Thursday 23 February 2017

Summer 2015's top reads for toddlers to teens

Get children reading early and give them a gift for life. Here Madeleine Keane runs through holiday books for young readers from toddlers to teenagers

Madeleine Keane

Madeleine Keane

Page turner: Parents are spoiled for choice when it comes to children's books says Sunday Independent literary editor Madeleine Keane. Photo: Tony Gavin
Page turner: Parents are spoiled for choice when it comes to children's books says Sunday Independent literary editor Madeleine Keane. Photo: Tony Gavin
Favourite tales: Renee Zellweger in the movie 'Miss Potter', as author Beatrix Potter, whose stories of Jemima Puddle-duck and Miss Tiggywinkle and have enchanted children for generations
Goodnight Moon
The High Hills
My Name's Not Friday
Read Me Like A Book

Many summers have passed since I first declared to my daughters that I was instituting 'Reading Hour.'

We were on holidays in Dunmore East and had returned from an Enid Blytonesque day of sand castles and rock pools, sun kissed but fractious: the late afternoon lull threatened thunder. A dive into the imagination would bring back the warmth, and besides, Mummy wanted time between the covers. So out came Anne Tyler, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader  and Guess How Much I Love You? and thus a gorgeous new family tradition was launched.

They took to it quickly, but then I'd introduced them to books very early: beside their little faces in the cot I would place tiny tomes featuring mirrors, feathers, sparkles, and, later on, inflatable books went into the bathwater with baby. With reading you can never start early enough.

Children's publishing has grown into a vast industry since then and parents are spoilt for choice. So this is a quick trot through some reliable classics as well as what's hot this summer for young readers.

TODDLERS

Sleepy toddlers have been lulled for generations with Margaret Wise Brown's comforting classic Goodnight Moon (Pan Macmillan) while many mothers swear by the antics of Dr Seuss' great anarchist The Cat in the Hat (Harper Collins). Babies love new sensations: Finnish writer Tove Jansson's Moomins Touch and Feel Playbook fits the bill (Puffin).

Goodnight Moon
Goodnight Moon
Page turner: Parents are spoiled for choice when it comes to children's books says Sunday Independent literary editor Madeleine Keane. Photo: Tony Gavin
Favourite tales: Renee Zellweger in the movie 'Miss Potter', as author Beatrix Potter, whose stories of Jemima Puddle-duck and Miss Tiggywinkle and have enchanted children for generations
The High Hills
My Name's Not Friday
Read Me Like A Book

As they develop, so do the storylines. I Love Dad (Simon & Schuster) is Judi Abbot's sweet tale of a young dinosaur and the fun day he spends with his dad, and You Can't Take an Elephant on a Bus (Bloomsbury) is Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman's humorous mismatch of animals and different types of transport. A whale on a bike: 'what it would be like/- without a bottom to sit on the seat./ And how would he pedal without any feet?'

FIVE YEARS AND UP

For five-year-olds and upwards, Harper Collins have just reissued a handsome new edition of The High Hills, Jill Barklem's chronicle of the happenings in Brambly Hedge. Shades here of Beatrix Potter, whose tales of Jemima Puddle-duck and Miss Tiggywinkle are lovely for parents to enjoy with the child who has just started to read (Ladybird.) Staying with beloved classics, Fantastic Mr Fox (Puffin) is a superb first encounter with the matchless Roald Dahl.

For more confident readers, Nigel Quinlan's debut The Maloneys' Magical Weatherbox (Hachette), is a vivid romp round an Irish family who run a B&B and the global climate, no less! And My Ireland Activity Book - The Cliffs of Moher & The Burren is the first in a new series from the O'Brien Press, and features quizzes, colouring pages, puzzles: educational and enjoyable for those torturous, are-we-there-yet? car journeys.

TWEENIES (NINE TO 12)

Turning to the tweenies (ages nine to 12) who should by now know what they like: it's a good time to engage their other interests. In Jon Walter's historical novel My Name's Not Friday (David Fickling), orphan Samuel is sold by Father Mosely into slavery at a Confederate cotton plantation. Samuel-Friday must endure the Civil War and return home to his brother, Joshua.

New from bestselling Irish children's author Judi Curtin is Only Eva (O'Brien Press). Our eponymous heroine, a busybody who thinks she can solve everyone's problems, often ends up needing help from her friends. From the same imprint, Rugby Rebel is latest in the hugely popular 'sport & spooks' series from Gerard Siggins which tells of young rugby star Eoin Madden's ghostly adventure.

Brilliant (Macmillan Children's) is exactly that - Roddy Doyle's Dublin kids take on the Black Dog - a clever treatment of depression. From Little Island comes The Wordsmith, Galway writer Patricia Forde's post-apocalyptic world, The Ark is a dark, scary, compelling place.

TEENAGERS

Which brings me to the teenage years. Liz Kessler's Read Me Like A Book (Indigo) is a thoughtful coming-of-age story: 17-year-old Ashleigh is preparing for her A-levels while dealing with her parents' divorce and her own inner torments. In Resonance (O'Brien Press), Celine Kiernan blends the supernatural, sci-fi and romance to superb effect: highly regarded, her work is considered as compelling "and unsettling as Poe's ghastlier moments."

The indefatigable Eoin Colfer has just published the third book in his WARP series. FBI agent Chevie is trapped in Victorian England and will be burnt at the stake as a witch unless pal Riley can save them both from the wormhole in the gripping The Forever Man. I also recommend Love Hurts (Corgi) a collection of excerpts and short stories, edited by Britain Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman. While its theme of love against the odds and romantic encounters will appeal to young adults, it also offers a tasting menu of different writers to sample.

Looking Glass Girl (Puffin) is the newest offering from Cathy Cassidy, who won the prestigious 'Queen of Teen' award. Alice is delighted to be invited to Savannah's sleepover; she's long wanted to join this gang. But an accident changes everything and Alice is rushed to hospital. Teenage girls have given this retake of Lewis Carroll's adventures the thumbs-up.

Whether you choose wizards, wormholes or wonderland, happy summer reading!

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