Here are some of the best releases of 2022 so far that will keep your young bookworms enthralled through the weeks ahead
There’s nothing like curling up with an absorbing read over the summer holidays. This season, there’s a brilliant book for every child and teen. Enjoy!
Not a Cat in Sight by Frances Stickley and Eamonn O’Neill (Simon and Schuster)
This is in the great tradition of picturebooks like Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins and There’s a Ghost in this House by Oliver Jeffers, where the words are not telling the full story. On the first page, Mouse says there’s “not a cat in sight” but he’s wrong, so very wrong. Cat is following his every move. Luckily his friend Dog is on hand to save the day.
A clever rhyming picturebook with colourful, lively illustrations by Co Wicklow-based animator O’Neill. His first picturebook shows great promise and is bound to raise lots of laughs. Age 3+
Murphy’s Law by Muireann Ní Chíobháin and Paul Nugent (O’Brien Press)
The tale of a dog called Murphy and his devoted young owner. Bad luck seems to follow him around, from covering people in sand on the beach to ruining birthday parties. But Murphy doesn’t mean to bring misfortune and sometimes his waggly tail brings good luck instead. A charming story and colourful, child-friendly illustrations make this a real winner. Age 3+
Our Big Day by Bob Johnston and Michael Emberley (O’Brien Press)
David and Simon decide to get married. Their young niece helps them make their wedding invitations, and on the big day she is the ring-bearer. But disaster strikes when the rings go missing! The writing is pitch perfect for this age group and the illustrations sing with colour and emotion. Emberley’s characters — drawn with passion and verve — make the story come bouncingly alive. A joyful book. Age 3+
Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribble Kids Books)
As a child, I was often overwhelmed by feelings of anger and shame. This book deals with making mistakes, apologising and moving on in a clever, honest way. It says: “Good or bad, the things you do/ are all a part of being you/ of learning how to take your boat/ on stormy seas and stay afloat.” The rhyming text is a pleasure to read and the illustrations dance with life. Age 3+
Be Wild, Little One by Olivia Hope and Daniel Egnéus (Bloomsbury)
“Wake up early, don’t be shy,/this bright world can make you fly./Be wild, little one”. So begins this lyrical ode to being yourself and finding your own personal wild. The text by debut Irish writer Olivia Hope is a joy to read aloud and the beautifully coloured illustrations are full of swooping birds, dancing fireflies and one ‘wild’ child. An audacious instant classic. Magical. Age 2+
The Shop of Impossible Ice Creams by Shane Hegarty, illustrated by Jeff Crowther (Hodder Children’s Books)
Shane Hegarty proved he could write brilliantly for younger readers with his Boot series about a little robot. He’s back with another charmer, this time featuring Limpet, whose mother is about to open an ice cream shop. But the evil Mr Fluffy, who already runs an ice cream shop in the seaside town, has other ideas. Sweet, funny and highly inventive, this book, like the ice creams it describes, is a real treat. Age 7+
The Upside Down River: Tomek’s Story by Jean-Claude Mourlevat, translated by Ros Schwartz (Andersen Press)
Young Tomek runs a shop that stocks ‘everything’. One day, a girl comes in and asks for a drop of water from a magical river, and changes Tomek’s world forever. He sets off on an adventure to find the girl and this magical river.
The writing is simple yet lyrical and, in a word, this book is delightful. Ideal for reading aloud to dreamy, imaginative children. Age 8+
Once Upon a Fairytale by Natalie O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara (Macmillan)
Become the hero of your own fairytale in this beautifully illustrated choose-your-own-adventure book. Will you ride on a unicorn or feast with fairies? You decide! Age 5+
Smile Out Loud by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett (Wide Eyed Editions)
An interactive, fun poetry collection that is full of tongue-twisters, riddles and poems to read out loud. The subjects covered are perfect for children, and the bright, lively illustrations make every page sing. Age 6+
Our Green City by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Colleen Larmour (Kids Can Press)
“Good morning! Welcome to our green city. There are trees and flowers everywhere. Being green means we take care of all living things.” So begins this beautiful book all about green living and an idyllic city, where everyone works together to make it a healthy and respectful place to live. There are rain gardens, solar panels, beehives and outdoor classrooms. It ends by asking: “Can you dream of a green tomorrow?” Larmour lives in Co Antrim and her layered artworks are a triumph. This is a city any child or grown-up would be proud to live in and this book may just inspire town planners and architects of the future. Age 5+
One Time by Sharon Creech (Guppy Publishing)
Gina Filomena is a girl bursting with imagination. Too much imagination if you ask her old teacher. When a new boy moves in next door, she wants to know everything about him. Like her, he sees the world as full of magic and possibilities — and her new teacher, Miss Lightstone, is determined to shake things up in the classroom, setting the children off on a journey of creative writing discovery.
The right reader will love this book — a thoughtful, imaginative type who loves writing and art, and who thinks deeply about the world. If you know that child, please get them this outstanding book. Age 10+
Wished by Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)
Ed and his sister Roo have to spend their school holiday with their elderly neighbour, Miss Filey and her smelly old cat, Attlee. Boring, they think. But boy are they in for a surprise when they find magical birthday candles that grant wishes. A deliciously old-fashioned adventure with a large pinch of magic, full of heart. A little gem. Age 9+
While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)
It’s September 1939 and the world is on the brink of World War II. Before Noah’s dad leaves to fight, Noah makes him a promise — he will look after his beloved dog no matter what.
When the British government asks everyone to put down their pets to help the war preparations, Noah is devastated. But instead of taking his dog to the vets, he runs away, along with two friends and as many animals as they can save, including a donkey and a snake. A fast-paced adventure, based on real events, which will have any young reader gripped. Age 9+
The Insiders by Cath Howe (Nosy Crow)
Callie, Zara, Nico and Ted are best friends. But when a practical joke at school goes wrong, leaving Ted ashamed and embarrassed, he stops talking to his friends. Meanwhile, there’s something strange going on at the school —lights are going on at night. Is someone sleeping there? And why? A clever, thoughtful book about the dynamics and difficulties of friendship. Howe is a teacher and has a real understanding of how children tick. Age 9+
My Friend the Octopus by Lindsay Galvin, illustrations by Gordy Wright (Chicken House Books)
Vinnie is sent to Brighton to stay with her aunt. There’s mystery (her mother has disappeared to Paris), new friends, a wonderful giant octopus and adventure galore. Set in 1893, this is historical fiction with oodles of charm and adventure. Age 9+
Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir (Nosy Crow)
Lily moves to a seaside town with her mum and stumbles across a hidden museum dedicated to an ordinary girl called Emily. She unscrambles the mystery around Emily with her new friends. A great summer adventure story that clips along at a lively rate from a debut Irish-based writer. Age 9+
Spellstoppers by Cat Gray (Usborne)
It takes a very good fantasy novel indeed to have me up reading all night but this one had me hooked from the start.
Max has always had a problem: when he touches anything mechanical or electrical, it blows up. This mysterious ailment leads him to a grandfather he never knew he had, and a strange seaside village called Yowling with a magical but cursed castle in the bay. Max is packed off to stay with his grandfather for the summer, but his grandfather is a Spellstopper, a person who can drain misbehaving magic and hopefully help Max control his own powers, for he too is a Spellstopper. But the keeper of the castle needs the castle fixed and she will stop at nothing to make that happen.
Clever, funny and full of original ideas, this is fantasy at its best. Don’t miss it. A debut Irish writer to watch out for. Age 9+
My Heart and Other Breakables by Alex Barclay (HarperCollins)
Written in the form of a diary, this teen novel features Ellery Brown, who has recently lost her mother and is trying to find her long-lost father using clues from her mum’s bookshelves, with the help of her friend Megan. Barclay has nailed Ellery’s teen voice perfectly and there’s lots of humour in this moving tale. Age 12+
The Shark and the Scar by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (Orion)
Jay wakes up in hospital. His dad tells him he’s been the victim of a shark attack, leaving him scarred and afraid. But what if his dad is lying? An intriguing tale of family, friendship, love and loss by one of Ireland’s most interesting young teen writers. The mystery at the centre of this book will have the reader gripped. Age 12+
Baby Love by Jacqueline Wilson (Penguin)
Set in England in the 1960s, this is the story of Laura, a naïve teenager who meets a French exchange student and gets pregnant. Her family put her in a mother and baby home, but after seeing what goes on there and how mothers and babies are separated forever, she is determined to find a way of keeping her own child. A surprisingly moving and affecting novel for older readers. Laura is a wonderful character and readers will cheer for her as she bravely tries to do what she feels is right for her and her baby. Age 14+
Things I Know by Helena Close (Little Island)
When Saoirse’s ex-boyfriend dies by suicide, everyone blames her — and she blames herself. She gets lost in a spiral of pain and crippling anxiety, and the counsellor who is supposed to be helping her only makes things worse. Can she manage to find herself again? A well-written examination of a teenager on the brink; gripping, honest and ultimately hopeful. Age 15+
Blood to Poison by Mary Watson (Bloomsbury)
Deftly balancing witchcraft and magic with the reality of living in contemporary South Africa, this is a compelling read. Savannah is 17, enmeshed in a world of good witches and bad ‘veilwitches’, and cursed. Her unfolding story explores the anger that defines her as she attempts to break the curse that blights women in her family. Readers less keen on fantasy will be more than satisfied with the well-drawn social and cultural context of the story. An intelligent, entertaining YA novel with broad appeal. Age 15+
(Review of ‘Blood Poison’ by Amanda Dunne, children’s bookseller and ‘Inis Magazine’ reviewer)
Twin Crowns by Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber (HarperCollins)
I raced through this brilliant teen fantasy in record time, gasping and chuckling to myself along the way. It’s obvious from every page that the writers are having just as much fun as I was.
Galway woman Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber are close friends and they decided to write a book together during the lockdowns. This riot of a read is the result. Princess Rose Valhart is polite, respectful and trusting. Heir to the throne of Eana, she has been told that witches killed her mother and she is all alone in the world. Wren Greenrock is her secret sister, a strong, outspoken young woman who has been raised by witches and is determined to usurp the princess. Wren arranges for Rose to be kidnapped and she takes her place in the castle. But her plan doesn’t exactly run smoothly.
There’s so much to enjoy in this book — horse rides across deserts, dashing body guards, dialogue that sparkles with humour and intelligence — could a book be more fun? I don’t think so. Age 13+
Sarah Webb is an award-winning Irish children’s writer. Her latest book is ‘The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street’ (O’Brien Press)