This page is dedicated to wonderful, unique books for children; those written by Irish authors, illustrators, published by Irish publishers and telling Irish stories.
FOOTBALL SPIRIT: AN EOIN MADDEN ADVENTURE
author: Gerard Siggins
O’Brien Press (11 October 2021)
With his summer adventures over (see Gaelic Spirit) Eoin and his friends are back at school. And Eoin is all set for a more relaxing Transition Year. After three years on the Junior Cup rugby team and his success in being called up for Ireland in the Under 16 Four Nations, Eoin thinks it might be time to play soccer for a change. But headmaster Mr McCaffery has other ideas. He’d rather put Eoin have his sights set on the Senior Rugby Cup two years from now. It won’t be easy to set up a football team in a rugby-mad school like Castlerock! But when a ghostly footballer starts following Eoin and his friends around and strange things start to happen at Dalymount Park, Eoin just has to find out what is going on? And what’s this about “history repeating itself”…and what does it have to do with Eoins’ friend, Alan?
Another Eoin Madden Adventure with its’ combination of sports and history provided by some spectral intercession? Count me in! This time, Eoin is in TY and a few years of life as a rugby hero have left him with a desire to broaden his horizons and give football a go. The resistance of his headmaster to allow Eoin to move in this direction brings a nice sense of dilemma to the story. Mr McCaffrey wants to stick with the school tradition and fears that Eoin will want to leave rugby behind permanently. Eoin is young and just wants and chance to try something new. Some new ghosts appear with warnings of trouble on the horizon, spinning history into the tale and encouraging a desire in the reader to find out more. The personal family connection could just spark interest for readers to explore a bit more of their own family background, discovering what mysteries lie there. A flowing plotline builds excitement and curiosity in what is simply an accessible and great adventure. Good stories for the sports-mad young folk are hard to find, but you can’t do better than this. (I’m not a sports-mad person, and never was; but I LOVE the Eoin Madden Adventures and I’ve learn a little something about sports and history.) Full of family, friends, football and intriguing detail. https://obrien.ie/football-spirit
WULFIE SAVES THE PLANET
author: Lindsay Sedgwick
illustrator: Rosa Devine
Little Island (2 September 2021)
With only 3 days left to create the best ever eco-project for school, the last thing Libby needs is Wulfie showing off his incredible super-powers; like changing size or stopping time with his sneezes. And with her nasty step-brother Rex plotting to get rid of Wulfie and bullying Libby into coming up with the winning eco-project for him, the pressure is piling up! But Wulfie has come up with a planet-saving plan of his own. With his amazing Wulfen powers, he can’t fail…and he might just save himself, the planet and Libbys’ project, too.
I am a huge fan of the Wulfie books and this one is a cracker! This new adventure featuring Libby and her wonderful, magical best-friend, Wulfie embarks on a mission to save the planet…or at least come up with a clever eco-project (or two…gee, thanks, Rex.) Wulfie is such a great character (especially in his super-hero cape and mask!) with his child-like enthusiasm accidentally creating havoc and chaos and his complete devotion to Libby. Which, it has to be said, causes her no shortage of frustration…but she wouldn’t have it any other way. A quick visit to her absent-minded, oblivious scientist Dads’ laboratory brings added fascination. (I’ve always wondered what went on in there…or in his head for that matter.) Fast-paced and zany action, intriguing imaginative details and a heaping helping of drama make this a fabulous, funny read with real heart. The black & white illustrations add much to this story. Madcap, wild and wonderful, well-written and just plain fun; this is one you’re going to love. In fact, I suggest you read them all! https://littleisland.ie/books/wulfie-saves-planet/
LILYS’ DREAM: A LISSADELL STORY
author: Judi Curtin
illustration: Rebecca Corcoran
O’Brien Press (4 October 2021)
Lissadell House; Sligo 1914: Lily and her friends Nellie and Johanna are used to the long days and hard work as maids in the Big House at Lissadell. It seems that life will go on like this forever, despite Lissadells’ young Maeve de Markievicz, daughter of the famous Countess doing her best to shake up tradition. (And have things her own way!) But times are changing. There are loud grumblings of rebellion against English rule coming from Dublin. The girls are all growing up and Lily is finding cracks in her friendship with Maeve. And War is on the horizon. Lily is sure it won’t touch their lives in rural Ireland, but more and more young men across the country are joining up to fight…including their friend, Harry the footman at Lissadell. Lily feels uncertain about her future at Lissadell. Through the twists and turns of a changing Ireland, Lily wonders, what about her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher? How can that possibly ever come true?
I am delighted to return Lilys’ life at Lissadell. It’s beginning to feel like coming home. It is now 1914, and the story takes on the atmosphere of the changing times. The lovely, concise descriptive writing allows the reader to become immersed in the story. We know Lily well by now; clever, considerate, hardworking and creative; and we feel as if we are right there with Lily and her friends, pondering and experiencing these big events from afar; wondering what will become of the girls all and seeing the growth and changes they are going through as people. The strong sense of empathy and humour hasn’t left the story, and there’s always an episode of joy and excitement right round the bend; Lilys’ sewing school, the Home Industries Show at Lissadell and Lilys’ work teaching in the nursery for a time. There are some really lovely and surprising vignettes of social concern when Belgian refugees arrive in Sligo, escaping the War. (We seem to have forgotten about that…makes you want to know more, doesn’t it?) The heart and soul of the book is still friendship and it anchors every single page. Learning to trust, showing kindness, offering what talents and gifts you have to others. And never giving up on your dreams; you never know when they might come true. Beautiful historical fiction with a clear vision; gentle, heartfelt, warm and so very satisfying. I love it! https://obrien.ie/lilys-dream
NO ORDINARY JOE
author: Siobhán Daffy
Little Island (5 August 2021)
Joe has all sorts of labels put on him, but those are just words. He’s not just this one thing or that other thing. Joe loves chips, ice cream and he’ll eat you out of house and home. He loves music and running away. Joe isn’t running away from anything or to anything. He’s just running. Usually across Mr. Maloneys’ mucky long cow pasture, but who knows where he could go. He’s fast! You have to remember to shut the gate, lock the windows and hide the sugar bowl. And, if you’re at Grannys’ house, the potted plants have to be up high. Even then, Joe can still get at them. He always turns up okay in the end, with jam in his hair or missing a shoe. No…this is no ordinary Joe. Joe has a secret superpower. You see, Joe has the power make everybody love him.
Told by Joes’ brother Dan, this is the funny, fast-paced, touching story of family life with a boy with special needs. The author doesn’t give us the particulars of Joes’ special needs, but you’ll find that really doesn’t matter…it’s the story that counts. Dan relays the tale with a genuine, heartfelt voice as his life unfolds day-to-day in its’ own chaotic rhythm, perfectly capturing events as he weaves his own concerns and activities around the (mostly) gentle mayhem Joe leaves in his wake. There is huge understanding of the exhaustion, frustration and worry experienced by the family, as well as a comfortable feeling of satisfaction Joe has in simply being allowed to be himself. A sense of how much work it is to keep an eye on Joe; how much there is to consider is always trumped by the pervading sense of love, family and community. Offering a unique perspective that is filled with warmth, compassion and heart, a wonderfully written story, based on the authors’ own family life. http://littleisland.ie/books/no-ordinary-joe/
THE VERY DANGEROUS SISTERS OF INDIGO McCLOUD
author: John Hearne
Little Island (1 July 2021)
For Indigo McCloud, the enemy is clear. It’s his older sister Peaches…and his other sisters, who Peaches has enlisted to do here bidding, of course. But it’s Peaches. To all the adults living in Blunt, Peaches is simply wonderful; everybodys’ favourite child ever. Pretty, polite, golden and glowing, utterly charming. But the children of Blunt know better. Peaches has been terrorising them for years and the band of sisters will stop at nothing to get what they want. And Indigo is going to stop them…NOW. Running across the rooftops of Blunt, Indigo is trying to keep one step ahead of his sisters and their wicked plans. But while he struggles with a huge gaggle of geese, rivers of sludge, vicious eels, huge poisonous spiders; the bungling police come to the conclusion that it is Indigo behind the bizarre crime spree leaving the children of Blunt injured and shaken. This will not be easy…
There is a shade of Series of Unfortunate Events and a touch of Roald Dahl in this absurd, dark and funny story. Our hero, Indigo is a well-described character, clever, determined, easy to identify with and completely understandable in his actions. While the younger sisters certainly are dangerous, it is Peaches that drives the action…and she is loathsome. Wicked, two-faced, very clever in a totally twisted way, when Peaches finally gets her comeuppance, there is such a sense of glee, I nearly cheered. Snippets of the familys’ backstory eek into the tale as it rolls along, but never so much as to burden the story…just to let you in on how things got to where they are now. The book rockets at a rapid pace with never-ending twists and turns, keeping the reader glued to the page. The ending? Now that would be telling. But it is very satisfying, coupled with a feeling that Peaches isn’t quite finished yet….poor Indigo. Quirky, humourously sinister and thoroughly entertaining. http://littleisland.ie/books/dangerous-sisters-indigo-mccloud/
The Philosophy Resistance Squad
author: Robert Grant
Little Island Books (3 June 2021)
Milo is over the moon to be starting at Irelands’ most advanced and prestigious school, the Secondary Training Institute for Lifelong Employment. It’s an amazing opportunity to have Milo set for life! However, once the orientation is over and the parents have gone, Milo starts to realise that isn’t the real story. The workload is overwhelming and the students’ every move, behaviour, even their facial expressions, are heavily monitored through advanced technology. Dr Pummelcrush, the sinister, seriously unhinged headmaster, is bent on brainwashing the students, turning them into unthinking, unfeeling, unquestioning human robots. And one by one, it’s happening to Milos’ friends. But when Milo wanders into a beautiful, bright garden hidden away down a dark corridor, he meets a very different kind of teacher. Ursula is full of joy and wonder, encouraging Milo and his friends to ask the hard questions, to be comfortable with uncertainty, to open their minds to a whole new way of understanding…philosophy. Will this handful of young students, now the Philosophy Resistance Squad, be able to use their new-found thinking skills to destroy Dr Pummelcrushs’ evil project and save the entire school from becoming mindless zombie-like slaves?
This book is a curious, exciting marvel. A journey into the mind, it asks many questions and leaves it to the reader to come up with the answers. Milo is as an intriguing central character; lively, smart, hopeful, eager to learn and understand, determined to be heard…and to be himself. He is one of those kids who can’t simply sit still and do as he’s told; not when he knows how wrong what he’s told is. The storytelling reveals twist after twist, punch after punch with a whirlwind pace and danger at every turn, met with curiousity, friendship, defiance and some genuine heroics. An adventure that asks the hard questions and fights the good fight; bold, brave, unusual and really makes you think! http://littleisland.ie/books/philosophy-resistance-squad/
author: Muireann Ní Chíobháin
illustrator: Róisín Hahenny
Futa Fata (June 2021)
Eoinín is written in the Irish language. Many, many thanks to Futa Fata for providing me with an English translation…and a further opportunity to work on my Irish!
Little lamb Eoinín has a beautiful new kite and getting it to fly makes him so happy! And when Eoinín is happy he shakes his bum! But flying a kite can be a tricky business. Lots of things go wrong and that doesn’t make him happy! What Eoinín needs is a good friend to help him keep his kite in the air…a good friend like you!
Oh my! This book is just adorable! A easy-to-read story (I should know!) complemented by lovely illustrations with simple shapes and pastel colours, it takes the youngest children on an interactive play-date with wonderful little Eoinín. Designed to captivate babies and toddlers, it’s full of joy, giggles and fun. A must-have boardbook for your little ones’ shelf, though it won’t spend much time there. https://www.futafata.ie/Cairtleabhair-ga/Eoinin-Muireann-Ni-Chiobhain-Roisin-Hahessy-boardbooks
author: Sinéad O’Hart
Stripes Publishing (10 June 2021)
For Bastjan, the circus is home; all he has ever known. But the circus has seen much better days. It’s run-down, dirty and sad, and people just aren’t interested anymore. Bastjan will do anything to save it; even performing a death-dying act that took his mother from him. When it seems even that won’t draw the crowds, Cyrus Quinn, the ringmaster makes a deal with a mysterious man, Dr. Bauer. In exchange for a box that belonged to Bastjans’ mother and came from the faraway island of Melita, Bauer will give Quinn all the money he needs to save the circus. Bastjan is desperate to hold on to the box. He’s only just found it and it’s the last remaining memory of his mother. As he studies the strange objects within the box, learning more of their history and the secrets they hold, Bastjan begins to realise it’s not just the circus that’s in grave danger. Much more depends on his keeping this box out of the wrong hands; perhaps even the freedom and survival of a strange and distant land.
Returning to the same finely-crafted world that built The Eye of the North, we now learn the story of one of its’ most endearing, yet illusive characters; the boy, Thing. We knew that Thing grew up in a circus and that life had dealt him a cruel hand; but how and where? Enter Skyborn. With it’s, fast-paced plot and quirky, charismatic characters, this book pulls the reader in from the very first moment. Bastjan sings as a loyal, brave boy surrounded by the love and support of his circus “family”, all dedicated to both their craft and this most unique child. This stands as stark contrast to the emergence of a sinister plan that threatens to overwhelm them all as they strive to protect Bastjan. The “baddies” are truly conniving and secretive and, as the action moves swiftly, their true motives are unveiled gradually. We find out what’s really at the heart of it all at the same pace as Bastjan; no mean feat. This is a finely-woven fantasy adventure that creates a genuine sense of elsewhere as you plunge deeper into it’s pages. Atmospheric, heartfelt, magical, imaginative, breath-taking…leaves you soaring. https://littletiger.co.uk/product/skyborn
author: Sam Thompson
illustrator: Anna Tromop
Little Island (6 May 2021)
Deep in the forest lies an underground city of foxes lead by Reynard, a wily, cunning creature. The foxes didn’t build the city themselves. For generations, they have enslaved wolves to do the work for them, teaching the wolves language and controlling them with the power of speech. But there are few wolves left. Isengrim, Herself and their pups are the last wolves left in the forest. And Reynard is hunting them down. The wolves keep themselves hidden, moving back and forth between human and animal worlds through secret pathways as they struggle to survive and to preserve their ways. One day, Isengrim is injured and seeks help from a human boy, Silas. Silas struggles with speaking, except (he discovers) when he is with the wolves. When the foxes kidnap the young wolf pups, Silas is determined to help his new friends. But he must first find his voice and use it to defeat Reynard and destroy the foxes underground city.
Wrapped in old fables and literature, this is an amazing story with the notion that language can be used to control others at it’s heart. Silas is a young boy with speech problems that foster a lack of confidence. He feels he has no friends; no importance to his family. It is only through regaining his ability to speak freely that his inner strength comes to light. In meeting and journeying with the wolf family, Silas begins to accept himself and his true capabilities. A tale woven with genuine understanding of personal courage, conflict and connection is illuminated with sensitively rendered black-and-white drawings depicting the magical, yet believable world within the book. There is a sense of shared destiny between the wolves and humans; a sense of both devastation and triumph…whichever one we choose. Lyrical, fierce, thoughtful, brave, emotional…a story of facing your fears and finding your voice. What a stunning book! (ages 9+) http://littleisland.ie/books/wolfstongue/
FLOSSIE McFLUFF: AN IRISH FAIRY
author: Eoin O’Brien
illustrator: Audrey Dowling
O’Brien Press (12 April 2021)
High in an ancient oak tree, there lives a beautiful fairy named Flossie McFluff. She’s tiny, shiny and full of magic. With her magical powers, she takes good care of the trees, birds, flowers and bees. And she loves nothing more than a good adventure. When she spies a bit of forest ground covered in litter, Flossie flies off to find the litterbugs and teach them and sends them packing with a funny, but memorable lesson. Flossie helps a lonely Banshee find true friendship with some nighttime creatures and puts an end to her loud, disturbing wailing. And when a leprechaun looses his pot of gold, Flossie knows just where to look. Flossie may be a little, twinkly fairy, but she’s tough and smart…and always willing to help.
Three stories are packed into this new picturebook with lots of heart and an easy, rhyming text. Highlighting the nature and the magic that you can find there (if you’re paying attention), Flossie’s adventures are full of fun and imagination. Reaching into the words and the rhythm of the story, the beautiful, appealing illustrations bring to life the enchanted world of this little fairy with a gentle, natural palette and lovely detail. Completely charming, lively, loaded with giggles, joy and spark…simply delightful. https://www.obrien.ie/childrens/picture-book/flossie-mcfluff
WULFIE: BEAST IN SHOW
author: Lindsay J Sedgwick
illustrator: Josephine Wolff
Little Island (4 March 2021)
Aunt Ilda is coming for a visit. Libbys’ wicked step-mother Veronika is determined that the house is even more spotless and shiny than before. And that means Libby has even more work to do. Including keeping Wulfie out of sight. Aunt Ilda is even meaner, nastier, more dastardly than Veronika and she will do anything….absolutely anything….to win the top dog show prize on live TV. When she devises a plan to kidnap Wulfie, nothing will stop her! But Wulfie isn’t a dog at all. He’s a wulfen; a strange magical creature that talks, shrinks and grows and when he sneezes, time freezes. And he’s Libbys’ kindest, sweetest, most loyal best friend. And now they need each other like they never have before. Can Wulfie rescue Libby from the dark, dirty cage Aunt Ilda has her locked in? Can Libby save Wulfie from Aunt Ildas’ clutches, foil her plan and humiliate her on TV? Anything is possible with a friend like Wulfie.
A welcome return from our quirky canine friend brings more thrilling, chilling adventure. Libby is a wonderful character. Kind and clever, she really puts herself to the test in this story, risking much to save not only her friend, but to free a lot of dogs, expose Aunt Ilda and her true nature to the world and maybe, just maybe push Veronika and Rex to be a little nicer….maybe. We’ll have to see. Family issues rise to the fore with great heart and hilarious humour. The fast-paced tale will keep your head spinning and your heart pumping, with the wonderful black and white illustrations scattered throughout setting a perfect tone for the mayhem. You never know what will happen next, but you’ll be longing for a friend like Wulfie. Incredibly entertaining, funny, warm and fabulous. http://littleisland.ie/books/wulfie-beast-show/
THE KIDDS OF SUMMERHILL
author: Ann Murtagh
O’Brien Press (1 March 2021)
Dublin, Spring 1945. Nancy Kidd and her brothers have a hard enough time helping their sick mother make ends meet, living in the Summerhill tenement. But when their mother dies, leaving them orphaned, Nancy finds herself as head of the family with a lot on her plate. The ‘Cruelty Men’ could turn up at any moment, whisking her and her brothers off to the horrible industrial schools. One of their spies, the ‘Pig Farmer’ lives in the same building and keeps a close eye on the Kidds and their friends. And for reasons unknown, she holds an old grudge against them. More trouble is the last thing she needs. But when she tries to help a friend in need, more trouble is exactly what she gets. Just as everything around her is falling apart, Nancy meets Karla, a refugee from Prague who might know a way out. But they’re going to have to be very, very clever…
Incisive descriptive writing evokes a genuine sense of time and place, the squalor and beauty, the details of life. And it is with great depth of feeling and understanding that Murtagh presents us with all the characters and how they relate to each other,their joys and sorrows overlapping in their day-to-day world. The ever-present threat of the ‘Cruelty Men’ has great impact on them all, but this does not overruns the wonder, cleverness and warmth of friendship and family that flows throughout the story, page after page. Nancy is a wonderful character; curious, loyal and determined. But this does not mean she remains undaunted. Faced with seemingly insurmountable situations for one so young, she buckles, she grieves and then…she rises. Together with her young friends, she will not give up. Filled with accurate historical detail, full of life, hope, steadfastness and with moments of humour and delight, a simply marvelous story! https://www.obrien.ie/the-kidds-of-summerhill
WINDS OF CHANGE: Three Children Caught Up In Irelands’ Land War
author: Brian Gallagher
O’Brien Press (29 March 2021)
Clara lives in the Big House, Parkinson Estate, co Westmeath. As the only child of the sitting landlord, her life is pampered, privileged and quite lonely. But Clara has an adventurous spirit. One day, sneaking off on her fathers’ horse, a riding accident leads Aidan, the son of a tenant farmer, straight to her aid. Soon the pair become fast friends and are joined by Molly, the daughter of the local RIC sergeant. While living in very different worlds, they are bound together instantly by a mutual love of music. But they must keep their meetings secret. The Land War rages fiercely all around them and their families are on very different sides, with the tenant farmers battling back against the injustices of the landlords and the RIC bound to enforce the law of the land regardless. The three make a vow to stick to the friendship, no matter what. But it isn’t that easy. The three friends find they have to make some very hard choices. And the decisions they make will impact lives for decades to come…
Set within a story of Garrett, a contemporary school boy working on a family history project, this book reveals the strange twists such research can reveal as the secrets of the past demand to be uncovered. As Clara, Aidan and Molly embark down the road of friendship, easily finding common ground, this is put to the test by circumstances out of their control. The idea of a “secret club” delights all three children with the excitement and fun, the secret meetings and intentions; wondering what the adults would think if they knew. It is thrilling. And the conflicts of the outside world, the battles taking place, the injustices heaped upon the poor and powerless, and the anger this is met by seem to have little to do with them. While the Land War rages and ultimately comes crashing in around them, ideas of friendship, loyalty and justice are battered and bruised. And when tragedy strikes…well, nothing will ever be the same again. Genuine, intriguing, a poignant look at history from a very personal perspective; a beautiful work of historical fiction that really makes you think. https://www.obrien.ie/childrens/historical-fiction/winds-of-change
WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE
author: Jarlath Gregory
O’Brien Press (15 March 2021)
When Ireland voted to let gay people get married, my stepdad hugged me and said,‘Your turn next, Ben!Get yourself a boyfriend. Make us proud.’ So I decided to try.
Ben is 17, gay and happy…most of the time. He’s finished school, on track for University and a teaching career and has found the perfect work experience. Everything is on track. All that’s missing is love. A romantic at heart, and a bit on the naive side, Ben meets Peter online. And he is drop-dead gorgeous! Ben has fallen for him hard, but there’s one little problem…Peter is still in the closet. His friend Soda is there to support Ben, taking his mind out of the confusing, heartfelt emotional roller-coaster finds himself on. But suddenly, Soda is more interested in nights-i than nights-out; and his old school bully is determined to make his life hell. On top of everything else, long-time best friend, Chelsea has simply vanished just when Ben needs her most…and nobody will tell him where she’s gone. Everything is changing. But change brings remarkable possibilities and perhaps…just perhaps, love really does show up where and when you least expect to find it.
An important addition to the LGBTQ canon and a tender, poignant love story, What Love Looks Like paints a vivid picture of what it feels like to come-of-age as a young, gay person in todays’ Ireland. Bens’ life is filled with an array of people from varied backgrounds, bringing a broad diversity and experience to the story and shows them off with reality…warts and all. This allows the reader to get a strong sense of the reality of Bens’ life. It reads as a genuine experience; Ben reads as a real person and the story is totally believable from start to finish. There are discomforting moments as the tale deals with issues of homophobia, bullying and social stereo-typing. But all in all it is a touching romance, exploring a wider view of what love actually looks like, gender identity, how families differ from one another and how they are built. Raw, fresh and intriguing, What Love Looks Like is also, funny, moving and true. (Please note: this book is definitely for older readers and not for the faint-hearted.) https://www.obrien.ie/what-love-looks-like
author: Jackie Burke
Lindon Press (10 September 2020)
It’s 1899; a new century is looming near. 14-year-old Evelyn Wells, by some strange twist of fate, has just won a prestigious opportunity to take up a scholarship studying music with renowned maestro, Lionel Thorn. She is whisked away to a mysterious, isolated manor, leaving behind her family. She presumed there would be other students, but finds herself alone. Evie is kept within the confines of the Hall. Even her letters home are being doctored and she has no confidence that anyone in the outside world can find her. When her other studies, including her flute take a back seat to mastering a peculiar little harp, Evie begins to realise that Dower Hall is not at all what it seems to be. Within its’ walls, many dark secrets and threatening characters are lurking. Evie must why the maestro is so obsessed with the strange harp and why she is the only one who can make it sing. If Evie is the new Harp Maiden, the fate that will befall her is a far cry from her dreams of a musical future.
Harps have long been associated with legend and magic, creating a feel of having entered a space just beyond our reach. This story uses that to great effect, carefully building a Gothic mystery/horror that is incredible. From the outset, the reader will sense there is something amiss in the great opportunity Evie has been given. It seems to good to be true; and it came from nowhere. The burgeoning moment of the new century stretches the tension in the story; the newness of it all. But, what will this pivotal moment in time really mean for Evie? While painting a vivid picture of the historical past, it is when she arrives at Dower Hall that the creative world-building and story-telling really kick everything into place. With well-developed characters, isolated in an eerie location that cannot be found, rescue made impossible and an ever-building sense of danger, a spell is woven that leaves us standing on uneven ground. It is only through her own cleverness, cunning and unique talent for music that Evie can create an escape route for herself and her kidnapped friends, and prevent a true evil from entering the world. All through the voice of a magical harp. And Evie is only just beginning to understand what it means to be the Harp Maiden. Want a story that sends shivers down your spine and makes you cheer out loud for the hero? This is it. Harp Maiden is simply marvelous. (Originally reviewed for LitVox; January 2020) https://www.grindlewood.com/
LOTTIE THE RAVEN
author: David O’Reilly
self-published (14 September 2020)
Lottie is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent for football. Just 14-years-old, she plays for the Belfast Ravens under-17s womens. Her over-the-top, former football-star, pushy but well-meaning dad, Sam knows she can go much farther; she really can be the star he was meant to be. Lottie really doesn’t see how great she is! And life as a teenager is extremely challenging in its’ own right; navigating school exams, friendship, rivalry on the pitch, a new boyfriend (maybe) and the emotional roller-coaster that comes with it all. When Lottie is spotted by scouts for the best womens’ football clubs in the world and the offers start coming in, she has to ask herself one question. Does she want it enough?
This is a great read, not just for the football-mad among us, but for all young women looking at the possibilities of where life will take them. Lottie has a true, genuine voice with all her thoughts and feelings confusion out in the open for all to see. She struggles to be heard (like us all) and to cut her own path in a world of adults who (really do) want what’s best for her. Her talent for the game really does seem remarkable, and yet completely believable. There is much information and great support for womens’ football peppered throughout the pages, bringing an acute interest in the sport with it. But the thing that really won my heart in this book are the character portrayals, the nuances of growing up and the sense of friendship, family and compassion. There is a message of responsibility to self and others shines through, without be-labouring the plot. Full of heart and fun, full of football, and simply a wonderful read. https://www.lottietheraven.com/
author: Sadhbh Devlin
illustrator: Róisín Hahessy
Futa Fata (2 October 2020)
A lumpy parcel has arrived in the post for Otto. He knows what it is…another ugly jumper from Mamó. While Dad says Mamós’ jumpers are made with love, Otto knows they are made with horrible scratchy wool. And those loud, bright colours…you can see Otto coming a mile away. Mamó knows absolutely nothing about style. Otto must put a stop to this endless knitting. He will pay Mamó a visit (in his new ugly jumper) and explain it to her. It’s a long way to her house and it is very cold out, so Otto has to run. As the snow starts to fall and his jumper unravels, Otto begins to understand that it really is love that keeps you warm.
What a wonderful tale! This captures the essence of grandmother/grandchild relationships; the sense of interest and understanding, and the genuine warmth between the two, even when you may disagree on things like taste and style. There is a determination in Otto to get his feelings across, then an understanding of the expression of unconditional love and care. The illustrations are beautiful; as lovely and lilting as the story that they perfectly weave through. Look closely for charming, funny details along the way (like the Michael D Higgins tea cosy in Mamós’ kitchen!) Colourful, whimsical, heartwarming and utterly charming.
(Published in the Irish language, I want to thank Futa Fata once again, for providing me with the English translation and one of the grandkids for reading it for me so I could hear it as gaeilge.) https://www.futafata.ie/Geansai-Otto-Sadhbh-Devlin-Roisin-Hahessy?search=geansa%C3%AD%20otto&description=true
ANIMAL CRACKERS: Fantastic Facts About Your Favourite Animals
author: Sarah Webb
illustrator: Alan Nolan
O’Brien Press (10 August 2020)
So, you want to find out more about your favourite animals. Which ones are the biggest? Which are the smallest? What animals can you find in the desert or living on polar ice? And what about the creatures living here in Ireland, right in your own back garden? Everything you need to know is right here in this humourous, interactive book! Jump right in with the friendly, froggy guide, Happy the tree frog and you will find endless adventures through the wonderful world of wildlife from the deepest oceans to the deepest, darkest jungles. You can even travel back in time and discover dinosaurs. Loaded with fantastic facts, drawings, cartoons, puzzles, games and jokes; this is a great book from bringing the animal kingdom into your very own home. “Please Take Care of Us” is bound to become a favourite section as it explains about animals that are now extinct, who is endangered and why, and a few things you (yes…YOU) can do to help save the animals. Useful, helpful, funny and absolutely wonderful! https://www.obrien.ie/animal-crackers
DEADLY! IRISH HISTORY: THE CELTS
author/illustrator: John Farrelly
O’Brien Press (14 September 2020)
In book 2 of “Deadly! Irish History,” we pay a raucous, riotous visit to our old friends the Celts. Filled with fantastic facts, deadly deeds and hilarious, albeit somewhat grim, episodes, this book catapults us into a history covering over 2500 years of Celtic heroes and villains, Celtic warfare and battles and some of the most wondrous Celtic art and creations proving the Celts were more than just boastful bullies. Welcome yourselves inside their roundhouses, learn the tasty (?!) secrets of Celtic cookery, enjoy a mind-boggling game of Fidchell, all while reading the myths and legends of the Fianna, Cú Chulainn, Ferdia and Deirdre and more that made Ireland what it is today. Make your own Ogham Stone! But do watch out for those lethal Celtic beasts…you never know where they’ll turn up. Wonderfully illustrated with black & white drawings and cartoons illuminating our new-found knowledge, The Celts will keep you riveted to the page. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp in horror and you’ll want MORE! https://www.obrien.ie/deadly-irish-history-the-celts
author: Eve McDonnell
illustrator: Helen Ovenden
Everything With Words (17 September 2020)
In 1864, a young mudlark called Needle digs along the shores of the River Notion, seeking objects with which he creates his ‘treasures’ for his mother to sell on her market stall. Needles’ companion, a crow called Magpie leads him along, pointing out items he may have missed and taking him along many journeys. One of these leads Needle to Glory, a young orphan and jewellers’ apprentice with unique talent and a wooden hand….in the year 1928. The pair discover that for some hidden reason, their destinies are intertwined with an oncoming disaster. A snowstorm, a vicious storm at sea and the recent dredging of the River Notion conspire to create the Great Flood. The river is about to burst its’ banks, flooding the city and taking 14 lives with it. And according to one of Needles’ treasures, Glory will be one of them. They must warn everyone, but who will listen to a pair of poverty-stricken orphans…
This time-flip novel intricately blends two times, sending the reader on a journey filled with captivating possibility. Based on the Great Flood of London 1928, it creates an imaginative landscape of two pasts with a texture, tangibility and historical detail that lends a sense of reality in impossible circumstances. Expert characterisation allows for an easy understanding of the personalities of each and every player in the tale. The friendship between Needle and Glory, even with their moments of of doubt and anger, is moving; two utterly sympathetic characters with struggles of their own form an unbreakable bond that neither time nor tide, quite literally, can break. And Magpie the crow is stunning! It is also worth noting the numerous and clever references to sewing and needlework scattered throughout the text in the names and locations; Eyelet Bridge, River Notion, Gloria Bobbin and more. This creates an idea of the tapestry of life, the thread of time and all its’ weaving. Mesmerising, unique, beautifully constructed and full of ingenuity. It’s wonderful…simply wonderful. https://www.everythingwithwords.com/book-author/eve-mcdonnell/
EGGCORNS: From Bumbum Bees to Jellycopters
author/illustrator: Chris Judge
O’Brien Press (19 October 2020)
I love books with lots of wordplay and twists of language and…eggcorns; those mispronunciations that we hear everyday and bring a whole new meaning to the intended word. They make me smile. And children always create the very best eggcorns by simply repeating what they hear. (Please note: it’s not just children who do this, but they are the best at it.) In this book, Chris Judge has collected a wonderful range of eggcorns from various contributors and children he is close to, putting them in this gorgeous little picturebook (with permission, course.) His illustrations offer a visual interpretation that will stick in your mind and heart for years to come. Bright, colourful and full of new meanings that are sure to make you laugh, this is a wonderful gift for everyone, young or old. (you may need two…the pages are all frame-worthy.) It’s simply brilliant! Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a lemon o’clock and I must rush down to the buzz stop….. https://www.obrien.ie/eggcorns
THE BABOON WITH THE GOLDEN BUM: The Free-Range Detective Agency
author: Jed Lynch
illustrator: Stephen Stone
Little Island (8 October 2020)
Three months after his last successful investigation, Seamus the turkey detective is back to munching bowl after bowl of Shredded Worms despite his wise investments. He is desperate for a new case. As luck would have it, the ring of the doorbell and a very unpleasant toad (twin toads, as it turns out) send him on a very lucrative quest. Frank Bloombum, baboon and award-winning BusinessMonkey has discovered security breaches threatening his to-secret money-printing facilities. Who could be responsible for the dastardly deeds afoot? Is it Frank himself; or the twin toads? What about Isaac Newt, Franks’ silent partner the scientist responsible for the innovative developments in the factory? Or the factory supervisor? The suspects are piling up thick and fast and Seamus the Shamus may have bitten off more worms than he can chew.
Intelligent, intriguing and completely hilarious, this follow-up to Murder Most Fowl will send shivers up your spine, tax your investigative imagination and leave you laughing. Written in the style of a classic hard-boiler detective story (okay…a child-friendly one), it is fast-paced, dynamic and filled with suspense. Seamus is Sam Spade or the Thin Man with feathers. A curious twist at the end adds that extra punch for a very satisfying ending. Clever, quirky and compelling, it will keep you glued to the page. http://littleisland.ie/books/free-range-detective-agency-baboon-golden-bum/
LILY STEPS UP: A Lissadell Story
author: Judi Curtin
O’Brien Press (5 October 2020)
Sligo, 1914: Lily and her friend, Nellie work long days as housemaids for the Gore-Booth family at Lissadell. Even though they come from different backgrounds; Lily with her noisy, loving family in a close-knit village and Nellie from her harsh young life in the workhouse, separated from her sisters; the friendship and has grown strong as they share their new lives. But Nellie is alone in the world. She has no idea what happened to her sisters once they parted. A miracle occurs when Nellies’ sister Johanna is found and brought to the Big House to work alongside them. When a valuable locket disappears, Johanna gets the blame and may be sent away just after arriving. Lily longs to help, but it could mean she loses everything; her livelihood that helps support her own family, her hopes and dreams for the future; everything she’s working so hard for…
Strong expression of responsibility, conscience and empathy set the tone in this beautifully penned novel for young people, taking the reader on a journey into Irelands’ past at a time of exciting, dramatic social change. The descriptions of time and place effortlessly send the reader into the life they live, so that we feel we are there. There is a tangible sense of the growing bond between Lily and Nellie. Their dreams are now more easily shared; their willingness to see what each other has been through and how they have lived are more readily understood. It is that friendship that lies at the core of the story, driving all the action, affecting each character, allowing us, the readers into this world and giving it its’ heart and humour. Told with a keen eye into history, it is warm, compassionate and an absolute joy to read. Like its’ predecessor (Lily At Lissadell) this book is an absolute gem. https://www.obrien.ie/lily-steps-up
MICHAEL COLLINS: Hero and Rebel
author: Eithne Massey
O’Brien Press (31 August 2020)
Michael is a little fella, but that doesn’t stop him taking on bullies twice his size at school. Gifted with a strong sense of injustice and listening to the old Irish stories at home and in his village, he vows that, when he grows up, he will take on the fight for Irish independence. As a young man having landed a good job for the Kensington Post Office, he makes the decision to leave London and his work behind to return to Ireland to fight in the 1916 Rising. He becomes a leader in the War of Independence, forming a clever and creative spy ring integral to the cause. Then, when negotiations to end the war and differing and fiery tactics between growing factions erupt leaving him in a difficult and dangerous situation, one fateful day Michael Collins becomes the stuff of Irish legends.
Written with the fluid, flowing style of a strong storyteller and well-grounded in historical fact, this is the story of Michael Collins. Beyond the concepts we carry of him as a brave, loyal and determined leader, friend and freedom-fighter, he is presented as a real person. There is a sense of his personality; the way he thinks and feels; who he really was underneath the hero status he has gained over the years since his life and death. The times which he lived through are presented with unerring accuracy and detail, giving a texture and reality to the story and grabs the reader, flinging them into history. A book that truly “brings to life…one of Irelands’ most legendary figures.” Expertly crafted, thoroughly fascinating and incisively genuine.
WULFIE: STAGE FRIGHT
author: Lindsay Sedgwick
illustrator: Josephine Wolff
Little Island Books (3 September 2020)
Since her mother was misplaced shortly after she was born, Libby Lou Flannagans’ life has not been great. She lives with her inventor father, her mean step-mother and a step-brother, Rex who is 4 days older than her and really nasty. While Rex thinks up ever-increasing, terrifying stories about ‘the Big, Bad Wolf’ to scare her with, Libby spends her time cleaning , packing his school lunches and getting the blame for…well, everything that Rex does. Then one day, Libby meets a new best friend when out of her grandfathers’ trunk appears Wulfie! Wulfie is just like any puppy, except that he is purple, can shrink down very small or grow very big (usually on purpose, often not) and has a most unusual diet (stinky socks…the stinkier the better.) He’s very sweet, but incredibly mischievous and completely devoted to getting Libby out of trouble and wreaking revenge on Rex, all the while trying to stay out of sight. But when Libby lands the leading role in the school play (accidently and thanks to Wulfie), things get a little complicated….
In a background of a Cinderella-type story, with hints at other familiar fairytales, this book is a real joy. Dealing with issues like absentee parents, bullying and self-confidence, the story springs onto the page with laughter, just the right amount of fright and a huge dollop of heart. The characters speak with genuine voices throughout. While Libby is a fantastic character, it is of course Wulfie who steals the show. He is a wonderful, quirky creation. You never know what he’ll do next…or how Libby will save him from himself. The plot moves along in a steady pace, building a fun-filled drama and tension that propel the reader along with an excitement that begs you to keep your eyes wide open. The black and white illustrations peppered throughout the book bring the text to life, adding to the sense of the theatrical embedded in the tale. Fantastically funny, heartfelt and warm, a delight to read that will leave you wanting more.
THE BOLDNESS OF BETTY
author: Anna Carey
O’Brien O’Press (7 September 2020)
Dublin, 1913: Young Betty Rafferty had to leave school to work in a cake shop. She had been dreaming of carrying on with her education and getting lost in her beloved books. She has no choice…her family needs her to bring money in. So now, she spends her days serving fancy cakes to rude, rich people and being ordered around by Miss Warby. But in just a few short weeks, things have changed drastically. For Betty and the other girls in Lawlors’ Cake Shop & Tea Room, it all started when Miss Warby took their pay away. And they walked out! In no time at all, it seems the whole city (well, all the union members) facing unfair treatment by bosses and business owners who mistreat the workers are going on strike. It’s the time of the Dublin Lockout and things are going from bad to worse quickly. Walking the picket line day after day in pouring rain and freezing cold isn’t much fun. But the workers have to stand together, no matter what.
Told in Bettys’ own voice as she reaches towards her dream of being a writer, beginning with this memoir, a fascinating picture of life during the Dublin Lockout emerges with insight and feeling. While this is a work of fiction, it has a vision of historical accuracy woven through its’ strands. The portrayal of Betty and her family and friends rings true against this background with all its’ hardships, hopes and dreams and is highly relatable even today. All the confusion and determination of young adult life is relayed in genuine voice. The plot builds steadily with perfect flow, taking us from drama to crisis to resolution and back again. And it is an intriguing read; full of life, heart and reality. An absolutely marvelous book!
GAELIC SPIRIT: FIELD OF DREAMS…HOME OF HISTORY
author: Gerard Siggins
O’Brien Press (1 April 2020)
Eoin Madden is home in Tipperary for the holidays. There’s no rugby over the summer, so along with his boarding school friends, he heads down to Ormondstown GAA club. They all get involved in hurling and the football team and before you know it, they’re up against some of the best GAA teams in the county, trying to see if their rugby skills translate well into their native sports. They’re kept busy and having great fun between GAA and setting up their own gardening business, apart from some trouble with the local bullies. So why has Eoins’ ghostly friend and mentor, Brian Hanrahan turned up? And this time, Brian is accompanied by the ghost of Michael Hogan who died in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday 100 years ago. This can only mean trouble is heading Eoins’ way…and a deeper understanding of an historical tragedy. Will Eoin be able to keep a modern tragedy from unfolding?
It’s wonderful to see another Eoin Madden Adventure bringing its’ unique combination of sports and history to the page. The addition of more ghostly mystery hooks the reader immediately, as does the friendship and inclusiveness imbedded in the story. With an easy, flowing plotline that builds steady excitement and tension, the reader feels as if these are people they know; people they want to hang out with; people they will cheer for, on and off the pitch. The history woven into the tale encourages a hands-on understanding and desire to know more. And it is simply great adventure. Stories about sport are always highly sought after and you can’t do better than this. Full of family, friends and fun…and you’ll learn a little something along the way.
You’ll want to catch up with Eoins’ sporting life (if you haven’t read them yet). So please read the entire Rugby Spirit collection. You’ll be glad you did.
THE SOUND OF FREEDOM
author: Ann Murtagh
O’Brien O’Press (17 February 2020)
As the Irish War of Independence breaks out, Colm Conneely is living in a small cottage in Westmeath with his Dad and Nan and is dreaming big, exciting dreams. At nearly 14, Colm longs to join the ‘Rainbow Chasers’, the local Volunteers in the fight for an Ireland free from English rule, just as his Dad and so many in his family have done. Colm is caught up in republican fever, smuggling guns, defying the RIC, raising the tricolor on a small lake island during Sports Day…displaying his willingness and dedication to the cause at every possible opportunity. But Colm also has another dream…to make a new life in American using his exceptional gifts as a fiddle player and working for the republican movement there. But the arrival of two new people in the town cause his dreams to take a new turn. A spirited Belfast girl named Alice who shares Colms’ commitment to the cause and dreams of a musical escape help draw him further into the fight for freedom. And Auntie Sheila is back after years; revealing a long-held family secret that completely changes Colms’ perspective. The past, it seems, has shattering repercussions; but how will it change Colms’ future?
Compelling, clear writing tells us a story of history and destiny; not just of the Irish nation, but of personal impact. Colm comes across of an ordinary boy caught in extraordinary times as he longs to carve his own path in life, follow his dreams and to be part of something bigger, even if only a small part. His story is one of “coming-of-age”, displaying his talents, commitment and his mettle and there is a sense of his determining his own worth, not just for all around him to see, but for himself. In the very poignant moment when family secrets are revealed causes an earthquake within him as he comes to terms with the fact that everything he believed; everything he could count on simply wasn’t true. The emotion of that moment has been woven through the texture of the book and explodes not just with anger and confusion, but with a strange, artfully painted sense of relief. It is a story of history that has resonance today and begs us to think on the multi-layer nature of our own personal histories. A real ‘who-do-you-think-you-are’ kind of book; full of feeling, truly fascinating, a vivid portrait of this moment in time and simply wonderful.
DEADLY IRISH HISTORY: THE VIKINGS
author/illustrator: John Farrelly
O’Brien Press (2 March 2020)
The first installment of a new series; Deadly Irish History: The Vikings takes us on a madcap, marauding, entertaining and highly informative journey back in time and packed full of facts, legends and stories about Viking life and their quests in Ireland. With clever and quirky illustrations donning every page, there are cartoons and comics; tongue-in-cheek ‘newspaper articles’, ‘documents’ and ‘catalogs’ highlighting all your Viking needs…all proving that Irish history isn’t boring at all…it’s deadly! With a wide range of quizzes, questionnaires, puzzles and make-and-do pages, this book will have you riveted for hours. Basically, I loved it! Well-written, wonderfully illustrated, completely fascinating and so much fun! Move over, Horrible Histories. There’s a new historical kid on the block! More Deadly Irish History, please!
RONAN AND THE MERMAID: A Tale of Old Ireland
author: Marianne McShane
illustrator: Jordi Solano
Walker Books UK (May 2020)
Long, long ago the Abbey of Bangor with its’ cluster of beehive huts lay nestled on the edge of the Irish Sea. One day after a fierce, wild storm, Brother Declan discovers a boy washed up on the shore among a circle of seals, seaweed in his hair. No one knew where the boy had come from, but as he recovered he told a tale of being rescued from the waves by a beautiful lady. She had long golden hair and sang to him until they reached the safety of the shore. She tells him that one day he will help her more than he can imagine. As his days unfold, Ronan is given a harp and can play the most mesmerising music with just the touch of a string, enchanting even the birds with his skill. But he keeps hearing another song, sweet and sorrowful coming from the sea. It is the song of the mermaid.
With the lyrical style of an expert storyteller, a picture is painted of long ago Ireland, its’ legends, its’ magic and its’ wonder. The graceful language itself weaves a spell full of atmosphere, whisking the reader back in time. As you read along, you can hear the voice of the storyteller, feel the salty air of the sea, hear the sound of birdsong, music, and the utter quiet of the monks home. The gorgeous illustrations gracing the pages of this picture book give exacting imagery and a genuine sense of time and place, rich in detail, symbolism and a feel of the old; the magical. Rendered in a palette which is sensitive to the story, the pictures combine with the text to create a real treasure. Evocative, exquisite and beautiful; this one truly brings the legend home. Simply wonderful.
THE GONE BOOK
author: Helena Close
Little Island (2 April 2020)
Matts’ mother left the family when he was 10 years old. It’s been five years. Matt writes her letters; letters he doesn’t send. He keeps them in his Gone Book. Five years of letters spelling out his aching, longing and pain; loneliness and confusion. Five years of glimpses into his life…sort of. And five years of telling her he will find her one day. Matts’ home isn’t a great place, really. Since his Dad stopped drinking, all he does is run and pray. His older is running with a rough crowd, into drugs and owing alot of money to very bad people. Matt does have his friends, Mikey and Anna but all he really wants to do is skate, surf and try to forget. And then, one day…he discovers his Mum is back in town. Matt needs to find her and deliver one final truth. But it may be Matt who gets the truth served to him.
A remarkable narrative that throws the reader right into the story, this is a book that simply sings. We don’t so much read it as feel it; experience it. The descriptive passages give a realistic, accurate portrayal of location and people as Matt is navigating his life, trying to leave the past behind, but finding no real guidance to move forward. He’s trying to be his own person, but struggling to uncover who that is. Each character shines with a palpable, genuine quality that brings the book to life; that reveals a tangible, sometimes painful reality that is also filled with small glories. There is real heart and humour here; real emotion and action, told by a storyteller with a gift for crafting convincing voice and circumstance. A completely riveting and heartfelt family/coming-of-age drama, extremely contemporary and relevant and filled with truth, compassion and soul.
CHASING GHOSTS: AN ARCTIC ADVENTURE
author: Nicola Pierce
O’Brien Press (9 March 2020)
In 1845, two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror set out into the Arctic seeking the Northwest Passage. Their inexperienced crew, captained by the aging Sir John Franklin and second-in-command Francis Crozier are ill-prepared for the conditions that meet them. As the ice closes in on the ships, no one can guarantee their return.
In Derry, May 1849, four-year-old Weesy Coppin succumbs to a fever that has been wracking her poor little body for quite sometime. As her family locks themselves in heartache over her death, her brother and sister discover that her spirit has not left them, but still remains haunting their home. With the world anxiously wondering what has happened to the Arctic-bound ships, the Coppins struggle with the events in their own home. Until one night, when the two events collide in a most unlikely twist of fate and the truth comes to light…if anyone has the courage to see it.
Nicola Pierce returns with another eerie, haunting, sea-going historical fiction and it is stunning. The story is largely based on two historical events, separate, but forever linked in history. Told in two voices; that of Francis Crozier and of Weesys’ sister Ann; the reader is taken on an intrepid and ill-fated mission filled with determination and mystery. The death of a little girl brings grief and heartbreak to her family that now has to deal with a situation they do not want to conceive of; that she has come back to haunt them. We see every possible emotion as they try to make sense of this. It is only through a sliver of belief in this supernatural calling; undeniable evidence that something weird is happening to them, that the fate of the Northwest Passage mission is revealed to the world. The tale is gripping, wrapping us in the chilling blanket of never-ending cold and ice to labour on with the adventurers, praying for a heroic, positive outcome. It calls us to suspend our disbelief and embrace the possibility of the other world. You may not want to believe any of this, but its’ all there in history. Atmospheric, articulate and intelligent, wonderfully imaginative, impossibly true…this is historical fiction at its’ very best.
HOPE AGAINST HOPE
author: Sheena Wilkinson
Little Island (5 March 2020)
It’s 1921. Ireland has been at war with Britain for 2 years. Emotions are still running high from the end of World War 1 and now, with the act of partition, a hard border splits the country into two separate states. Communities are torn apart by conflict and bitter hatred. In the small border town of Mullankeen, Pollys’ life is changing fast. Still reeling from the loss of her mother to the Spanish flu, struggling to tolerate her brother, Leo who is much changed by the War and now dealing with her best friend, Catherine being sent away to school; she is having a really rough time of it. A shocking incident in her own home drives Polly to run away, joining Catherine in Helens’ Hope Hostel in Belfast. It is a feminist collective where young women live and work together; a haven of tolerance and diversity in a city that is growing more splintered by the day. Even within the walls of Helens’ Hope, the girls struggle to maintain their ideals. And the looming election seems to be increasing the tension to breaking point. There are some in the area that hate the hostel and all it stands for. When Helens’ Hope is violently attacked resulting in a horrific tragedy, can Polly keep hope alive?
With beautiful expressive writing, Hope Against Hope perfectly captures the atmosphere of Irelands’ partition and the people caught within a time of great transition and conflict. Told through the eyes of 14-year-old Polly, the reader has an insightful view into this moment as momentous social changes are mirrored by Pollys’ own personal ones. As Polly (and her friends) attempt to come into their own; decide who they will be and how they will fit in life, deft characterisation and a genuine voice gives us a story that is compelling and dynamic. It is moving, emotional; filled with a heart and humour as would be required to navigate this time of hope and trouble. We see Northern Ireland emerging and flailing against the harsh winds of the remnants of war, a growing division of her people; a ‘coming-of-age’ of its’ own. The details of the social structure of the time are written with a keen eye, showing honestly what was then and managing to convey something that still resonates today. And it does so without judgement; without leaning in one direction or the other. Hope Against Hope gives us a marvelous picture of history. But more than that, it gives us a memorable story with a bold, adventurous heroine that we become attached to. We want to keep Polly with us as a friend, a confidant and a companion in our own journey. Full of heart, feeling and thought-provoking wonder. Simply wonderful.
(Hope Against Hope sits alongside the previous Name Upon Name and Star By Star, revisiting some of the characters we met in those books and giving us a glimpse into their lives following those stories.)
author: Marguerite Tonery
cover illustration: Fabrice Bertolotto
Tribes Press (October 2019)
The month of March brings seemingly endless dark days and darker nights full of blustery storms. On one such night, as Jamie and Elisa settle into bed with sleep soon upon them, a thunderous sound shakes the world. But it isn’t a storm. It’s the ancient trees of Kapheus. Tired of waiting, they shake their roots deep in the soil and summon the Messenger from the ancient depths of the spirit world. The Messenger walks among the living of both Éire and Kapheus now, present to signal a new dawn. Jamie and Elisa have reached coming of age, but Kapheus has grown still and filled with fear. It is not safe for Elisa and Jamie there. But it is not safe for them in Eire, either. The Children of Light journey to Tír na nOg, and the boundary portals between Éire and Kapheus close. It may well be that Elisa and Jamie could well be trapped inside forever. As well as, somehow, their father. With incensed leprechauns turning violence upon all and no clear-headed heroes to call upon, will Jamie and Elisa remained trapped forever; the destinies, combined and separate, dangling elusively out of reach?
As we enter the fantastical world of light for the 5th time, we are drawn into a world in chaos and confusion. There is a storm brewing, and that storm carries the reader throughout the book. As the central characters, Jamie and Elisa are older, more mature now, the story matches their growth. The plot is more complex and more ethereal, more dreamlike as it takes the reader from place to place in the context of the tale. But the story remains fluid. Lyrical story-telling drives the tale forward.Vivid, textural description brings the carefully constructed world into view. As both Elisa and Jamie reach a coming-of-age, they do so with much insight into the complex rises and emotional and thought patterns of their ages and concepts such as self-determination, loyalty, and destiny are brought to test. The reader will now get greater insight into their parents as well, with Aideen having a crisis of her own and their father, Cathal revealing more of his personality. In fact, all the characters seem to reveal their many layers. All of this is wrapped up in a rich, vibrant, expanding fantasy/adventure filled with all the nuance of Irish myth and legend that demands attention and calls us all to follow our dreams. In return, the reader receives a story they will not want to leave. Exciting, intrepid and so, so satisfying.
A FAIRY WONDERLAND OF RHYMES
author: Lyn Maloney
illustrator: Sally-Ann Kelly
Tribes Press (October 2019)
From the moment this book is opened, you enter an enchanted world. Here you will meet fairies of many sorts; nature fairies, fairy helpers, faithful fairy friends…even mischievous fairies who are sure to make you laugh and lead you astray; but not too far astray. Have you ever wondered how fairies are made? What chores do they take on? And what, exactly are steampunk fairies up to? All their stories are told in lyrical, lilting verse, so the reader is sure to remember and become completely mesmerised by each fairys’ story.
Illustrated in beautiful colour, with magical light and charm, each page of this book invites you further into the fairy realm. Honestly, you’ll never want to leave.
Poetry is such an important part of a childs’ reading experience. This collection is a simply stunning addition that will enrich their understanding of books and stories, inspire a curiosity of nature and create a real enthusiasm for the possibility of fairyland. So imaginative, so lovely and so very real…invite the fairies into your lives with a book of poetry that will be treasured by children young and old. Absolute enchantment awaits!
THE HOUSE ON HAWTHORN ROAD
author: Megan Wynne
O’Brien Press (14 October 2019)
Beth really misses her old life in London; her school, her best friend Aisha, her Gran. Beth had a place where she belonged there. But when her Gran died, the family crossed the Irish Sea and are now living in Dublin…in an old house with some pretty strange things happening. Someone has been in her room messing with her things. Things go missing, get broken; what is going on? One morning, Beth discovers a strangely dressed boy called Robbie has been slipping through a crack in her wall…from the 1950s! It gets really interesting. Robbie shows Beth how to slip back and forth between times and together, they have brilliant fun creating havoc that no one can work out…until one day Robbies’ family gets stuck in the present day, leaving his heartbroken father behind. The past truly is a strange and distant land.
Two children, living in the same house but decades apart, meeting up via a crack in the wall? Just brilliant!!! This book opens up a window to the past and gives a glimpse of the possibility of its’ impact on the present day. The characterisation is marvelous. With shy, quiet Beth juxtaposed against bold, brash Robbie, both have grow and become a little more like each other in order to manage this mad situation and find solutions. But the real star of this show is the story-telling! The reader is immediately drawn into the tale with its’ fast-paced plot and unique perspective.. Not only does it display the effect of changes of the last few decades, but it causes so many questions; so many ‘what ifs’ that challenge the reader throughout. And just when you think its all over, a brilliant twist of fate and family crashes in to offer an ending that will live long in the imagination and heart. Entertaining, insightful, full of understanding and just plain fun.
author: Patricia Forde
Little Island Books (12 September 2019)
Since the death of its’ leader in the battle of the water tower a year earlier, Ark is now under the grip of a new dictator, even more extreme, more ruthless than John Noa. Amelia is determined to carry out the wishes of her dead partner, Noa…but in a more absolute fashion. Babies are disappearing from their families, taken by the Gavvers, enforcers of the law of Ark for an unknown purpose, to an unknown location. And the people are living in abject fear. Letta is now an enemy of the state; part of the resistance movement, the Creators living and working in secret to overturn the horrific events that have been building since the Melting. She continues with her work as the Wordsmith, collecting words and language for the people. But her job now takes on an added, very dangerous aspect as Letta is now running a covert Hedge School, teaching the children the words that are missing from the state-enforced language of List. Language is a weapon. Letta is determined to teach the children how to use it. But when she discovers that babies are being stolen from their homes, Letta takes on another task; a task that places her in more peril as she uncovers a heart-breaking, sinister plot and brings her face to face with a dead woman. But Letta must find out where the babies are being hidden…and why. Mother Tongue is a glorious, chilling, powerful work of speculative fiction that takes the reader on a journey of heart and mind, of the effects of environmental disaster and the dangers of absolute power. Complex ideas about language and society are expressed with a rhythm and eloquence that holds the reader in the storys’ tightly woven grasp and creates a world that is frighteningly tangible. It makes you feel as if in a dream from which you cannot wake. The book moves with pitch-perfect pacing that causes a feeling of flowing through the plot; moving through the landscape with its’ hills, fields and forests as if you have been carefully placed in every location by the words themselves. The characters are incisive; multi-layered and lending differing and genuine voices and concerns to the tale. Letta herself is simply magnificent; well-rounded, filled with conflict and determination, believable and heroic. She is an inspiration. An ode to the urgency of language (which features as a hero in and of itself), freedom of expression, response and responsibility, the effect is a book that you will keep inside you long after you’ve put it down. And I would argue that this is not simply a book for young people; everyone should read Mother Tongue. Thought-provoking and emotion-stirring, purposeful, exciting and haunting.
THE NIGHT-TIME CAT AND THE PLUMP GREY MOUSE
author: Erika McGann
illustrator: Lauren O’Neill
O’Brien Press (30 September 2019)
In a very quiet library sitting on a very special shelf, there is an old, old book. One dark night, a plump grey mouse sits staring out of the pages waiting…. When the clock strikes midnight, the mouse leaps from the pages, ready to begin his nighttime exploration. But the plump, grey mouse isn’t the only one waiting. Right behind is a sharp-clawed cat looking for something to eat…maybe a tasty plump grey mouse? But where has he gone? The night-time cat, Pangur Bán searches high and low, all around Trinity College. Along the way, he asks for help from many of the other night-time visitors to Trinity; Jonathan Swift, Queen Elizabeth 1st, Oscar Wilde, even Count Dracula; but none seem interested in coming to Pangurs’ aid. And Pangur Bán is so hungry! Will he ever find that plump, grey mouse?
What better way to explore Trinity College than this beautifully illustrated, ghostly romp through its’ nighttime grounds! We meet many of the historical and literary people who have impacted our lives and this incredible library and university right in the heart of Dublin in this charming, action filled tale. Told through the eyes of Pangur Bán (my absolute favourite vignette from The Book of Kells), the journey is exciting, funny and wonderfully written, showing real character and warmth. Not only does this picture book give us a quick lesson in Trinitys’ history, it opens wide the doors of the imagination. A perfect story to share as we enter this ghostly season.
author: Brian Gallagher
O’Brien Press (2 September 2019)
Dublin, 1943; Ireland has come under control of the Nazis. Two years ago, Rachel Clarke fled her home in Cork when the Nazis came for her family, due to their Jewish heritage. With her father shipped to Germany for forced labour and her mother being held in Spike Island Concentration Camp, Rachel made her way to her aunt in Dublin. Changing her name to Roisin Tierney, she is now hiding from the Gestapo, living in fear and trying to exist in the new harsh regime. But it proves to be nearly impossible. Many Irish people are unwilling to help; fearful for their own lives. Others find benefit in becoming Nazi collaborators. And then, there are those who fight back, joining the Resistance. Roisins’ best friends, Mary and Kevin are one her side and do everything they can to hide her secret. But Dennis, a young collaborator, knows something is up. Before she knows it, Roisin and her aunt are in extreme danger, with the same Nazi who came for her in Cork having worked out her deception. One fateful night, Roisin and her friends must take the biggest risk of their young lives in order for Roisin to have even the slimmest chance of a better, safer life.
In this superb work of alternative historical fiction, Gallagher paints a picture of a world that could have easily come into being. The vivid imagery within the pages allows the reader to submerge themselves into a believable, realistic tale. The tension is palpable, the atmosphere, dramatic. The characters are vibrant and easy to identify with as they struggle to find courage and strength to battle against the prevailing circumstances and public opinion. These are gutsy kids; risk-takers, sometimes given to rash actions, but all the while keeping an uncertain future in sight. And the story-telling! The pacing, the rhythm and the cadence of the language fills the imagination and insight, provoking thought and deep consideration. Resistance is an important and riveting book.
LILY AT LISSADELL
author: Judi Curtin
O’Brien Press (9 September 2019)
Lily wants nothing more than to continue her school life where she receives praise for her writing, settles squabbles between the younger children and can be her lovely, cheeky self with her friends. But suddenly, that time comes to an end. She is whisked away to start her new life as an under- housemaid at the Big House: Lissadell, home of the Gore-Booth family. The Gore-Booths are kind and generous employers, but life as a young housemaid is hard; long, busy days, learning how to keep things perfect for the gentry and getting along with her bristly roommate, Nellie only adds to her loneliness at being away from home and family. But Lily gets on with it. The one day, Maeve, niece of the Gore-Booths and daughter of the famed Countess Markiewicz arrives for a visit. Maeve takes an instant liking to Lily and decides to paint her portrait and a friendship begins. Maeve delights Lily with stories of a life very different from Lilys’ own, Lily tries to tease more from Maeve, but finds it’s not that easy. Meanwhile, Lily discovers the reason behind Nellies’ sullen and sometimes mean demeanor and she learns of yet another life; one of extreme poverty, loss and grief. Can these three girls ever develop a real friendship, even in an Ireland that is changing so quickly?
With a keen and understanding eye for clearly revealing the journey of friendships, growing up and what lies in the hearts of everyday people, Judi Curtin gives us a glimpse into the life of one young girl. Set in Sligo in 1913, there is a beautiful descriptive quality to the writing that allows the reader to dive into the time and feel as if they are there, right alongside Lily as she learns her new tasks and ponders about those surrounding her. A sense of empathy and humour runs through the story, as we get a feel of what life was really like at the time. But the heart and soul of the book is friendship. Learning to trust, showing kindness, offering what talents and gifts you have to others and seeing through anothers’ eyes; it’s all there. There are marvelous day-to-day adventures, clever observations and, as the book ends, the reader is left wanting to know more. Wonderful historical fiction that is a real joy to read.
LAURA’S SPOOKY SHOW
Author: Natasha Mac a’Bháird
Glenbard Books (September 2019)
Halloween is fast approaching, so it’s time for the Star Club to plan a brand new show, filled with magic, mystery and witches. But this show will be even more exciting for Laura, as she’s going to write it herself! Laura throws herself into her creation, finding much inspiration from a spooky, crumbling house just down the road and the mysterious old woman who lives there, all alone. And now, there seem to be strange comings and goings around the old house. Is it really haunted? And what does Laura’s sister have to do with this? She’s been very secretive lately.Absorbed in her writings, Laura has specific ideas about how the show will go and who will play who. It seems the rest of the Star Club don’t agree at all. They don’t want to be ‘type-cast’. As tensions mount and arguments break out, will the Star Club be able to find a way through and combine their talents and friendship to put on another brilliant show? And poor Laura! Locked in rewrites and struggling with her vision, she is still haunted by the events at the spooky old house. Whatever happens, the show must go on!A story of friendship, community and family, Laura’s Spooky Show throws in a bit of mystery and magic with a few good twists and turns to create a truly wonderful and intriguing read. The closeness and conflicts between the friends bounce off the concerns of the young creative spirit, making it lively, entertaining and just plain fun! There are great, believable dialogues; clearly depicted scenes and a brilliant atmosphere, and amazing twists and turns throughout. It is written in a light-hearted, easy style, but includes a number of social concerns woven into the story without disrupting or overriding the feel and the enjoyment. In fact, I would say it adds to the inspirational quality. This is a book for anyone with creative dreams, fast and firm friendships and a flair for a bit of mystery. The third book in the Star Club series, this may be the best one yet! Engaging, well-written, warm-hearted and completely delightful, it grips you from the very start and doesn’t let go!https://www.facebook.com/natashamacabhairdwriter/https://www.instagram.com/natasha.mac23/
SCÚNC AGUS SMÚIRÍN (Skunk and Sniffy)
author: Muireann ní Chíobháin
illustrator: Paddy Donnelly
Futa Fata (August 2019)
Mama found Smúirín (Sniffy), a cuddly-toy friend for Scúnc (Skunk) one day when he was little, and they have been inseparable ever since. Smúirín has a special smell, one that brings comfort and happiness and lets Scúnc know that everything is all right. They sleep together, eat together, play together…and sometimes Smúirín hides from Scúnc. One day, Scúnc found him hiding in the washing machine…oh no! Smúirín has lost his special smell!!! And Scúnc is heart-broken. It’s the worst possible thing that could have happened. But Mama might be able to help.
We have all had (or do have) that special comfort-blanket or soft toy that made everything okay. This beautiful book sings like an anthem to those special cuddlies; an anthem sung by a most relatable and likeable hero.The characterisation is spot on, giving the reader an real understanding of Scúncs’ feelings. And this is done as much through the pictures as the story. The beautiful writing is perfectly accented by the expressive, lively, stylised illustrations. The result is a completely delightful picture book that will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your heart. Warm, heartfelt and completely wonderful.
(Published as Gaielge; in the Irish Language. I want to thank Futa Fata for providing me with the translation.)
A STRANGE KIND OF BRAVE
author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Orion Childrens Books (25 July 2019)
“Yesterday, I killed a boy on Clanfedden Bridge and then I drove away. Nobody had the courage to stop me.”
For years, Jake McCormack has held the small town of Clanfedden in a vice-like grip of fear, leaving it a sad and destitute place. But in a bold move, the town council has cancelled the lease on his credit business and put it up for auction. As far as Jake is concerned, there will be hell to pay in Clanfedden.
While no one in the town has the courage to take it on, a vibrant outsider with memories of the sparkling, joyous place of her youth arrives. Ariana Spinelli is back. She and her son, Luca arrive in Clanfedden with a whirlwind of colour, fearlessness. Before long, her fabulous restaurant and joyous spirit are injecting new life. But Luca is living under the shadow of a soul-shattering incident in Dublin; one that robbed him of his self-worth and left him longing for a place where he can forget the past. If only it were possible…
Allie Redmond knows better than most how much pleasure Jake McCormack gets from watching people suffer as he destroys their lives. She needs to warn Ariana and Luca…she needs to try. As she befriends Luca and Ariana, Allie begins to forget the sorrow of her past and finds that love and friendship actually have the ultimate power. But Jake isn’t having that…and when disaster strikes, bringing horrific shock and betrayal with it, Allie could lose everything, including her life.
From the very first line, this book wraps the reader in a grasp that will not let go. It hypnotises with words that speak to the heart of us all; words of fear, loss, hopelessness and the joy that is within reach if only we have the courage. Jake McCormack is a quintessential villain with truly evil capacity and compulsion to seek vengeance on any who would cross him. The vehicle of ‘small town life’ demonstrates an understanding of typical human nature. But the lead characters, Allie and Luca hold that resilient, if reckless quality to rise out of complacency; show that “strange kind of courage” that allows for triumph. The pervasive sense throughout of food, not simply as nourishment, but as joy for the soul is a subtle, but inspirational addition, bringing with it a desire to try something new and taking time away from from stress and trouble. There is a twist in the end that will leave the reader truly shocked; mouth open, filled with a terrible awe at the cleverness and the maliciousness that has been at work all along. Guaranteed: you will not see it coming. An obsessive read; powerful, heartfelt, shocking and liberating. You must read this book. (YA)
RACE THE ATLANTIC WIND
The Flight of Alcock and Brown
author: Oisin McGann
O’Brien Press (10 June 2019)
Maggie McRory ran away from her native Ireland to join her uncle and aunt in Newfoundland. Resourceful, clever and with a real taste for adventure, she has proved herself a valuable member of the small community of St Johns. But Maggie has big dreams. Frustrated by the ‘smallness’ of her life, she is beyond excited when word reaches the small town of the incredible adventure about to unfold before their eyes. The very best aviators in all the world are to compete to achieve an impossible goal; to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean and win a 10,000 cash prize. To win the prize, they will face brutal storms and freezing temperatures in aeroplanes made of wood, wire and cloth. And their starting point is Newfoundland. Two veteran pilots of WW1, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown are joining these elite daredevils, starting from St Johns, nearly too late to be in with a chance. And Maggie is desperate to be in the middle of all the action. But she has a battle of her own; dealing with her war-scarred Uncle Patrick who views these men as a threat to his now peaceful way of life.
With air travel now so common, it is alien to us; this understanding of the depth of the risk and courage it took to even consider attempting the first non-stop Atlantic flight . An insightful and gripping story, this book expertly sets the atmosphere and tension perfectly. Detailed descriptions and explanations of the landscape, the flying machines and insight into the characters and personalities of the pilots themselves pull the reader along on an incredible, danger-filled journey of discovery and adventure. It is as if we are there and wondering why on earth anyone would even consider doing such a mad thing! Maggie’s character is laid-out beautifully. We see a young, determined person attempting with all her might to escape the constraints of conventional thinking and all its’ fears and those equally determined to keep her ‘safe.’ She shows us what it takes to move forward; how to be intrepid and strong in the face of a world that demands you not be these things. The relationships between all the characters, their particular gifts, talents and challenges, the interplay between the events that haunt them and the dream that makes them who they are, makes this a very human story. Celebrating the 100 year mark of Alcock and Browns’ jaw-dropping flight, this book is amazing! Written by one of the very best authors in Ireland, this is historical fiction doing what it does best; bringing the past to life and seeing it with new eyes.
BLACK ’47: A STORY OF IRELANDS’ GREAT FAMINE
(a graphic novel)
author/illustrator: Damien Goodfellow
O’Brien Press (29 April 2019)
The year is 1847 and Ireland has been under the death-grip of the Great Famine for 3 years. The crops are rotting in the fields and the entire country is full of ‘living ghosts’ as family after family succumbs to starvation, eviction and disease. The Hunger has contributed to widespread riots and armed militia roam the country as what precious little food there is is exported to England. Now, Jack and his family left the West of Ireland, taking to the roads desperately searching for food, shelter…a place to be. Making their way in the most hostile of times, they head across the country, to homelessness in Liverpool, somehow finding space on one of the infamous ‘coffin ships’ and finally, like some many others who managed to survive, to a new life in America.
Damien Goodfellow has created an intense graphic novel that brings a small segment of the tragic moment in Irish history to life. It’s dark, atmospheric graphics take the reader directly into the time with texture, powerful emotion and realism. The reader has a strong experience of the landscape, the people, the depths of despair, the fragility of life and hope and the sheer strength and determination it took to survive.The story is never rushed, creating a pace that perfectly creates the sense of the familys’ journey and hardship. The written text is used sparsely, making it an easy read and also opening up a greater understanding of the tale through its’ combination with incredible illustrations. A moving, compelling historical book that will ignite further interest in the Great Hunger.
THE CANTANKEROUS MOLLY DARLING
author: Alvy Carragher
Chicken House Books (6 June 2019)
Molly Darling just wants her life to be simple; porridge, wellies, feeding her beloved chickens…just like that. But Dad has run off leaving a PowerPoint presentation to explain his actions, Mums’ hidden away in the attic working on her latest artistic creations and her sister is about to marry the most boring man around for miles. And now…her chickens have all gone missing; including Lady MacBeth, a rooster that doesn’t identify with his/her gender. It turns out, Mum has sold them to a local chicken farm owned by the family of the most obnoxious girl in her class with a nasty twist and a vlog that is cutting and wicked. It’s enough to make anyone cantankerous, isn’t it? But Molly can fix all! With the help of her best friend, Tess, Molly mounts a mission to rescue her chickens and set her family back on the path to normality. What could possibly go wrong?
Alvy Carragher has really captures the essence of life as a teenage girl in rural Ireland with a wink, a gasp and laugh-out-loud humour. Molly is a clever, funny, exasperated character caught in the middle of family drama (and as it turns out, a bit of a crime spree) whose voice rings clear as a bell and feelings that are endlessly easy to identify with. She has a fine eye for observation and a strong sense of the ridiculousness of her situation as all the family and social dramas that have been simmering under the surface erupt one after another. The inclusion of the contemporary passion for putting everything on the internet display with great accuracy that nothing, absolutely nothing is private anymore. And it can all be doctored to suit prevailing impressions. All in a small rural Irish community; but hey, if it can happen there…With a rolling pace, many twists and turns and a real sense of honesty and humour, the story is simply impossible to put down. The sense of adventure, mystery and deeds of ne’er-do-well add to the drama and the hilarity as poor, cantankerous Molly just wants to get her chickens back and live a normal life! Perfect for fans of Louise Rennisons’ Georgia Nicholson books and Helen Baileys’ Electra Brown books. Funny, well-written, just brilliant and very insightful.
BENNY AND OMAR
author: Eoin Colfer
O’Brien Press (reprint edition May 2019)
Benny Shaw is the star-player in of St Jerome’s hurling team and his time to shine just arrived. Taking the winning point in the Primary Schools County Hurling Final, he heads home with the medal proudly on his chest. When he arrives there, his parents have a bit of news for the whole family. Due to a promotion at his Dads’ work, they’ll be moving…to Tunisia. Benny is less then pleased, to say the least. Nobody there even heard of hurling; the school is just plain weird; don’t even talk to him about the teachers! And the village? It’s so small, you couldn’t even really call it a village. Benny is determined to be miserable; how dare his parents take him to this place! But the, Benny meets Omar; a boy that lives by his wits and his talent for buying and selling; for making-do. Omars’ English is learned from TV and they have nothing in common. Despite this, a deep and wild friendship grows between the boys as they engage in all sorts of schemes. games and shenanigans that drive the village and Bennys’ parents to distraction…and ultimately involve the police.
If you’re expecting Artemis Fowl, please don’t. This is a completely different type of story. First published in 1999, this is Eoin Colfers’ first book and has been reprinted many times over the years. (This time, it has a new cover by the winner of CBI/O’Brien Press’ design-a-cover competition, Patricia Poprawa from Glenswilly National School!) This is a simple story, no fantasy, about a boy who finds himself having to adapt to life in a strange land. And he doesn’t like it. Benny is a typical, sports-mad boy, if a bit spoilt and arrogant. Used to be the centre of attention and getting a lot of glory, He’s stuck in a place he doesn’t want to be, where he isn’t really anything special. He doesn’t know anyone and has to get on with, but fights his new life at every turn. Benny is harsh with his outlook, his family and everything else; masking an insecurity at his situation…and then, he meets Omar. Things change. The bond between the two grows; they develop an understanding and camaraderie and they help each other. Adventurous, funny and a lot of action bring life to a tale that is about empathy, compassion and adjusting your expectations. While, personally, I’m not keen on the ending, this remains a heart-warming and thoroughly wonderful read with a powerful message.
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND (TIME AFTER TIME)
author: Judi Curtin
O’Brien Press (20 May 2019- reissue)
When Molly’s Dad arrives home, he has a huge surprise for her. He’s moving back for good! Molly has a bit of an adjustment to make; having her Dad in the neighbourhood, but not living in the house is kind if challenging. But Molly soon realises it’s difficult for him, too. He is lonely and doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. She seeks help from Beth and the girls get the great idea of giving him a kitten. He doesn’t want it…he says he’ll never have another cat because of what happened to the cat he had when he was a little boy. And he won’t really talk to his brother. So the girls are off! Back in time they go to try to figure out what really happened and how to help Molly’s Dad become a happy part of the family, once again. But can they handle life in the 1970s?
I am absolutely loving this funny, intriguing time travel series! And You’ve Got A Friend is a welcome addition. Molly and Beths’ friendship is very close and they are adjusting well; now being more like sisters than simply friends. Their unique personalities play well against each other, adding many clever and delightful moments, as they try to navigate their way through the 70s; the clothes, the scenarios, the geography (Dublin has changed a lot) and the people… and keeping their real identities under wraps. The relationships within the story are handled with an expert hand and just the right amount of drama and humour as their friendship is always tested and strengthened. Time-travel tends to do that. This leads to a story that is not only utterly enjoyable and believable, but also revealing. I have to mention the inclusion of musical references that adds a great deal of understanding about the story itself. (If your young readers aren’t familiar with the songs, you now have a great opportunity to share them. They will love it!) Judi Curtin writes in a way that really brings this story to life. Charming, wonderful and filled with heart,there is a lot to entertain here, but also a lot of depth and insight.
author: Pádraig Kenny illustration: Jane Newland
Chicken House (4 April 2019)
After their mother has died, David and Penny move to her childhood home with their father. All of them are lost in grief; trying to cope as best they can. But this house is a strange one; filled with magical creatures. Like Pog. Pog is small and furry; one of the First Folk who now live hidden and protect the boundary between this world and another frightening ‘Necessary’ place. As David and Penny explore, they discover monsters that are slipping through the cracks in ever increasing numbers. And David is drawn into the woods, called there by a sinister, dark creature that insists there is a way to bring his dead mother back to them. But as David unwittingly gets pulled further and further into Kipwiks’ manipulation, fired by painful loss, Penny finds strength and courage and a wondrous friend in Pog. Can they, together, fight off the monsters and put an end to Kipwiks’ plan?
A magical journey through grief and recovery, Pog reads like a fairytale with all of the elements that bring life and truth to one. Carefully constructed, it gives the reader a picture of a world within and beside our own; just as tangible, just as real. Each character stands out on their own merit with distinct personalities, strengths and weaknesses; each caught in their own particular feelings of loss. Pog is noble in his own way; strong and thoughtful, retrospective and quirky. The father is neatly put aside in the story so that the children can find their autonomy and their own voices. David is typical of many children in such a situation; belligerent and isolated while also needing the comfort of his family…and willing to do whatever it takes to ease his loss. Penny is more introspective; a beautifully drawn character that shines through; determined to do the right thing and to learn more about Pog and lift herself and her family back into life despite (or perhaps because of) her own sorrow. While it is a story about loss, it is also a tale of rising, not sinking. It is filled with hope and wonder. It shows us a world of natural cycles, rhythms; of ebb and flow. Painterly language displays clearly both the external and internal worlds in which the story is told. Gentle, imaginative, captivating and simply wonderful.
THE STAR-SPUN WEB
author: Sinéad O’Hart
Stripes Publishing (Little Tiger) (7 February 2019)
What if the world we live in; the reality we know isn’t the only one? What if world upon world are stacked, like sheets of paper? And what if the events in one world, if they are big enough, can ripple through these realities like waves?
Tess de Sousa was left one cold, snowy night at the door to Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings. She knows nothing about herself. It would seem Tess is not an ordinary orphan. She acquired a pet tartantula, Violet when she was about 5, she used to mysterious vanished (for just a few seconds) before their very eyes and she has a passion and prowess for scientific experimentation. When Norton F. Cleat arrives at Ackerbee’s one day claiming to be a long-lost relative come to adopt her, Tess sees an opportunity to find out exactly where she came from and what happened to her parents. But Mr. Cleat is not what he seems. He knows much more about Tess than he is willing to share…and about a strange device that was left with her when she was abandoned. Tess realises that the ‘Star-Spinner’ is a link between her world and a parallel one, where a horrific war is raging; and that she is the key to a lethal plan. A plan she must work out how to stop…
The Star-Spun Web had me in its’ grip from page one. Lyrical writing, a well-crafted plot and exceptional story-telling make this book ring with adventure and believability. The concept of multi-layered reality is utterly fascinating and brings a compelling, inquisitive quality to the tale that harkens back to some of the sci-fi classics. Tess is a wonderful character; spunky, well-rounded and not easily defeated. She stands out as a hero the reader can really get behind. The ‘bad-guys’ in the story (Mr Cleat and Mrs Thistleton) are wicked portraits of manipulation and obsession; but these are the very qualities that cause their downfall (for the moment…) And that all important element of quirky humour set in the darkest moments of the story lift the reader out of fright and propel them forward into resilience. An array of circumstances flow together to cement strong, yet tender-hearted bonds of companionship and family and create a gripping, heart-stopping conclusion. There is so much to recommend this book. Fast-paced, curious, intelligent and dripping with real courage and imagination.
TOMI: Tomi Reichetal’s Holocaust Story
retold by Eithne Massy
O’Brien Press (10 September 2018)
In October 1944 at the age of nine-years, Tomi Reichental was rounded up by the Gestapo in a shop in Bratislava with12 other members of his family. Together with countless others, they were taken to the now infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Imprisoned there for the duration of the war, Tomi had to watch as countless horrors were unleashed upon the occupants under the gaze of the Nazi commandant Alois Brunner, who had complete power over life and death. Tomi had to be cunning and clever in his bid for survival, and to simply stand by, staying out of sight as he saw the way of life he knew distintegrated before his eyes. and the people he knew and loved vanished; waiting for a rescue that was uncertain.
Accessible to children and young teens, this is a rewritten account, taken from “I Was a Boy in Belsen” by Tomi Reichental and Nicola Pierce. While it does not reveal the detail of the horror from the previous (adult) biography, it shows enough. Giving an honest, heartfelt account of the Holocaust, this is a book that is important and heroic; an account of the dangers of intolerance, racism and deliberate dehumanisation under a totalitarian regime. It is not an easy read. But it is riveting, powerful and beautifully written, it calls for young people to consider the real consequences of injustice and prejudice. A story as poignant today as it was then, it must be remembered.
author: Marguerite Tonery
Tribes Press (31 October 2018)
Elisa and Jamie are locked in grief over Fodlas’ death. Sadness has permeated their lives in Éire all of Kapheus. But Mother Badger has had a prophetic dream and risks her life to warn Elisa and Jamie. A parade of Kaphein folk usher themselves back and forth across the border between their worlds. A storm cloud, a vicious black dog and an eerie, evil man appears with a stone that nearly kills Elisa. Jamie is pulled into greed and selfishness. Hidden away in the bottom of Elisa’s wardrobe, a new baby dragon emerges from his egg, guarded by Joachim, leader of the wolves. The phoenix has flown and the enemy from Fodar is seeking Geaspar, the newly born dragon. As allies and families come together and fall apart and Kaphien heroes face unimaginable tasks. The clocks are all ticking, revealing and measuring all of their lives. The time of fire has arrived.
The fourth in the Kapheus series, this book builds on all the others before and releases a new dynamic. A more complex plotline and a more mature text, it is intricate and utterly fascinating. The relationship between brother and sister, indeed throughout their entire family reveals its’ secrets and its’ cracks as the effects of grief over the loss of Fodla and growing up in general impact all their interactions. The varied array of characters, both fantastical and human add texture to create an utterly thrilling story that will hold the reader in its’ grip the entire time.One of the most valuable aspects of this entire series is its’ ability to take ancient mythology and weave it together with the contemporary lives of two children, developing a strong sense of personal history; where we came from and where we are going. Pitch-perfect pace unveils the oncoming storm of events with finesse. Add to this a deep appreciation for the influence of the natural world (and on the natural world) and you have a story for the ages. Exciting, dramatic, evocative and filled with heart. Just beautiful!
author: John Butler illustrator: Jay Penn
Tribes Press (November 2018)
One day in the Animal Kingdom, a good and helpful citizen named Onnie Piggles isn’t feeling quite right about himself. Onnie is wondering who he really is. So, Onnie makes a decision! He packs his bag, closes his repair shop and boards a train to Fairy Tale Land in search of a story in which he belongs. When he arrives after his long train journey, Onnie travels far and wide, through many Fairy Tales and meeting many familiar characters. But they don’t seem to be quite right in themselves, either. And the exciting new adventure he sought turns out to be not quite what he had in mind. Onnie begins to wonder if he will ever find his own story…and his own happy ending.
Filled with quirky new friends and old familiar ones and written in a truly unique voice, this is a wonderfully imagined adventure. Episodes of exciting action are carefully balanced with moments of quiet reflection and seriousness with a wonderful sense of humour; giving the reader a sense of a magical journey, both on inside Onnie’s feelings and in the outer world.The easy and clear text gently compels the reader along, telling an important tale and keeping you gripped to find out what will happen next. Old favourite fairytale characters are cast in a different light as a new hero emerges; a different sort of hero. The illustrations by Jay Penn are charming, uplifting and accent the story perfectly, really giving a sense of time, place and action.
This is a heart-warming, thoughtful and utterly delightful fable for everyone to enjoy. A story to read, share and love.
THE DOG WHO LOST HIS BARK
author: Eoin Colfer
illustrator: P.J. Lynch
Walker Books (4 October 2018)
Pup doesn’t want to leave his mother, but Mother tells him that it will be fine; the right person will come for him and his life will be awesome! But things don’t work out and Pup suffers at the hands of bad people and loses his bark. He is abandoned, left cold and alone. Patrick has dreamt of having a dog his whole life. This summer, with his Dad away on tour and he and his Mum staying with his grandfather in his music school home, Patricks’ dream can finally come true. When they visit the animal rescue, the dog he chooses is Dog…even though Dog will take a lot of love and care to get over his trauma. It takes a lot of time and patience, but Dog, now called Oz learns that life really can be awesome. He even finds his bark and learns to sing! But when Patrick suffers a trauma of his own, will Oz be able to show him how awesome life can be?
This story combines the talents of two former Irish childrens laureates and is exceptional. The tale of two young broken hearts and the power of love, understanding and music to heal, it is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Told from the two perspectives of both dog and boy, the voices lyrically ring as they express both inner views on their their journey with emotion and insight, culminating in something that is simply magical. The drawings are exquisite; depicting the settings and the feelings with perfection. Have the tissues ready! You will cry with both sorrow and joy, but the end effect is uplifting and utterly wonderful. A memorable, gentle, moving book, this one is an instant classic that you will keep forever. I can’t recommend it highly enough. (ages 7+ and definitely one to share)
MY SECRET DRAGON
author: Debbie Thomas
Little Island (20 September 2018)
Aidan Mooney has spent his entire life trying to hide his mother from prying eyes. He’s been home-schooled and doesn’t have any friends because he can’t be trusted to not let his mothers’ deepest secret slip. He isn’t ashamed of her; she’s the best Mum in the world! But she does have a dark secret. You see, Aidans’ mother is part dragon. But now, he’s going to school, making new friends and being really, really careful. One day, when he arrives home, Aidan discovers his mother has disappeared…she has been kidnapped! With his new friend Charlotte, he sets off on the trail which leads them to a remote location in County Galway and a man with a sinister and completely insane plot. With Aidans’ mum and a few other unusual people in serious danger, it’s up to him to save them all.
Filled with heart and exciting twists and turns, My Secret Dragon is utterly wonderful. As well as being a great adventure story, it is about friendship and family, acceptance and difference and how to find the courage to do the impossible when it really matters. The characters are well-described, the plot is truly ingenious c and it is really funny. I found myself completely wrapped up in Aidans’ world and his adventures. As an added bonus, cooking and baking features prominently in the tale, so there is a mini recipe book at the end so you, too can get creative in the kitchen along with Aidan and Charlotte. There is absolutely nothing not to like about My Secret Dragon. Humourous, compassionate, dynamic and heart-felt, it’s a real gem.
(also by Debbie Thomas: Dead Hairy, Jungle Tangle, Monkie Business and Class Act)
author: Gerard Siggins
O’Brien Press (27 August 2018)
Meet five kids with one dream; to become to greatest sports stars in history, even though they know they have no chance of being noticed. What they have, however, is a real love of their sports and a lot of heart. But Joe, Kim, Craig, Jess and Ajit do get noticed, by some very unique sports agents. Before they know it, they are whisked away to a secret island school (home of the worlds’ greatest sports academy) providing them with all the eductaion and training they will ever need to reach their full potential. There is much more to the island than meets the eye. It may be an island, but it is also a submarine built with the latest technology that not only provides the students with all their needs (including some very eccentric coaches and teachers) but takes them on what will be a 4-year round the world cruise.But someone is tracking them, someone is looking to sabotage Atlantis United…and the only thing that will save them is their first big game, held in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
Another crackin’ novel from Gerard Siggins; this one is wonderful. Combining a determined, hopeful sports story with something that reads very like a James Bond novel, this grabbed me staright away. Five very strong characters with true voices and diverse personalities, pull the reader straight into the action. There is adventure, espionage, intrigue andsome amazing innovation. The reader may even pick up a few tips to help them up their own game. Siggins characteristic descriptive elements are present in force and are used to great effect to build a story that is really hard to put down. The passion and knowledge for his subject is transfered to the reader and, in this ‘sports’someting for everyone. Can’t wait to read the next installment.
BRIGHT SPARKS: Discoveries, Inventions and Designs by Women
author and illustrator: Owen O’Doherty
O’Brien Press (3 September 2018)
Throughout history, women have been at the heart of invention, discovery and design of many of the things we now take for granted, as if they’ve always been here. And most of these creative geniuses have gone unnoticed and unmentioned. This new collection highlights 50 remarkable discoveries and ingenious solutions that have made all of lives easier; richer and the women who created them. Divided into sections, the reader will uncover the beginnings of medical science, domestic engineering, health and safety and much more through the ages. From Hypatias’ hydrometer revealed sometime around 400 CE to DNA structure in 1952; from the beginnings of computer coding in 1843 to coding that enabled the moon landings; the science of nursing to plastic
from bananas; women have been at the forefront of it all.
Begun as a homemade birthday gift for his daughter, O’Doherty looks at some amazing designs and innovations by women that have changed history. Well explained, brief summaries of their work are placed alongside intriguing illustrations to give the reader a glimpse of these in an inspiring, delightful series of vignettes. This book answers many questions, and who knows, may just be the incentive for get your young entrepreneur going. An exceptional non-fiction book that will give not only information that will make you want to investigate further, but will fascinate and entertain for hours and hours.
Leo’s War (Hands on History)
author: Patricia Murphy
Poolbeg Press (1 August 2018)
Told from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy, a ‘mongrel’ living in occupied Italy at the time, this novel is based on the incredible true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty; a man who saved over 6500 people during World War II.
Italy, 1943. After his mother is arrested, young Leo flees to Rome in a bid to protect his disabled sister, Ruby and himself from the Nazis. He reaches sanctuary at the Vatican with Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty in hopes of saving them. But this is no ordinary priest. Monsignor O’Flaherty is the famed organiser of the Rome Escape Line, secretly working to save those at high risk. Leo soon finds himself involved in the secret network, aiding escaped prisoners of war, the Jews and partisans escape Nazi brutality while never losing sight of his own plight. Now in grave danger himself, Leo must do all he can to outfox Kappler, sinister Nazi leader in Rome who is fast closing in on the Escape Line and the Monsignor. Can Leo escape Kappler and protect his family from falling victim to this evil man?
With a fast-paced plot and expert storytelling, the reader is plunged into this bit of history feeling as if they are there. The story builds quickly, but carefully with great attention to the details of the reality of the times; the sights, sounds; the actions. So much seems incredible, impossible; yet history shows us https://poolbeg.com/
THE STORM KEEPER’S ISLAND
author: Catherine Doyle
Bloomsbury Childrens Books (12 July 2018)
Every so often a book comes along that wraps itself around you and uncovers your dreams. The Storm Keepers Island is that book.
Fionn travels to Arranmore with his sister Tara; his ancestral home that awakens the moment he sets foot on its’ shores. It breathes and sighs, enveloping him with its’ winds; recognising him, though Fionn has never been there. But the island knows. The island remembers. Every generation, the island chooses a Storm Keeper, guardian of secrets and memories; protector from the ancient evil slumbering deep in a secret cave. The time has come for Fionns’ grandfather to step aside as Storm Keeper and Fionn is blissfully unaware of the task and incredible dangers that lie ahead.This book absolutely sings. It is the story of family ties and their history; so poignant and filled with truth that the reader will instantly relate. A tale of an island and its’ past, it is filled with such stunning detail and enthralling adventure that it tangibly brings to life Arranmore and its’people, both past and present. The island itself stands out as a character, painted vividly and with great feeling. It is filled with magic; the magic of love, compassion, memories; of candles, storms and sacrifice. With expert language use and sensory detail, Doyle creates a mood that is eerie and curious, while also revealing genuine joy and humour. A rare, beautiful gift; this is a story that will live on in the imagination long after you’ve put it down.https://www.catherinedoylebooks.com/(published in CBI’s Inis Magazine, Summer 2018)
THE LIST OF REAL THINGS
author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Orion Childrens Books (29 March 2018)
Grace knows what’s real and what’s not real. It’s much more difficult to make little sister Bee understand that. Mum and Dad died…that is very real. Her sisters’ nightmares, the storms that Bee thinks are angry ghosts and the magical Hotel Magnificent that sits on the cliff nearby…those are definitely not real. Uncle Freddy and Grandfather Patrick living with them and taking care of them, that’s real. Grandpa Patrick being immortal…definitely not. When grief strikes their young lives again, Grace must keep Bees’ imagination from running riot, but the line between reality and fantasy develops loops and tears that even Grace can’t understand. One stormy night, when Grace and Bee find refuge in a most unusual, magical place…all becomes clear.
With exquisite touches of magical realism and a poignant look at the world of the heart,this is truly an extraordinary book. It is about family, friendship, grief, belief and the absolute magic of love. The story takes us through Graces’ life and all the ordinary things that happen, coloured by her view after the death of her parents. Gentle and evocative, it shows the little ways that loss affects us as her world frays at the seams throughout while Grace struggles to gain understanding and normality. The characters and setting are filled with a texture and nuance that makes it all very real. The quirky exuberance of younger sister Bee, the cautious and caring nature of Uncle Freddy, the wit and wisdom of the grandfather all create a vibrant base in a life full of all the day-to-day ‘stuff’. I read this book twice, straight through both times because I simply could not put it down. Kind, compassionate and simply wonderful, The List of Real Things is a gift.
author: Gerard Siggins
O’Brien Press (12 February 2018)
In the latest installment of the Rubgy Spirit series, we return to the life of schoolboy, Eoin Madden as he prepares to sit his Junior Cert exams. He’s also Castlerock Colleges’ star rugby player and has been called up for the Under 16 Four Nations. But, if anyone is up for it, it’s Eoin. The pressure mounts when his ghostly friends alert him to mysterious flooding on the pitch of the Aviva Stadium. Eoin is no stranger to mysteries, either; having solved a good few over the last couple of years with a little help of a little haunting from the past.
There is always great demand for sports novel for young people. This series by Gerard Siggins combines excitement for the game with expert writing, strong story-telling, great characters and a little something from the Other Side. Eoin is a truly likeable, well-rounded character, surrounded by all the factors that fill family, school and rugby with joy and challenges. The ghostly element of the story adds a unique interest that hooks the reader immediately. With strong descriptive elements that don’t go over the top and great build-up to the gripping action of the story, it is hard to put this one down. Friendship, family life, rugby, sleuthing and history blend together to make Rugby Heroes a cracking read; and not just for fans of the game. In fact, read the entire series! You’ll love them.
THE GIRL WHO ATE THE STARS
author: Caroline Busher
Poolbeg Press (1 March 2018)
Another delicious, atmospheric offering from Caroline Busher, what starts as a World War II child-evacuation story takes an eerie twist into a dark and dangerous quest. As Lottie and Albert Hope are evacuated from London, they find the village they arrivegypsy boy, Blaise, who tells them a tale of werewolves and the sinister Wolf Land which lies beyond the ancient ruins and of a mysterious Wolf Girl, Cuán, who disappeared from her home when their mother was a child. When a German bomb falls accidentally on the village, a portal opens. Lottie and Albert are flung into Wolf Land, along with Blaise and the German pilot Gunther, risking their lives on a deadly mission to rescue Cuán and the other wolf children before the portal closes forever.
With Gothic overtones playing throughout, The Girl Who Ate the Stars sings in the spaces between darkness and light, fear and courage, friendship and conflict. Riveting and moving, this is a spectacular read. The story is carefully woven, with descriptive passages that place the reader in the heart of its’ writing. It chills you to the core, then warms your heart with the determination and bravery of its’ characters. This is not your typical war story! This is something much more. The interplay of family dynamics, the juxtaposition of the two worlds and the exacting characterisation give a grounding to the tale. Moody and simply beautiful, this is a fulfilling must-read from the author of The Ghosts of Magnificent Children.
STAR BY STAR
author: Sheena Wilkinson
Little Island (26 October 2017)
It’s November 1918. The Great War is nearing it’s end, Ireland is struggling for independence,women have won the right to vote for the first time and the terrible flu pandemic is sweeping the world. Stella has lost her feisty, suffragette mother to the flu and she now finds herself alone in a country she knows nothing about with an aunt she has never met. Stella really wants to change the world…it was what she was raised to do! But she realises she cannot do it alone. She watches the stars come out at night; star by star lighting the sky. Perhaps this is how change is made; person by person, vote by vote…star by star.
A brilliant and bold novel that, though not long, has quite an impact.Wilkinson gives a succinct and true portrait of the time. There is drama and struggle, but there is also humour and joy. Her characterisation is spot on; the reader feels their dilemmas, friendships and thoughts as surely as if they themselves are part of the story. Stella is strong, stubborn, very intelligent (though sometimes her actions are a bit rash) and extremely likeable. The reader will become part of her inner struggles to change the world and to find out who she is; where she comes from…recovering her own history while she tackles the world from a small seaside town. The portraits of the soldiers, home from the War and greatly damaged by it, are haunting, adding a question to that particular cause that remains unspoken and unanswered. The strong female characters stand out and create the canvas upon which the action and emotion is played out. But for me, while this is definitely a suffragette story, the strongest part of the story was the flu pandemic; how the characters are affected by a plague they seem hopeless against; the loss and the victory over it, all the while preparing for an election day that will transform Ireland forever. An amazing book that will last long after it’s been read and open up many doors of interest to its’ readers.
STAND BY ME
author: Judi Curtin
O’Brien Press (4 September 2017)
Best friends/step-sisters Molly and Beth are back with another time-travel adventure!Graham is their favourite uncle; he doesn’t seem old to them because he’s still up for fun and encourages them to explore the unexpected. But, Molly and Beth can’t help but notice that Uncle Graham has a sadness about him. He has a secret. Something happened long ago that changed his life and he won’t talk about it. He doesn’t have any photos from his youth and sometimes, he just wants to be alone. So, Beth and Molly take off through the door to the past and land in the 1960s in search of someone who knows the truth. But how will they ever find the right person without the internet or SatNav? And what is up with the 60s??!! There’s only one thing for it; Uncle Graham is going to have to come along with them.
With warmth, humour and real heart, Judi Curtin reveals experiences and relationships that are genuine. The artistry and gentleness with which the relationships between the generations and the ensuing drama are purposeful, while never interrupting the pace of the story. There is affection and interest between Graham and the girls that rings true and is very touching. Molly and Beth are well-drawn characters, easy to relate to and you will feel they could step out of the book and be welcome in your world (as they would welcome you to theirs.) Their friendship is completely convincing and the reader is wholly drawn in. There are plenty of other fascinating characters that add colour in the past and present, like Rico, keeper of the time-travel doorway (I am utterly fascinated with Rico …who we know so little about!) Even the time-travel seems utterly conceivable; the reader will not even question it. While there are plenty of smiles to be had as they travel back and forth in time (especially when Beth and Molly confront a time with no internet or modern technology!), be ready with the tissues, especially when all is revealed. This is a book that is entertaining, thoughtful, moving and an incredible amount of fun! A book about real friendship at the heart of an incredible adventure and all the possibilities it brings. Just love it! (ages 9+)
(Please read the first Molly and Beth story: Time After Time.)
A SAILOR WENT TO SEA SEA SEA
author: Sarah Webb illustrator: Steve McCarthy
O’Brien Press (11 September 2017)
This incredible and fun collection is the perfect companion to the 2014 book, Sally Go Round The Stars and a true gift for children of all ages. Even more traditional childhood rhymes, songs and poems are joined by the likes of Yeats, Joyce, and even some contemporary children’s authors to make a truly memorable, must-have book. Here you will find The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear and, yes, The Lake Isle of Innisfree. The illustrations are bright and lively, setting the mood on each page and leading the reader to new interpretations of the poems, while adding fun delight and a few surprises. This is a book that will be treasured for years to come.Perfect to read and to share.
author: Marguerite Tonery
MC Tonery (October 2016)
Elisa has been awakened by the sound of a beautiful song and the sound of a distant water;sounds also heard by Jamie. They are being called back to Kapheus, the fantastical world of light. The elf Sinann has been singing. She has also been captured by the Dark One and bound in a dark, threatening cave. Her escape has not left her unscathed, as she tumbles out onto Elisa floor, where she sleeps and heals. It is not long before another journey through the Kaphien forest, through the veil and across the Kaphien plains begins. It is the time of water. The Ark is beginning to open and the magical animals are threatened with extinction. Through a long journey; through love and loss: through courage and fear; Elisa and Jamie, and all their friends learn to master their feelings and make their way to ride the wild seas, fight off the pirates and the Dark One to save the animals, Kapheus and even themselves. The adventure to follow destiny continues….
This is the 3rd in the Kapheus chronicles and it takes the reader on a marvelous journey, as Kapheus itself now gains more substance. It may be a fantastical world, but it now feels increasingly real, with more subtlety and texture. Elisa and Jamie have a warm, inclusive brother-sister relationship and their characters play off each other with ease and understanding. The fantastical creatures that occupy and even more fantastical land are beautifully described, such that the reader actually feels that they know them well. A gentler, quieter book than the others, it ebbs and flows like the river and seas within, allowing the characters to explore, not only this beautiful, mystical land, but the full range of emotional content that comes with family, friendship, safety, danger loss and, ultimately love. It moves as a dream. And beyond this, it is a great fantasy read….filled with magic and light, wisdom and joy. Simply wonderful. For those who love fantasy of all ages.
If you haven’t done so already, please, please read Kapheus Earth and Kapheus Air.
THE GHOSTS OF MAGNIFICENT
author: Caroline Busher
Poolbeg for Children (October 2016)
It’s 1848. Twins Archie and Millie live quite a luxurious life. But they also have special gifts. They can read each others thoughts and Millie can shape-shift into a fox and walk on walls and ceilings. One night, on the eve of their birthday, Badbloods’ Circus comes to town. Knowing their mother will never let them attend, they sneak out of their house and make their way through the dark and dangerous London streets and get captured by Badbloods’ men because of their abilities. Meanwhile, Ginny and Theo wander London as part of a pick-pocketing gang. When they get separated, Ginny is taken in by a a seemingly kind woman, but she, too…with her enchanting blue bird that resides in her rib cage…. is handed over to Badblood. And Theo, who can see your most intimate thoughts and make them appear out of his mouth as though they are a swarm of bees? He gets captured , as well. Together, they become the stars of the circus, unaware that Badblood has a nefarious plan and they are integral to it. One hundred years later, their ghosts reappear on a small island off the coast of Ireland. They are befriended by a local boy, Rua, who discovers the horrible fate that awaits them…and he is running out of time to save them for all eternity.
A completely captivating tale, The Ghosts of Magnificent Children also offers a thought-provoking character study of time, place and motivation. The characters are compelling and realistically drawn with wholly original and genuine voices. There is an eerie, yet beautiful quality to the writing, that begs the reader to both put the book down and read on at the same time. Think of books like Miss Peregrines’ Home for Peculiar Children or Neil Gaimans’ The Graveyard Book and Stardust. It is filled with texture and nuance that consumes the reader and takes them completely into the story. Vivid, lyrical and completely ingenious, this is a book that will haunt your dreams for a long time to come. A truly magnificent debut!
THE MAKING OF MOLLIE
author: Anna Carey
O’Brien Press (17 October 2016)
In the spring of 1912, 14-year-old Mollie Carberry is convinced her life is completely dull. With older sister, Phyllis about to go off to college,a spoiled, horrible brother Harry who gets all the best of everything and baby sister Julia, Mollie is stuck in the middle with nothing adventurous or special happening for her. That’s until she discovers that Phyllis is a secret suffragette. Sneaking around behind her sister, Mollie attends meetings (roping friend Nora in with her) and soon becomes convinced that she wants to do something to help the cause, as well. The problem is no one in the Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWLF) seems to want her help. Phyllis is worried about getting her little sister in trouble, most of the girls and teachers at school are indifferent, and there are a few who would love to get Mollie and Nora in hot water at home and school. But none of this deters them. Inspired by the book, No Surrender by Constance Maud and the plight of women at home and abroad, Mollie makes a firm decision…they must to do something, regardless of what others think.
Written as a series of letters to Mollie’s friend, Frances, The Making of Mollie is an easy, enjoyable and important read. Wonderful characters that ring true with strong voices, it crafts a story that is pertinent and interesting. Filled with historical facts, the perspective of the tale gives a unique view, not only of the suffragette movement in Ireland, but of the surrounding social and political atmosphere. The inclusion of Mollie’s day-to-day life makes it easy to relate to and adds much insight into ordinary life in a changing world. It is expressed in such a way that Mollie not only tells a story, but invites the reader into it; and to investigate, find out more, wonder and think about the events and the effect it has even today. While it may seem of more interest to girls, there is much here for everyone to consider. An exciting, inspiring read for ages 10+. A book that will make you want to know more!
Author: Patricia Forde
Little Island Press (14 May 2015)
After the Melting, Earths’ great environmental disaster, the last remnants of the population sought refuge in Ark under the leadership of John Noa. Ark is a place of safety, but it is also a place of food and water rationing, shared shoes, strict laws and tally sticks. Art and music are forbidden. Language is limited to 500 words; the language of Ark, List. Letta was born and has grown up here; it’s all she’s ever known. Under the guardianship of Benjamin, the master wordsmith, Lettas’ job is to collect words and ration them out to those who need them. When Benjamin vanishes while on a word-finding journey, the task falls to Letta alone and she becomes the Wordsmith. But all is not as it seems. The appearance of a strange, injured boy leads Letta to some disturbing discoveries. And as Noas’ plan to rid the population of language; to make them entirely Wordless; is revealed, Letta knows she must stop him. But she is only a young girl and he is the most powerful man in the known world.
Dystopian novels have certainly come to the fore in childrens’ literature, lately. And this is one of the best. In a carefully crafted and evocative story, Forde has created a world yet to come that is powerful, mesmerising and chilling. The reader moves through this world in a dream-like state, as if taken in by a gentle nightmare. Letta is facing a coming-of-age crisis; a time of decision making and reality-facing. She is not a character to carve her own place in the world simplistically. Letta looks to her own future with both courage and confusion, trying to make sense of a world in which nothing is obvious. Her very nature sets the tone for the entire story. The character of John Noa is not one of a clear-cut ‘bad guy’ megalomaniac. In many ways, he has taken a very valid stance, but it is a position that has evolved beyond its’ simple ‘save the planet’ position. The reader must determine the effects. This is the real beauty of this novel. In so many circumstances, the opportunity to put forth a world-view, an agenda is left off, while the reader is kept in an astute, thought-provoking state by a story that will not let go. But the real star of this tale is language itself; the power of language. The gift and the love of language and its’ ability to shape the world (for good or bad) shines through in every detail. The fact that The Wordsmith is written for an audience that would be slightly younger (I would say 10+) than the typical dystopian readership is a wonderful gift. The writing is clear and purposeful. The ideas are easy to follow and deliberate. It is filled with reality and illusion. The ending is satisfying, yet left with an openness that begs the reader to consider further. And the entire book reads with a fluidity and dedication that make this book one that you will return to again and again.
THE ACCIDENT SEASON
author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Corgi Childrens Press (July 2015)
Cara is concerned. No one seems to notice that quiet, unassuming fellow student Elsie has disappeared. In fact, no one seems to remember Elsie at all. But she’s there, in all of Caras’ photographs for years; that friend she had when she was young; that constant presence Cara grew apart from over the years. Elsie stood in the background like some sort of quiet talisman. And now, Elsie is just gone. To make matters worse, the accident season is approaching. Year after year, knives are put away, sharp corners are covered, great effort is taken to protect Cara, her sister Alice and ex-step-brother Sam as they become ever more accident prone. But injuries, broken bones, fires and tragedies abound, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them. They can’t explain it. Old secrets are too well hidden. The curse is strong and they can’t escape it. Not at school, not at home, not on their nights out Galway, not during the masked Halloween ball in the crumbling old house….every October, the accident season recognises them. It hunts them down. But what if the numerous tragic mishaps aren’t all accidents? What if there is something even more sinister tucked away underneath the secret they share that threatens to tear their family apart? And what if the elusive Elsie holds the key?
The lines are blurred between truth and lies, the real and the supernatural. Addictive plot building is coupled with expert characterisation in this blend between contemporary horror and psychological drama. The two stories are apparently unrelated, at least at first. As the story line grows, the ebb and flow between the two create a rhythm that pulls the reader in ever deeper. The eerie blend of confusion and revelation build at a steady, compelling pace. This book is unforgettable…the stuff of dreams (or recurring nightmares.) In a haunting, lyrical symphony of its’ own, The Accident Season is here.
author: Debbie Thomas
Mercier Press (May 2015)
Poor Brian O’Bunion. His life has become one pointless pointlessness. His teacher, Mrs Loretta Florris, hates him. He is ignored by everyone in his school (except for the deaf gardener.) And his own Dad hasn’t bought him Coco Pops since the Great Unspeakable happened…two years, one month and nineteen days ago. He feels like he is gradually disappearing. Unless he forgets his homework, or his mind wanders in class…then, he gets noticed. What IS the point? But, one day, his classmates begin to disappear one by one. Brian becomes the investigator in this mystery. Who better to investigate
A marvelous adventure told with humour and heart! This story presents an array of puzzling situations that plops the reader right in the centre of the action and pulls you through to the end. As Brian wends his way through daily dilemmas, he his suddenly presented with his own courage and ability to be a hero when no one else can be. There is a lot of silliness, and a lot of serious situations, but Brian, convinced from the start of his own pointlessness, rises to the challenge. The characters are well-written and convincing, even when they are presented in their extreme. Everyone has had one of ‘those’ teachers, but probably not as bad as old Florrie. Everyone has encountered a situation where nothing is as it seems…but it probably hasn’t involved, well, I dare not say as it will give the story away. As I read Class Act, I was reminded a bit of books I had read and loved such as old favourite, The Phantom Tollbooth, where Milo doesn’t see the point in anything and discovers the point of it all. But at the same time I was completely engulfed in this storys originality, joyousness and clarity. Wonderful, funny…completely entertaining, circumstances with which everyone will relate. And, you’ll learn a lot about bees, as well.
BEHIND THE WALLS
author: Nicola Pierce
O’Brien Press (March 2015)
In 1689, against the backdrop of a bloody European conflict between the Catholic French King Louis XIV (‘supporting’ the weak and King James II of England) and Protestant Prince William of Orange, an anonymous letter finds its’ way to the city of Derry. As it is read out, the city’s’ inhabitants hear that every Protestant man, woman and child is to be slaughtered. Panic sets in. How will the city defend its’ largely Protestant population…is the threat genuine? No one seems to have the facts. In the fury that that follows, two teenage brothers, Daniel and Robert Sherrard, held close the city gates against the approaching Catholic army of King James. The siege has begun. While bombs rain down upon Derry the tension inside grows stronger as each day passes. Trapped behind the walls, her people are dying, starving in one of the worst winters the country has seen, with no available outside help. Loyalties are tested. The limits of endurance are stretched far beyond what is imaginable. But there is no turning back, no surrender.Told largely through young Daniel Sherrards’ view, Behind the Walls is one of those rare works of historical fiction for young people. Its’ voice, characters and relationships sing with such clarity as to put the reader well and truly in the midst of the story. As it lends context to the siege of Derry and its’ place in, not only Irish, but European history. It also tells a riveting and compelling story in its’ own right; one of growing up, taking control of ones’ own destiny and making critical decisions that affect all around. The characters in this story are believable, whether they are fictitious or actual historical figures. Their lives, motives and internal conflicts are genuine given the circumstances in which they find themselves. The pacing of the book accurately mirrors the pacing of the events. The reader can feel the strain of a people hidden behind the garrison walls and struggling for their lives. And the writing is glorious! As with her other books, Spirit of the Titanic and City of Fate, Nicola Pierce writes with real passion and understanding for her subject. A brave and superb book, I recommend this highly, not just for young people, but for everyone.
author: Marguerite Tonery
illustrator: David T. Wenzel
MC Tonery (1 December 2014)
Elisa and Jamie are intrigued and excited when their Great Uncle Davin arrives unexpectedly for a visit. All too brief a stay, Davin leaves behind an unusual gift, a beautiful drawing on Elisa’s bedroom wall. This is no ordinary drawing, however. It is a portrait of Kapheus, the fantastical world of light. A world of dragons, elves and woodland creatures are now at Elisa and Jamies’ immediate disposal, placed there by Great Uncle Davin to send the children on a quest to discover their destinies….who they were really born to be. But a quest is a quest, after all, and is filled with struggle, as well as beauty and guidance.
A pure joy to read, Kapheus Earth sends us on the journey right alongside Elisa and Jamie. The characters and the relationships between them are well drawn, with strong development throughout the book. The story itself is a triumph. With all the magic and wonder of a childs’ imagination, the tale is filled with curiosity and a thirst for knowledge and understanding. This is authentic fantasy writing. Exceptional and thoughtful details pull the reader into the tale and clear, concise writing move the reader along smoothly. Thoroughly enjoyable, a real treat, Kapheus Earth is the first in a series. I look forward to the next one!
author: Eilís Barrett
Gill Books (April 2016)
A virus has spread across the globe pushing humanity to the very edge of extinction. Spreading faster than medical sciences’ attempts to control it, society has collapsed, leaving one last surviving city, Oasis. Walled off from the outside world, Oasis is governed by a promise to protect it’s citizens from the risk of infection at all costs; and to find a cure. It’s rulers now control every aspect of life, imposing a new vision of a perfect society and stripping it’s people of all personal freedom and autonomy. Quincy Emerson lived within this perfect city until she, among others was determined to be at risk of infection. Cast out into the Outer Sector Dorms as a child, she lives among a hostile and paranoid worker community, providing all of those within the risk-free society with all they need. But outside the perimeter walls, a restlessness and anger are growing. Violence is spreading and Quincey finds herself at the fore-front of a desperate plot, uncovering a vile, sinister secret.
A thrilling, fast-paced, coming-of-age novel set in a dystopian future, Oasis promises the reader much, and it really delivers! With finesse and obvious skill, Barrett paints an exciting and imaginative canvas. Populated by characters with many nuances of both light and dark, the journey we are taken on is unforgettable among the many dystopian worlds in current YA literature. An imploring examination of family and society structures, a chilling glimpse into the possible near-future and a fascinating study of human nature, Oasis is an amazing and sophisticated read.
A CRACK IN EVERYTHING : Welcome to the other side
author: Ruth Frances Long
O’Brien Press (1 September 2014)
Izzy Gregory appears to be a typical teenager; albeit with a minor problem with electronics. Just like her Dad, when she gets near an appliance, sparks seem to randomly fly. While out in Dublin one fine day, she takes a sideways step in an alley and encounters an angel, a fae creature and another Dublin (Dubh Linn) that exists in shadows and the echoes alongside the city she knows so well. Izzy discovers a magical, dangerous place, with inhabitants that are not quite what the old stories relate. In fact, nothing is what it’s supposed to be…nothing at all. And, for reasons she does not understand, they are after her. As a desperate journey unfolds, Izzy finds herself in the centre of a violent conflict between etheric forces, trying to master powers she had no idea she possessed and struggling to save her life, her father’s life and the existence of nearly all of those dear to her on both sides. Izzy is the key player; she is something that should not exist; she is a crack in everything.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant fantasy!!! Long has created a world lying next to our own with such depth, it will cause the reader to view everything around them differently. It is fast-paced, compelling and related with so much skill and texture that you become part of that story. It is not so much read as it is felt, intuited, breathed…. A Crack In Everything uses the basis of ancient Irish lore pulled into the present with characters that are at once familiar and fresh, new contemporary; even though they are hundreds of years old. It also plays on the ‘oddities’ of the Dublin landscape, offering this sideways step into the other side as a plausible explanation for it’s unusual character. You’ll never look at Dublin the same again. Exceptional story-telling, memorable characters and alive, for fantasy-fans, this is the best read in years!