Thursday 23 January 2020

The 50 best books of 2019 for children from babies to teens - just in time for Christmas

After another bumper year for children's books, Sarah Webb picks her favourite titles of 2019 for young bookworms from zero to teen

Festive fillers: there is something for every age group at Christmas, so fill their bookshelves with these top picks. Pictured illustration by Linda Fährlin from The Great Irish Science Book
Festive fillers: there is something for every age group at Christmas, so fill their bookshelves with these top picks. Pictured illustration by Linda Fährlin from The Great Irish Science Book
What I Like Most by Mary Murphy, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
Tiny and Teeny by Chris Judge
Wild in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
The Child of Dreams by Irena Brignull
Small in the City by Sydney Smith
The President's Surprise by Peter Donnelly
The Crayons' Christmas by Drew Daywalt
The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh
Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton
An illustrationby Lauren O'Neill for How Will Santa Find Us? by Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers
A Sea of Stories by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly
The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers
Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough, Illustrated by Jim Field
How Will Santa Find Us?
Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough, Illustrated by Jim Field
The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers
Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia by James Mayhew
Take Five by Niall Breslin, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey
The Night-Time Cat and the Plump Grey Mouse by Erika McGann, illustrated by Lauren O'Neill
Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty, illustrated by Ben Mantle
Jasper and Scruff by Nicola Colton
A Sea of Stories by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly
She Can: The Colouring Book for Tomorrow's Irish Sports Stars by The 42, illustrated by Chris Judge
I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan
Molly and the Whale by Malachy Doyle
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer
The Lost Tide Warriors by Catherine Doyle
Malamander by Thomas Taylor
Pog by Pádraig Kenny
Lily at Lissadell by Judi Curtin
Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott
The House on Hawthorn Road by Megan Wynne
Toffee by Sarah Crossan
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan
Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin
The M Word by Brian Conaghan
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle
In the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido
Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde
The Great Irish Science Book by Professor Luke O'Neill, illustrated by Linda Fährlin
123 Ireland! by Aoife Dooley
My First Book of Irish Vehicles by The O'Brien Press
Shooting for the Stars by Norah Patten, illustrated by Jennifer Farley
Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure by Simon Cheshire, illustrated by Fatti Burke
GIY's Know-It-Allmanac: The Ultimate Family Guide to Growing and Cooking Food Through the Year by Michael Kelly and Muireann Ní Chíobháin, illustrated by Fatti Burke
Earth Heroes by Lily Dyu, illustrated by Jackie Lay
Atlas of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell
Wild Lives: 50 Extraordinary Animals That Made History by Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
The Black Flamingo
Poems from a Green and Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz, illustrated by Aaron Cushley
A bohemian waxwing from Atlas of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell
Illustration by Linda Fährlin from The Great Irish Science Book
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton
What I Like Most, by Mary Murphy and Zhu Cheng-Liang
How Will Santa Find Us by Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers
Artwork from Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton

It's been another cracker of a year for children's books. From a brand-new book by Eoin Colfer set in the world of Artemis Fowl, to Norah Patten's award-winning true story of her journey to become Ireland's first astronaut, Shooting for the Stars, there really is something for everyone this Christmas.

From all the books for children and teenagers I've read this season I've selected my 50 favourites - titles I think young readers will fall in love with.

Happy Reading!

Ages 0-4

1 What I Like Most by Mary Murphy, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang (Walker Books)

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

2019-12-07_ent_54734265_I1.JPG
What I Like Most by Mary Murphy, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang

Why do I love this book so much? Is it the simple yet lyrical text by Irish writer Murphy? Is it the exquisite watercolour illustrations by Chinese artist Zhu Cheng-Liang, both delicate and strong? Or is it the seamless blend of both, leaving space for the reader to bring their own interpretation to the story? A young girl talks about her favourite things - looking out the window, apricot jam - things that keep changing. But her mother is always constant, the girl's most favourite thing of all. A gentle, profound book about love - don't miss it! Age 3+

2 Tiny and Teeny by Chris Judge (Walker Books)

2019-12-07_ent_54734398_I2.JPG
Tiny and Teeny by Chris Judge

Tiny and Teeny (her dog) live in an apple on the edge of town where she helps people every day - babysitting, gardening, reading aloud. When her house is squashed by a meteor, everyone works together to make her a new home. The vibrant illustrations are full of tiny details that children will love. In a word, enchanting! Age 2+

3 Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell (Andersen Press)

2019-12-07_ent_54734436_I3.JPG
Wild in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

When a little girl gets lost in a blizzard on her way home from school, she stumbles upon a wolf pup who is also lost. And together, they are no longer alone. This almost-wordless picture book with lively illustrations is a clever tale of trust and friendship and a joy to share. Watch out for the brilliant ending! Age 3+

4 The Child of Dreams by Irena Brignull, illustrated by Richard Jones (Walker Studio)

2019-12-07_ent_54734437_I4.JPG
The Child of Dreams by Irena Brignull

A beautifully written, fable-like tale about a young girl who is trying to discover where she comes from. She sets out on a journey to find out the answer and is help by the forest animals. The illustrations glow with unusual colours like teal and amber, making the pages a joy to pore over. Age 4+

5 Small in the City by Sydney Smith (Walker Books)

2019-12-07_ent_54734641_I5.JPG
Small in the City by Sydney Smith

"I know what it's like to be small in the city," a boy tells his lost cat, and he sets out to find him in the snow. Smith's illustrations are full of unusual shapes, patterns and perspectives and have incredible vitality and power.

Looking for something a little different for an imaginative child who likes art? Look no further! Age 4+

6 The President's Surprise by Peter Donnelly (Gill Books)

2019-12-07_ent_54734584_I6.JPG
The President's Surprise by Peter Donnelly

The President is back and this time it's his birthday. Everyone is getting ready for the party but when he disappears, they start getting anxious. But they are in for a big surprise! Donnelly's illustrations are even brighter and bolder in this third President tale. Great fun. Age 2+

7 The Crayons' Christmas by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)

2019-12-07_ent_55271301_I7.JPG
The Crayons' Christmas by Drew Daywalt

The crayons are back and this time they are getting ready for Christmas: playing in the snow, getting out the decorations, carol singing and wrapping presents. Crammed full with pop-ups, letters and maps, each carefully designed by Jeffers, this is one of the best interactive Christmas books since The Jolly Christmas Postman. Age 4+

8 The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay (Little Tiger Press)

2019-12-07_ent_54734820_I8.JPG
The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh

It's not often that a picture book makes me tear up like this did. It's the story of a girl with a grandad who forgets things, but the girl loves him anyway. Using the tide analogy, Welsh explains memory loss in a sensitive, gentle way and Lindsay's illustrations are outstanding. Age 4+

9 Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (Walker Books)

2019-12-07_ent_54734842_I9.JPG
Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton

Little Crab and Very Big Crab live in a tiny rock pool and one day they set off to explore the sea bed. At first Little Crab is afraid but gradually, with Very Big Crab's encouragement, he builds up courage and takes the plunge. A charming tale for young children about being brave. Age 2+

10 Molly and the Whale by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Andrew Whitson (Graffeg)

2019-12-07_ent_54734821_I10.JPG
Molly and the Whale by Malachy Doyle

I'm a sucker for a good whale tale and this doesn't disappoint. When Molly finds a whale washed up on the beach she, her family and the village help save it. Whitson's illustrations are full of wit and verve. Age 3+

 

 

Ages 5-8 Top 10

1 How Will Santa Find Us? by Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers, illustrated by Lauren O'Neill, Steve Simpson, Steve McCarthy, Peter Donnelly, Tara O'Brien, Fatti Burke, Kevin Waldron, Yasmeen Ismail and Alan Dunne (Good Cop Good Cop)

2019-12-07_ent_54908064_I5.JPG
How Will Santa Find Us?

When one Irish family become homeless just before Christmas, the young boy in the story asks 'How will Santa find us?' but the clever lad has a plan, hiding letters for Santa in every new place they stay. Meanwhile, his parents find ways to make their situation seem like an adventure - creating games for him and his sister to play, like going on safari (sleeping in the car). Best of all, the proceeds support the work of Focus Ireland. Age 5+

2 Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough, Illustrated by Jim Field (Hodder Children's Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55273130_I6.JPG
Rabbit and Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough, Illustrated by Jim Field

Something is happening to the trees in the forest and Rabbit thinks they are flying south for the winter. "But trees can't fly," Bear tells him and they set off to investigate. With the wisdom and gentle humour of the Winnie the Pooh books, this is a brilliant and sweet animal story with stand-out illustrations. Age 5+

3 The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)

2019-12-07_ent_55273659_I3.JPG
The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers

A wise, timeless fable about an arrogant man called Fausto who believes he owns everything and sets out to survey it all - a flower, sheep, lake, mountain and even the sea. But as he discovers, nature has a way of owning itself! Jeffers' illustrations - lithographic prints created in Paris - are strong and majestic. One for art lovers of all ages. Age 6+

4 Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia by James Mayhew (Graffeg)

2019-12-07_ent_54735028_I8.JPG
Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia by James Mayhew

A beautifully written retelling of five interlinked Russian folktales, as relayed by Koshka, the storytelling cat. From the gentle Snowmaiden to the mysterious Firebird and the terrifying Baba-Yaga, it's the perfect book to read aloud to imaginative children and is full of glorious, jewel-coloured illustrations by the author. Age 6+

5 Take Five by Niall Breslin, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey (Gill Books)

2019-12-07_ent_54734599_I9.JPG
Take Five by Niall Breslin, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

Freddie is jealous of his friend Ben's birthday presents, making his mood slump. But after the party, his nana teaches him how to 'take five' or count his blessings, making him feel better. The warm, colourful illustrations bring the story to life. A genuinely useful book for anxious children. Age 4+

6 The Night-Time Cat and the Plump Grey Mouse by Erika McGann, illustrated by Lauren O'Neill (The O'Brien Press)

2019-12-07_ent_54735332_I10.JPG
The Night-Time Cat and the Plump Grey Mouse by Erika McGann, illustrated by Lauren O'Neill

When Pangur Bán sneaks out of the Book of Kells to chase a mouse, he asks a succession of Trinity College and Dublin-linked ghosts for help, from Swift and Wilde to the women of the Dublin University Elizabethan Society. A fun romp of a tale which is greatly enhanced by O'Neill's spirited and witty illustrations. Age 5+

7 Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty, illustrated by Ben Mantle (Hodder Children's Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55273082_I11.JPG
Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty, illustrated by Ben Mantle

A little robot called Boot wakes up in a wrecking yard, memories of a little girl wearing a butterfly necklace flickering through his system. From the fast-paced start to the final pages, Hegarty fills this story with humour and heart, and the reader grows to love Boot just as much as the author clearly does. Age 7+

8 Jasper and Scruff by Nicola Colton (Stripes)

2019-12-07_ent_55273095_I12.JPG
Jasper and Scruff by Nicola Colton

Irish writer/ illustrator Colton has produced a wonderfully warm and funny book about two unlikely friends: a cat called Jasper and a stray dog called Scruff. Jasper's dream is to join the 'Sophisticats', a group of highly refined cats, but when she invites them over for dinner, nothing seems to please them. Age 7+

9 A Sea of Stories by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly (Stripes)

2019-12-07_ent_55279415_I13.JPG
A Sea of Stories by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly

When Roo visits her grandpa, they love exploring the cove together. But this trip, grandpa can't get down the path, so he tells her stories instead. Roo quickly realises how special the cove is to him and how she can help him get there again. A charming tale about kindness and friendship. Age 6+

10 She Can! The Colouring Book for Tomorrow's Irish Sports Stars by The 42, illustrated by Chris Judge (The 42)

2019-12-07_ent_55274108_I14.JPG
She Can: The Colouring Book for Tomorrow's Irish Sports Stars by The 42, illustrated by Chris Judge

My daughter is sporty and I love watching women's sport myself so this clever and timely book immediately caught my eye. It's a colouring and fact book combined, and features top Irish sports people, from Katie Taylor to footballer Sarah Rowe. Age 5+

 

2019-12-07_ent_54908062_I1.JPG
An illustrationby Lauren O'Neill for How Will Santa Find Us? by Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers

9+ Top 10

1 I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak (Nosy Crow)

2019-12-07_ent_55274932_I1.JPG
I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak

Cosmo is a loyal and smart golden retriever, narrator of this charming and unusual tale. Cosmo is devoted to his owner, a boy called Max, and when Max is upset, Cosmo always tries to look after him. Unfortunately, Max's parents are arguing a lot so Cosmo has his work cut out. But Cosmo has a plan - entering the 'dog and human' dance competition, winning, stiff hips and all, and making Max's parents see how much they all need to stay together. An adorable story about love and loyalty and how they can sustain us during tough times, written with real heart. Age 10+

2 The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan (Little Island Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55279528_I2.JPG
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan

Stevie is 11 and has 'fizzy feelings' for Chloe, a girl in her class. She lives with her mum, and sometimes late at night she hears her mum crying. Gradually Stevie finds the courage she needs to talk to her mum about this and about her own feelings for Chloe. An original, beautifully written moving novel in verse. Age 11+

3 Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)

2019-12-07_ent_55275463_I3.JPG
Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Based on Telgemeier's own childhood, this is a thoughtful and funny true story of one girl's experiences with anxiety, in the form of horrible stomach pains. During the course of this sensitive and honest graphic novel, Raina learns how to deal with her worries and face her fears. Telgemeier's previous graphic novels, Smile and Sisters are also highly recommended. Age 10+

4 The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer (HarperCollins)

2019-12-07_ent_55275462_I4.JPG
Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer

If there's a better series about fairies, science and magic than Artemis Fowl, I've yet to read it. To say I'm a huge fan of Colfer's writing is an understatement. And he's back with yet more magic and mischief in this laugh-out-loud-funny new book about Myles and Beckett Fowl. Full of action and adventure, it's a cracker. Age 9+

5 The Lost Tide Warriors by Catherine Doyle (Bloomsbury)

2019-12-07_ent_55275488_I5.JPG
The Lost Tide Warriors by Catherine Doyle

Fionn Boyle has only been 'Storm Keeper' of the island for six months and already the island is under threat - this time from thousands of terrifying zombie-like Soulstalkers. He must find and raise sea creatures called merrows and save the island and its people. Gripping fantasy adventure which cleverly reignites Irish mythology for modern readers. Age 9+

6 Malamander by Thomas Taylor (Walker Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55274778_I6.JPG
Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Herbie Lemon is the lost-and-founder at the Great Nautilus Hotel, looking after people's lost items. When a girl called Violet appears and asks him to hide her from a violent man with a hook for a hand, how can he refuse? Clever writing, swirling with atmosphere, standout characters and a cracking story combine to make this something special. Age 9+

7 Pog by Pádraig Kenny (Chicken House)

2019-12-07_ent_55275461_I7.JPG
Pog by Pádraig Kenny

Pog Limpkin is a friendly creature who lives in the attic of an old house in the middle of a wood. When young Penny and David move to the house after their mother's death, their lives are in grave danger from evil forces. But brave little Pog is on their side. Beautifully written, with exceptional humanity. Age 9+

8 Lily at Lissadell by Judi Curtin (The O'Brien Press)

2019-12-07_ent_55275379_I8.JPG
Lily at Lissadell by Judi Curtin

Set in 1913, this historic novel is a departure for Curtin, best known for her Alice and Megan contemporary friendship stories. Written with a light touch and shot through with fascinating details about the period, from the treatment of girls to the food served at Lissadell, this warm, touching book about friendship across the class divide truly shines. Age 9+

9 Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott (Scholastic)

2019-12-07_ent_55275467_I9.JPG
Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

Scott is an autistic 11-year-old with a gift for writing who has teamed up with experienced novelist Westcott to produce this book. The main character, Tally, is autistic but is trying to live as 'normal' a life as possible - difficult when you're starting a new year at school and trying desperately to fit in. Age 10+

10 The House on Hawthorn Road by Megan Wynne (The O'Brien Press)

2019-12-07_ent_55275475_I10.JPG
The House on Hawthorn Road by Megan Wynne

Children love a good time-travel yarn and this fast-paced, fun debut novel from Dublin writer Wynne fits the bill nicely. Beth has moved from London to a new house in Dublin, and a crack in time allows her life to intertwine with Robbie's. He's from the 1950s and he's full of mischief. Can they learn from each other?

Age 10+

 

Teen and young adult Top 10

1 Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan (Hot Key Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55282556_I2.JPG
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan

This remarkable book still haunts me, long after reading it. It's narrated by Maddy, a 15-year-old who has just moved with her twin Catlin and her mum to live in a creepy castle in Ballyfrann, a strange, isolated Irish village where many teenage girls have gone missing over the years. When Catlin falls in love with an older local boy, Maddy grows increasingly worried about her sister. Throw in dark humour, a modern-day wise-woman-cum-witch and some sinuous, intoxicating writing and you have something brave, exciting and highly original. Age 16+

2 Toffee by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

2019-12-07_ent_55282557_I1.JPG
Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Allison is a teenager on the run from an abusive home situation. She decides to take shelter in the house of an elderly woman called Marla, who suffers from dementia, and the two become unlikely friends. This verse novel is written from the heart and every word rings true. Currently Ireland's Laureate na nÓg, Crossan deserves a wide readership. Age 14+

3 The Cantankerous Molly Darling by Alvy Carragher (Chicken House)

 

Molly lives on a farm in rural Ireland. Her father walked out on Molly and her family a year ago, leaving a PowerPoint presentation behind to explain his decision. Molly is still devastated by his absence but is determined to make the most of things. A warm hug of a book that crackles with humour and is genuinely moving. Age 13+

4 Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin (Titan Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55282535_I3.JPG
Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Teenage twins Mae and Rossa are staying with their great-aunt Rita for the summer. But Rita is a witch and so is her ward, Bevan, who has been calling a strange owl called Sweet James from the walls of the house. But he wants more, and the twins' lives are in danger. Age 15+

5 The M Word by Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)

2019-12-07_ent_55282534_I4.JPG
The M Word by Brian Conaghan

Conaghan is an extraordinary storyteller, and as we travel with Maggie on her journey through rage, grief and finally, acceptance after the death of her best friend Moya, we live every difficult experience with her, from starting art college and dealing with her unemployed mum, to self-harm and depression. Shot through with humour and ultimately hope, it's a rewarding read. Age 15+

6 Free Lunch by Rex Ogle (Norton Young Readers)

2019-12-07_ent_55282521_I5.JPG
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

A memoir of Ogle's own childhood, this is a searing look at the lived experience of poverty in America, written with grace, humour and honesty. In 6th grade, Rex's mum signs him up for the free meal programme, much to his embarrassment. But his intelligence and love of learning help him survive his chaotic home life. Highly recommended. Age 13+

7 In the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido (Walker Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55282485_I6.JPG
In the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

Emmy is 12 and just starting a new school in San Francisco. But making new friends is never easy and things at home aren't exactly perfect either. Luckily there is one place where she does feel confident and at home - computer science club, led by her favourite teacher, Ms Delaney. An involving and beautifully written novel in verse. Age 12+

8 Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde (Little Island)

2019-12-07_ent_55282483_I7.JPG
Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde

Letta is a Wordsmith, a person who must keep words alive in a dystopian world where speech is almost forbidden. Determined to keep her beloved language alive, she teaches children words in a 'Hedge School' in the woods. But when the children's lives are threatened, it's up to Letta to help save them. Strong writing and great world-building. Age 14+

9 The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, illustrated by Anshika Khullar (Hodder Children's Books)

mingo-by--Dean-Atta.jpg
The Black Flamingo

Michael is mixed-race and has always felt different, like the black flamingos he loves. When he starts college and finds the drag community, he finally learns how to embrace his difference and ultimately to fly. Written in verse, with lots of letters, notes and lists added, this is a moving coming-of-age story, written with heart and panache. Age 15+

10 A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (Electric Monkey)

2019-12-07_ent_55282453_I8.JPG
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Recommended to me by teenage members of my writing club, this is a whip-smart, multi-layered thriller. Everyone knows that Sal Singh killed Andie Bell but Pippa Fitzgerald isn't so sure and she's determined to use her final-year school project to prove it. If your teen likes gritty murder mysteries, this should be right up their street. Age 14+

 

2019-12-07_ent_55407632_I14.JPG
Illustration by Linda Fährlin from The Great Irish Science Book

'Explosion of colour underwater is a delight'

By Elaina Ryan

CEO of Children's Books Ireland

2019-12-07_ent_55337595_I1.JPG
Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton
 

Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton is a joyful tale of Little Crab and Very Big Crab's journey to the sea. The mixed emotions of a little one experiencing a new situation are captured with warmth and humour and the explosion of colour underwater is a delight.

2019-12-07_ent_55337705_I2.JPG
What I Like Most, by Mary Murphy and Zhu Cheng-Liang

What I Like Most, by Mary Murphy and Zhu Cheng-Liang, merits the status of instant classic. In a voice at once wise and innocent, a child describes her ever-changing favourite things, from egg and chips to new shoes and stubby colouring pencils. Touching and observant, this is a scrapbook to the comfort in the constant of family and nature when the world around is quickly changing. Zhu Cheng-Liang's pencil and watercolour drawings complement Murphy's words beautifully.

By Rick O'Shea

Presenter of The Book Show on RTÉ Radio 1

2019-12-07_ent_55337646_I3.JPG
How Will Santa Find Us by Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers
 

How Will Santa Find Us by Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers is the most extraordinary book for children I've read this year and for a number of reasons, mainly that it's a passion project for the writers and combines creativity and social conscience.

The illustrations manage to walk a delicate tightrope - balancing the most beautiful of imagery with a story that puts us at the heart of homelessness, a situation that so many Irish families are having to deal with.

A brother and sister lose their home before Christmas and their parents use games of imagination to distract them as they move from roof to roof in the middle of a cold December. It's beautiful.

Information & gift books

1 The Great Irish Science Book by Professor Luke O'Neill, illustrated by Linda Fährlin (Gill Books)

2019-12-07_ent_54735657_I1.JPG
The Great Irish Science Book by Professor Luke O'Neill, illustrated by Linda Fährlin

If you know a child who loves interesting facts, this is the perfect present. It's full of information about all aspects of science, from biology to geology and the solar system, and the text is perfectly pitched for young readers. O'Neill is a gifted communicator and his deep love of science bounces off every page. The illustrations are lively and colourful, with lots of humour, and I loved Fährlin's cameos of Irish scientists from the past, such as botanist Ellen Hutchins. I've shared this book with adults and children and the most common response is 'Wow!' A real winner. Age 7+

2 123 Ireland! by Aoife Dooley (Little Island Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55280213_I2.JPG
123 Ireland! by Aoife Dooley

"Zero snakes, one harp, two hurleys, three dancers, four swans..." This sturdy baby-proof board book with rounded edges is full of distinctively Irish illustrations, from currachs to shamrocks, fiddles to sheep (including one black one). Dooley's artwork is bright and bold, and parents and carers will love sharing this book with babies and toddlers. Age 3 months+

3 My First Book of Irish Vehicles by The O'Brien Press (O'Brien Press)

2019-12-07_ent_55280323_I3.JPG
My First Book of Irish Vehicles by The O'Brien Press

This jaunty board book is packed full of Irish vehicles, from a green An Post van to a shiny silver LUAS. Each page is carefully designed with a photograph of the vehicle and its description in large lettering. There's even an Aer Lingus plane and an Irish Ferries ship. Perfect for babies and toddlers home or abroad. Age 3 months+

4 Shooting for the Stars by Norah Patten, illustrated by Jennifer Farley (O'Brien Press)

2019-12-07_ent_55280314_I4.JPG
Shooting for the Stars by Norah Patten, illustrated by Jennifer Farley

Part memoir, part non-fiction, this book tells the story of one dedicated woman's journey towards being the first Irish astronaut. Packed with interesting facts, including what food Patten would bring to space with her (cheese, tomatoes and tiramisu!). The attractive, child-friendly illustrations add to the book's appeal. Age 7+

5 Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure by Simon Cheshire, illustrated by Fatti Burke (Bloomsbury)

2019-12-07_ent_54735678_I5.JPG
Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure by Simon Cheshire, illustrated by Fatti Burke

Packed with the true stories of more than 60 people who explored the world, from journalist Nellie Bly who set off around the world to prove she could do it in 80 days, to Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, and Chinese pirate Ching Shih, this is a fascinating and accessible history book with fun, colourful illustrations. Age 8+

6 GIY's Know-It-Allmanac: The Ultimate Family Guide to Growing and Cooking Food Through the Year by Michael Kelly and Muireann Ní Chíobháin, illustrated by Fatti Burke (GIY)

2019-12-07_ent_54735677_I6.JPG
GIY's Know-It-Allmanac: The Ultimate Family Guide to Growing and Cooking Food Through the Year by Michael Kelly and Muireann Ní Chíobháin, illustrated by Fatti Burke

This large-format hardback is a month-by-month guide to growing, cooking and eating your own food. The illustrations are outstanding, and each page dances with interesting details, from tiny talking peas to myths and legends about different vegetables, like the truth about why beetroot turns your wee pink. Really informative and great fun! Age 9+

7 Earth Heroes by Lily Dyu, illustrated by Jackie Lay (Nosy Crow)

2019-12-07_ent_55280511_I7.JPG
Earth Heroes by Lily Dyu, illustrated by Jackie Lay

Twenty stories about inspirational role models in climate change, ecology and nature preservation, from well-known names such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, to ethical fashion designer Stella McCartney and American wolf expert Doug Smith. Written in an accessible, easy-to-read style, it's perfect for any child who cares about protecting our planet. Age 9+

8 Atlas of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell (Pavilion)

2019-12-07_ent_55280518_I8.JPG
Atlas of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell

An outstanding book for any budding ornithologist or nature lover. Sewell has selected his favourite birds and painted them in glowing watercolour. From penguins to eagles, birds-of-paradise to owls, his lively, striking illustrations are full of character and make each animal fly off the page, and the witty, well-informed text is a joy to read. Age 8+

9 Wild Lives: 50 Extraordinary Animals That Made History by Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh (Nosy Crow)

2019-12-07_ent_55280593_I9.JPG
Wild Lives: 50 Extraordinary Animals That Made History by Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

I'm fascinated by animals and this book brings together brave, loyal and clever animals from all over the world. Some are well-known (to adults at least) like Elsa the lion and Dolly the cloned sheep. Others are less so, like Ozy the octopus who proved how smart the sea creatures are. Age 8+

10 Poems from a Green and Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz, illustrated by Aaron Cushley (Hodder Children's Books)

2019-12-07_ent_55280595_I10.JPG
Poems from a Green and Blue Planet edited by Sabrina Mahfouz, illustrated by Aaron Cushley

This is perfect for any young poetry fan to dip into and would also make a great read-aloud choice. Packed with over 400 pages of verse, from well-loved classics to original poems by Dean Atta and Kate Tempest, it also includes voices from many different cultures. Highly recommended. Age 9+

Sarah Webb is an award-winning children's writer. Her latest book, 'Dare to Dream: Irish People Who Changed the World', illustrated by Graham Corcoran and published by The O'Brien Press, was shortlisted for the An Post Irish Book Awards. She is also the family and schools programmer for ILFDublin (International Literature Festival Dublin) and runs writing clubs for children

 

Indo Review

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top