the bookshops for those looking for Christmas gifts or just wishing to treat themselves to a good read. In Days We Remember Deirdre Purcell interviews twenty-five people who embody our memory of the events over the last forty years that have made us who we are today. Included are Gay Byrne’s account of the outcry when Ann Lovett died in a Marian garden in Granard, Ray Houghton on scoring that goal and Gill Bowler on the freedom of travelling to a sun holiday. This beautifully illustrated book would have broad appeal.

The Irish Times Book of the Year, an annual publication, covers the highlights of the year 2008 as recorded in The Irish Times.

In Sunday Miscellany , a selection from 2006-2008, edited by Clíodhna Ní Anluain, a selection of writing broadcast by the popular RTE Radio 1 Sunday Miscellany programme is showcased. Among the 106 writers featured are Seamus Heaney, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton, Colm Tóibín, Joseph O'Connor and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. There are more than 150 pieces here on all sorts of subjects - literary, musical historical, political, topographical, sporting, personal. An entertaining book for dipping into as and when time permits.

The Irish Times Universal Atlas of the World would make an attractive addition to any bookshelf or coffee table and might even prove useful for finding one’s way to the establishments featured in The Irish Pub by Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell - a tour of the most charming and atmospheric hostelries in the country.

For those with a more local interest, Where Clare Leads, Ireland Follows would be sure to please. Richard Fitzpatrick profiles 20 of the leading lights of modern Clare in the many fields of sport, the arts, music, politics, religion, minority causes, the media, social issues and much more. Sharon Shannon, Michael D. Higgins and Tony Griffin are just some of those featured.

Clare: History and Society, edited by Matthew Lynch and Patrick Nugent, is a more academic book covering all aspects of the county’s history from the analyses of settlement patterns, the decline of the Irish language, the importance of traditional music and folklore, to the history of religion in the county.

Paddy Hillery’s biography by Dr. John Walsh profiles the long political career of one of Clare’s most famous sons. There is also a new biography of Mary McAleese – First Citizen by Patsy McGarry.

For the history buff there are plenty of other books from which to choose. Great Irish Speeches by Richard Aldous – a book and CD - is a celebration of 50 speeches that have shaped Irish history. Aldous is also the author of We Declare: Landmark Documents in Ireland’s History - the most momentous and stirring documents in the history of Ireland. Great Irish Heroes by Sean McMahon covers characters from Collins to Cuchulainn, from Dev to Daniel O'Connell. In Great Irish Lives, The Times brings together a unique collection of obituaries of Ireland's most distinguished individuals from the last two centuries.

Sports fan are also well catered for in the books that are on offer this Christmas. It has been the year of Padraig Harrington, Munster rugby triumphant, three Irish boxing medals in Beijing and Kilkenny and Kerry keeping the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire Cups firmly in their grip. All of these events and more are covered in The Setanta Sports Yearbook 2008-2009 while Trapattoni – a Life in Football will please the Irish soccer fan. Ronan O Gara’s or Anthony Foley’s (Axel) autobiographies will keep the rugby fans happy and Touching Greatness: Tales from Inside Irish Golf by Dermot Gilleece has the golf enthusiasts covered. Crashed and Byrned: The Greatest Racing Driver You Never Saw by Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes has just been named the William Hill Irish Sportsbook for 2008.

Cookery fans would be delighted to receive Rachel's baking secrets : from cookies to casseroles, fresh from the oven or The Clatter of Forks and Spoons by celebrity chefs Rachel Allen and Richard Corrigan respectively. Vegans and vegetarians would welcome Cornucopia at Home, featuring a selection of the most popular and enduring recipes from the Cornucopia Vegetarian Wholefood Restaurant in Dublin.

The Beatles Irish Concert by Colm Keane will bring back happy memories to Beatles fans. Ronnie by Ronnie Drew and Joe Dolan by Ronan Casey profile two of Ireland’s best loved musicians, both of whom are recently deceased.

Through the Year with Brian D’Arcy contains a short reflection for every day of the year on matters cultural, political, social and religious.

For the fiction reader, there is plenty from which to choose. Sebastian Barry’s Secret Scripture has been described as one of the greatest novels of this century. Mr S and the Secrets of Andorra’s Box continues Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s saga and is bound to raise a smile. There are also The Sea and the Silence by Peter Cunningham, Open Handed by Chris Binchy, Leaving Ardglass by William King, Going it Alone by Clare Dowling for chic-lit fans and for crime fans The Dying Breed by Declan Hughes.

Friday, 12 December 2008

More Great Children’s Books for Christmas

Highway RobberyHighway Robbery by Kate Thompson
Published by The Bodley Head, 2008
Robbery and trickery abound in the smelly back streets of old London town but who is robbing whom? When the street urchin is promised a guinea to hold the mare for a mysterious stranger, he wonders if all his Christmases have come together. Who is this strange dark rider and why does his horse cause such a stir? Prolific and multi-award winning writer, Kate Thompson has produced another great story in a slim hardback, beautifully bound in black velvet – a fabulous Christmas present.

Swap by Malachy Doyle
Published by The O’Brien Press, 2008
Huw, from Wales, and Marcus, from Dublin, meet up on holiday in County Cork. It turns out they’re unbelievably identical to each other - ‘the perfect spit’! Even their own mothers can’t tell them apart. The boys decide to switch places for a bet to see how long it is before they’re discovered. But things go slightly different to plan when Huw’s mother gets an emergency call from Wales in the night and heads for home in her camper van with a boy whom she thinks is her son, asleep in the back. A modern mistaken identity story and a great light-hearted read for the holidays.

Teenage Reads
The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan
Published by The O’Brien Press, 2008
This is Book 1 in the Moorhawke Trilogy and comes to us courtesy of one of the strongest emerging authors in Ireland. Fifteen year old Wynter returns to her homeland with her ailing father after five years. The idyllic kingdom she knew and loved has become a place of intrigue, power play, dark torture chambers and violent ghosts. Total allegiance to the King is not even enough. Wynter must decide whether to help her friend Razi restore stability to their beloved homeland, knowing that she will risk her life in doing so or remain with her father who very much needs her. A page-turning fantasy story.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins, 2008
A dark adventure full of suspense tells of the murders of a man, woman and child and allows us the follow the most unusual upbringing of a baby who is raised by the dead Mr. and Mrs. Owens. A whole graveyard community is brought to life in a surprisingly realistic way and all contribute to the development of Bod right up to the age of 15 when he’s ready for the world at large. A world of shadows, horrible happenings always around the corner, strange supernatural creatures, and midnight parades where ghosts dance with the living are just some of the treats in store for brave readers.

Diamond Star Girl by Judy May
Published by The O’Brien Press 2008
Being smart and funny isn’t enough for Lemony. She’s fifteen and wishes more than anything to be cool and stylish like her best friend Ro. But when she and her friends work as extras on a film, she sees the importance of friendship and realizes that being ‘cool’ is not all life’s about. Romance, mystery and regency costumes – what more could a girl want at this time of year?

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
For those of you who have been at a loss for something to read since finishing the last Harry Potter book, here’s a cause for celebration. The eagerly-awaited Tales of Beedle the Bard consisting of five fairy tales, was originally released with just seven copies for sale. The mass market edition was released on December 4th. This book alleges to be the storybook of the same name mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book of the Harry Potter series. Each of the five tales offers advice for children and parents alike and a strong message that we, like all the characters in the book are responsible for their own fate. Potter fans will be delighted with the comprehensive commentary by the much loved Professor Dumbledore. What more can true Potter fans hope for than explanatory notes by Albus Dumbledore, and a text has been freshly translated by Hermione Granger? All proceeds from the sale of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is published by The Children’s High Level Group (CHLG), a registered charity co-founded in 2005 by J.K. Rowling and Emma Nicholson MEP to make life better for vulnerable children.

Monday, 8 December 2008

"Miss Garnet's Angel" by Salley Vickers

Miss Garnet's AngelWhen her companion dies suddenly, Julia Garnet goes to stay in Venice, where her lifetime of cautious living is challenged. Julia is a retired history teacher who has led a very sheltered life. In Venice she discovers a series of paintings in the local church which tell the story of Tobias and the Angel. The ancient tale of Tobias, who travels to Media unaware that he is accompanied by the Archangel Raphael, is told alongside Miss Garnet's own journey of discovery. As she unravels the story, her English reserve is challenged and her past is reassessed. The beauty of Venice, with its spectacular architecture, art and history, plays a big part in her exhilarating adventure. This is a beautifully written story of love, death and the growth of the human spirit. Miss Garnet's Angel is the first novel from Salley Vickers. Salley will visit Clare in 2009 to take part in the Ennis Book Club Festival, running from 6th - 8th March. Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers is published by Harper, 2007.

Nature Nurture? Art Exhibition in Ennistymon

Nature Nurture? Art Exhibition in Ennistymon Courthouse galleryRichie Jones, Doolin, is surprised by the rhubarb growing in Eamon Doyles painting of an infamous Ennistymon Garden. This painting entitled "Riverbank Garden in Spring" is part of the Ennistymon Courthouse Gallery Christmas Exhibition NATURE NURTURE? which opened on the 4th December and runs to the 23rd. Artists from all over the country are exhibiting paintings, photographs and drawings in this colourful and insightful exhibition on nature. They including special guest Geraldine O'Reilly (Aosdana) who has 4 new drawings in the show based on her mother's garden.

WOW Children’s Reading Challenge Year 3

WOW Children’s Reading Challenge Year 3Now in its third year, the latest Clare County Library’s WOW Reading Challenge began last November. Thirty National Schools in County Clare have pledged to read as many books as they can up to the end of April 2009. Teachers will soon be logging onto the specially designed website to log the number of books read by children in their schools for the first month of the Challenge and to see how their rivals in Cork City, Canada and the U.S. are progressing. The schools in Clare who have joined this year’s Reading Challenge are Ballycar, Ballyea, Ballyvaughan, Bansha, Cahermurphy, Clouna, Coolmeen, Coore, Crusheen, Doonaha, Furglan, Holy Family Junior School Ennis, Inagh, Inch, Kilbaha, Kilfenora, Killaloe Convent Primary School, Kilnamona, Kilshanny, Lahinch, Lisdoonvarna, Moveen, Mullagh, Quin, Rockmount, Ruan, St. Aidan’s National School Shannon, St. Conaire’s National School Shannon, Cratloe and Tubber National School. The Reading Challenge was established by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as part of the Adopt-a-Library Literacy Program. The program was developed to combat youth illiteracy in the hope of reducing crime levels in later years. With this aim in mind, library staff and members of Clare Gardai will visit schools to promote the project in the coming weeks to endorse the virtues of reading.

Great Children’s Books for Christmas

Stick ManPicture Books:
Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, published by Walker Books, 2008. Little Beauty will delight anyone who picks it up, be it the toddler who will love the classic Anthony Browne pictures or the parent or grandparent who will have a great time sharing it with their little ones. A simple story on the surface, its huge, uncomplicated images will appeal to very young children, while those at older level will appreciate the Beauty and the Beast theme.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, published by Scholastic, 2008. The talented duo of The Gruffalo fame, Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler has produced another treasure! The winter snow scene depicted on the cover makes it an especially appealing Christmas read. That, plus an unusual entrance through the chimney by every child’s hero in red will have them waiting with bated breath to hear and see what’s on the next page. For a great story, lots of laughs and the very best illustrations you won’t beat Stick Man.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Lauren Child, published by Puffin, 2008. Photographed toys specially created for this book along with enchanting hand-built sets produce startlingly real illustrations that bring Goldilocks and the Three Bears to life like never before. Lauren Child’s version of the much-loved fairytale is refreshingly different.Words and picture combine to produce an ideal Christmas gift that will be treasured forever by boys and girls.

Emerging Readers:
Paddington Here and Now by Michael Bond, published by HarperCollins, 2008. The characteristic blue duffel coat, red scarf and brown hat are still proudly worn by this loveable little bear who still gets caught up in all sorts of scrapes. Specially reissued to mark the 50th anniversary of the series, this beautiful hardback comes with an attractive and most appealing cover to make it all the more readable by children aged 7 and over.

Alfie Green and the Snowdrop Queen by Joe O’Brien, published by O’Brien Press, 2008. Alfie Green wishes more than anything that it will snow in Budsville on Christmas Eve. Only one person can help him and it’s not Santa. Alfie needs to reach the Snowdrop Queen who lives near the top of Arcania’s perilous peaks. How will Alfie and his trusted tools get there? Maybe they will have to appeal for Santa’s help after all. The Alfie Green books are ideal for newly independent readers. Why not also try Alfie Green and the Conker King or Alfie Green and a Sink Full of Frogs by the same author.

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2007. Getting a copy of John Grogan’s Marley: A Dog Like No Other is almost as good as getting a real puppy for Christmas. A specially adapted version for children of the author’s international bestseller, it tells the story of a yellow furball of a puppy who quickly grows into a large, rowdy labrador retriever. With full colour photographs charting Marley’s development from puppy to old dog and each chapter showing paw prints on the first line it’s just the book to get children reading for themselves. The movie Marley and Me is due for release on December 25th, starring Jennifer Aniston and Eoin Wilson.

"Ireland’s High Places: From the Mountains to the Sea" by Rob Beighton

Ireland’s High Places: From the Mountains to the SeaThe beautiful photographs in this book take you on a journey through Ireland’s mountain landscape, from majestic Mount Errigal in Donegal to Hungry Hill on the Beara Peninsula. Conveying the splendour and aura of these ancient hills, Rob Beighton’s images of spectacular natural beauty vary from wide panoramic views of mountainscapes to small details of stone, water, flora and fauna. While some of the mountains are in National Parks, most are privately owned; some are well known to tourists, and others are remote and rarely visited. With a sharp eye and artistic use of light, Rob reveals an often new and fresh beauty in our mountains. The result is a wonderful book of mesmerizing images. A most desirable Christmas gift! Ireland’s High Places: From the Mountains to the Sea is published by Collins Press, 2008.