Children’s Book Recommendations on Today with Claire Byrne

As families complete their back to school preparations and face the return of school days, homework and extra-curricular activities, our CEO, Elaina Ryan, has chosen some books that will help to keep children and teens of all ages hooked on reading.

UNDER 5’s

Eoinín ­­– Muireann Ní Chíobháin agus Róisín Hahessy (age 0+)

Eoinín has a beautiful new kite. But making it fly is a tricky business! Little ones will love helping Eoinín in this fun, interactive adventure – the author speaks directly to the young reader, encouraging them to help Eoinín, and by the end, they are big friends. Playful and fun, this board book is sturdy enough for the littlest hands but has prompts to follow that will appeal to toddlers and young children; fun for the whole family!


Big Dance – Aoife Greenham (age 2+)
This is the most joyful picturebook I’ve seen in some time, with beautiful, vivid colours and an inclusive cast of animal characters. Pippa talks to her Poppa and friends about the Big Dance. Everyone seems to have their cool moves ready, except for Pippa. As she sees her friends wriggle and groove, she gets more and more worried that she won’t have a signature move ready for the Big Dance. But once the music starts, that changes, and Pippa realises she doesn’t need to have big boots like Fancy Chicken, or be ribbony like the Rabbits, she just needs to be herself. This brilliant debut from Irish illustrator Aoife Greenham is a story about the freedom to be yourself and the fun of joining in. Visit https://www.aoifegreenham.co.uk to meet Pippa and friends in an animated book trailer.


The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess – Tom Gauld (age 4+) (pub. 2nd Sept)

Tom Gauld may be known to folks as a graphic novelist and cartoonist with The New Yorker, and this is his first picturebook for children. This original and heart-warming fairytale is certainly a little offbeat if you’re used to the classics. In it, the king and queen have two children: a little wooden robot, made by the royal inventor, and an enchanted log princess, brought to life by a witch. There’s just one catch: every night when the log princess sleeps, she transforms back into an ordinary log. She can only be woken with the magic words “Awake, little log, awake.”The siblings are inseparable until one day when the sleeping log princess is accidentally carted off to parts unknown. Now it’s up to her devoted brother to find her and return her safely to the kingdom. On the way they face a host of adventures involving the Queen of Mushrooms, a magic pudding, a baby in a rosebush, and an old lady in a bottle. Parents and children alike will enjoy the extraordinary detail in the illustrations, making repeated readings a pleasure.


AGE 5–8’s

The Alien in the Jam Factory – Chrissie Sains & Jenny Taylor (age 6+)

One thing we hear over and over, and know from our own experience, is that children love a series, and this book is the first in a hilarious, jam-packed new adventure series starring Scooter the inventor and his top secret alien sidekick. Scooter McLay’s has cerebral palsy and one of the wonderful things about this book is that it focuses not on what he can’t do, but on his hyper-creative brain, which is a constant fizz of brilliant ideas. He spends every day inventing top secret recipes and machines for his family’s jam factory. There’s just one thing missing … a pet, to share it all with – but living in a food factory makes that impossible. Until one day, a tiny alien named Fizzbee crashes through the factory window. After Scooter and Fizzbee get to know each other, they team up to save the factory from dastardly neighbour Daffy Dodgy.


Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí – Bridget Bhreathnach, maisithe le Shona Shirley Macdonald (age 7+)

The story of Labhraí Loingseach, the king with horse’s ears, is known and loved in Ireland. It is an international folktale, told and retold across the world in different versions, for hundreds (maybe thousands!) of years. This new version with illustrations by Shona Shirley Macdonald brings it vividly to life for a new generation. Labhraí is born to the king and queen with an unusual trait: he has horse’s ears. The king and queen worry that the child will be accepted, now and when he becomes king himself. A story about the bravery it can take to tell the truth, no matter what people think. Shortlisted for the Gradam Réics Carló 2021.


Bad Panda – Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey (age 7+)

Everyone thinks that Lin is the cutest panda in the world. So much so that they ship her off to the local zoo, away from her beloved brother, to be ogled at by the masses. But Lin HATES being cute, and now she will do everything in her power to prove that she’s the baddest, meanest, most un-cute animal in the zoo…Another first in a hilarious new series from the creators of the Dave Pigeon books.


AGE 9-12’s

Wild Child – Dara McAnulty, illustrated by Barry Falls (age 8+, non-fiction)

Dara McAnulty was 16 when his debut, Diary of a Young Naturalist, was published. This beautiful hardback gift book from a Northern Irish duo encourages young readers to get out on a nature walk and experience the beauty and mysteries of the natural world that exist on their doorstep. Divided into five sections, this book blends poetry with fantastic facts guiding the young reader through common wildlife, flowers and trees. There are also a number of activities for young people to do at home and bring their learning to life such as planting wildflowers, making bird feeders, pond dipping, making a journey stick and building their own terrarium.


Wolfstongue by Sam Thompson (age 10+)

Silas, a boy with speech problems, enters a hidden world of talking animals: a world in which language is power. When he befriends a family of wolves who have been enslaved by scheming, articulate foxes, the boy must face his own struggle with words to help the wolves win back their freedom. For any parents who remember Tom McCaughren’s Run Wild fox novels, published in the 80s and 90s, this is a very different take on the animal but with the same tension and suspense. Themes of neurodiversity and acceptance, humans and the natural world, language, voice and power are explored in an exciting and thoughtful, beautifully written fantasy.


Cardboard Cowboys by Brian Conaghan (age 10+)

Lenny is both invisible and very visible – his schoolmates don’t see who he really is, but bully him relentlessly as a child who lives in a larger body. When lessons get too tough, Lenny goes to his bench to think. One day, midway through lobbing his empty can of Irn-Bru into the canal he’s stopped by Bruce. Bruce lives in a cardboard home hidden away by the banks, and he doesn’t approve of kids messing up his front lawn. But a bumpy start soon gives way to an unexpected friendship – and an epic road trip – that will change both of them for life. Multi-award-winning author Brian Conaghan’s first book for 10+ readers is a future classic brimming with humour and heart.


TEEN & YOUNG ADULT

The Summer We Turned Green – William Sutcliffe

It’s the summer holidays, and thirteen-year-old Luke’s life has been turned upside down. First his older sister Rose moved ‘across the road’, where a community of climate rebels is protesting the planned airport expansion. Then his dad followed her.Dad only went to get Rose back, but now he’s out there building totem poles, wearing sandals and drinking mead (whatever that is) with the best of them…Can Luke save his family when all they want to do is save the planet? A brilliant, funny, touching read that will be of particular interest given where we are in the climate crisis. It includes themes of family breakup, friendship, climate change, personal growth and even touches on the pandemic in the epilogue.


The Climbers – Keith Gray

Sully is the best tree-climber in the village. He can scale Twisted Sister’s tangled branches and clamber up Double Trunker with ease. But when new kid Nottingham shows up and astonishes everyone with his climbing skills, Sully’s status is under threat and there’s only one way to prove who’s best.Sully and Nottingham must race to climb the last unnamed tree. Whoever makes it to the top will become a legend. But something spiteful and ugly has reared its head in Sully … Is it worth losing everything just to reach the top? Published by Barrington Stoke, this book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 8. At 120 pages, it will appeal to avid and reluctant readers.


Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

Felix Love has never been in love – despite his name. Felix feels like he never really fits in, being black, queer, and transgender alongside attending a prestigious school on a scholarship and coming from a working class family; his inbuilt belief is that he has one marginalisation too many to be loveable. After a transphobic incident, Felix is confronted with the complexities of gender labels and is forced to explore his own identity and his relationships with his friends in an attempt to be at peace, and to find love. Callender, as a Black, queer, trans writer, creates a space for readers to learn, question and grow through the people in Felix’s life, whether they stand with him or against him. If young readers like this, they can check out Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve.


Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating – Adiba Jaigirdar (YA)

Everyone likes Hani Khan – she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they don’t believe her, claiming she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship… with a girl her friends can’t stand ­– Ishu Dey. Ishu is the polar opposite of Hani. An academic overachiever, she hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for university. Her only problem? Becoming head girl is a popularity contest and Ishu is hardly popular. Pretending to date Hani is the only way she’ll stand a chance of being elected. Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after. Available as an audiobook on Audible.co.uk. For more recommendations featuring LGBTQI+ characters, check out Children’s Books Ireland’s Rainbow Reads list.


Blackout – Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon (YA)

New short stories from six of YA’s biggest authors, Blackout tells a series of love stories between Black teens that occur when a power failure plunges New York into darkness. From the exes who have to bury their rivalry and walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn in time to kick off a block party, to the two boys trapped on the subway who come face-to-face with their feelings and the pair of best friends stuck in the library and surrounded by love stories and one very big secret, they are all about to see that when the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths, love blossoms, friendship transforms, and all possibilities take flight. Think In The Heights for teenagers – a series of summer romances to get YA readers through September.