Summer is here and with weeks of freedom stretching ahead, many parents are looking for book recommendations for their children, particularly books by Irish authors and illustrators.
We asked Elaina Ryan, Director of Children’s Books Ireland (CBI), for her tips:
“I’ve picked a few excellent reads as a starting point, and your local librarian or children’s bookseller will be another great source of information and tailored choices for each child. Finding a book that makes the child want to read is half the battle, even if it isn’t to Mum or Dad’s taste – any reading is good reading! I’ve picked books that are by turns funny, controversial, visually stunning, goofy, moving and terrifying. For more information, watch out for the Inis Reading Guide, which reviews all the best books of 2015, published this October. CBI members get their hands on the guide first, so sign up today and don’t miss out!
AGE GROUP: 0–4
One of the brightest stars to emerge in the last couple of years is Yasmeen Ismail, whose vivid, fluid watercolours burst with life and movement. Sticker books and activity books are often based on big brands and TV tie-ins, or are frustratingly marketed ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’. Not so in the case of Ismail’s Let’s Go Find a Tiger. This brilliant book encourages the youngest readers to create their own jungle with stickers and drawings, bringing the child right into the wild adventure and encouraging them to be creative. It’s published on July 30, but if you can’t wait, pick up Ismail’s gorgeous Specs for Rex, the story of a lion who hates his new glasses, at least to begin with… another joyful picture book from Ismail will be published in August, entitled I’m a Girl! The one centres on a girl who’s fast and strong and a boy who likes to wear princess dresses and play with dolls. It gleefully encourages readers to be whoever they are, regardless of other people’s expectations.
AGE GROUP: 4–8
For children who think their own family is utterly mad, The Seven Deadly Finns by John Chambers will be a wake-up call. An absolutely bonkers, laugh-out-loud story, this book has oodles of silliness and is heavily illustrated, which will appeal to newly confident readers. The second half of the year will be a huge one for this age group: The Day the Crayons Came Home is the sequel to the wonderfully funny The Day the Crayons Quit, illustrated by Belfast’s Oliver Jeffers and written by Drew Daywalt. If you haven’t read the first one, you have until August to catch up. (Watch out for the peach crayon, whose missing wrapper forces him into hiding to protect his modesty!) Jeffers, who was the winner of the CBI Book of the Year Award 2015 for his stunning book of short stories, Once Upon an Alphabet, will also collaborate with Eoin Colfer, Laureate na nÓg and author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series. The result, Imaginary Fred, about an imaginary friend who always seems to get left behind, will be out in October.
AGE GROUP: 9–12
This age group gets all the great adventures, and what better place to start than Shane Hegarty’s Darkmouth. Book One is out now and tells the story of Finn, a 12-year-old reluctant Legend Hunter who is petrified at the thought of having to save the town of Darkmouth from the incoming Legends. Despite the constant threat of being eaten by these creatures, there’s a good dose of humour; this debut will be great for fans of adventure, fantasy and myth, and Book Two will be published in August. Eoin Colfer’s W.A.R.P. series is another funny and fast-paced chase, this time with an element of time travel. Taken from Victorian London to the present day, Riley is on the run from his dastardly master, with the help of Chevie Savano, a junior FBI agent and a girl not to be messed with. Sometimes gruesome but always engrossing, the trilogy is now complete with Book Three, The Hangman’s Revolution, out now. For readers who want something other than a straightforward novel, Ian Flitcroft’s A Time Traveller’s Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything (illustrated by Britt Spencer) is a breath of fresh air: a graphic novel that brings us through time with Einstein and his travelling companion. This is a mind-expanding book, full of information for curious children (and parents!), broken down in a way that is easy to understand and utterly fascinating.
AGE GROUP: 12–14
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde is perfect for readers who have loved the big dystopian series (Hunger Games, Divergent) and want something new with an Irish twist. In Ark, a post-apocalyptic world where language is tightly controlled and creative expression is outlawed, Letta finds herself prematurely promoted from apprentice to Wordsmith. She struggles to comprehend what she has discovered: Ark’s leader, John Noa, has a plan to eliminate language entirely, and it is down to Letta to stop him. The Wordsmith is dramatic, poetic and fresh, with some echoes of Lois Lowry’s classic The Giver. Coming next month is a debut novel by Maureen White, The Butterfly Shell. The usual anxiety of the first year of secondary school is made even worse for Marie by a group of girls who taunt and abuse her, and an eerie cry that keeps her awake at night. Weaving together themes of bullying and self-harm with a supernatural element, this promises to be an interesting read. Another treat published in August is One by Sarah Crossan. This is the story of conjoined twins Tippi and Grace, told through verse – an extraordinary subject explored through an exciting medium. Crossan’s earlier verse novel, The Weight of Water, was the winner of the 2014 CBI Eilís Dillon Award for a first book, and is a very special coming of age story.
YA (Young Adult)
Nothing is off-limits now in books for young adults, and we know that YA fiction has an enormous adult readership. Treading the blurry line between YA and adult is Louise O’Neill’s second novel, Asking For It, published in September. There is a party in a small West Cork town. Emma O’Donovan is drunk, blacks out and cannot remember the details. But the appalling events of the night before are documented in gruesome, humiliating detail on Facebook. This is a dark, deeply unsettling and thought-provoking novel. It is about rape – how we talk about it, how victims are made to feel, how the perpetrators of sexual violence are treated. It is also about self-image, peer pressure, teenage friendships, small-town Ireland. It is harrowing and unflinching and very important – it’s a safe space in which young adults and adults alike can explore an upsetting but sadly relevant issue. O’Neill’s debut, Only Ever Yours, was described as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Mean Girls, and was the winner of the 2015 CBI Eilís Dillon Award for a first book – it’s out now. For something completely different, watch out for Derek Landy’s first in a new series, Demon Road, published in August. We’re promised vampires, demons and undead serial killers crossed with an American Road trip setting, making this perfect for fans who have grown up with Landy’s blockbuster Skulduggery Pleasant series. Scary, but in a very different way, is Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s debut, The Accident Season. Accident and injury befalls Cara’s family at the same time every year: breaks and scrapes and much worse. But why? This novel is rooted in modern Ireland with a supernatural element: a girl in a photo who Cara is sure is linked to her family’s troubles. Out now.
Elaina Ryan is Director of Children’s Books Ireland (CBI), set up to foster a greater understanding of the importance of books for young people and act as a core resource for those with an interest in books for children.