Ireland Reads on Today with Claire Byrne

Libraries Ireland is collaborating with writers, booksellers, publishers and others to lead a new national campaign, ‘Ireland Reads’, during the month of February. This is part of the government-backed KeepWell initiative. The campaign will encourage everyone to discover the joy of reading and will culminate in a national day of reading on Thursday, February 25th. It’s all about promoting the power of reading for enjoyment and wellbeing – combatting lockdown by encouraging people to get back into the habit of reading and regularly setting aside time to sit and read a book, a poem, a comic, a newspaper, an ebook or audiobook; whatever works for them. The website is now live and we are asking people to go and pledge their support for Ireland Reads – sign up and pledge to read for an hour, or half an hour, or whatever you can manage. Children’s Books Ireland is a supporting partner and we are encouraging readers of all ages to get involved.

For the launch of Ireland Reads, which is all about dropping everything and reading just for the love of it, we’ve gathered together a selection of books that may help a child see themselves reflected on the page, books that will start readers off on a journey with a great series, books that may help parents if their child is finding life a bit of a struggle at the moment, and some great new books with general appeal for any reader.

UNDER 5s

Mad Mad MAD by Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli understands small children. Her board books, including this one, are perfect for the youngest readers, and touch on simple concepts with humour and brilliant expression. Her books’ titles will give you an idea of what they’re about – Toot, Potty, Quiet LOUD, Yummy Yucky – and the happy baby in just a nappy is at the centre of all of them. Mad Mad MAD is all about big feelings – be they sadness or anger – and is a great conversation starter for anyone who may be dealing with tantrums at home at the moment. Polly Dunbar’s Red Red Red is another great book for bad days, and both offer good ideas to bring calm to the situation. For more books about big feelings for children of all ages, see Mind Yourself: the Mental Health and Wellbeing Reading Guide, free to download here.


Am Folctha, a Choinín Beag! by Jörg Mühle

Translated from German into Irish, this board book for little ones is the third book about little rabbit. Here, our readers are asked to help give little rabbit a bath and dry him off, and when the hairdryer is broken, they have to blow themselves – ‘Coinnigh ort! Séid!’. Brilliantly interactive, simple and fun, a great book for age 1+.


Fidget the Wonder Dog by Patricia Forde, illustrated by Rachael Saunders

Fidget is not a fetch your slippers dog, not a bring the paper dog, but a run around in circles dog, a love to ramble off dog. This is a gorgeous story of friendship between a girl and her free-spirited dog, who wanders a bit too far one day and finds himself on an epic adventure on the high seas. Perfect for young readers with a pet at home who can imagine what adventures they get up to around the neighbourhood!


I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith

I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.

And I can’t say them all . . .

When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. We believe very strongly that every child should be able to see themselves and their own reality reflected in a book, and this book will appeal especially to any child who feels lost, lonely, different or unable to fit in.


AGE 5–8

Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton

Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do both love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together. A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series with each volume featuring three stories. The series has five books to date, and celebrates the value of positivity and creativity, and is perfect for comic book readers or those who are just that bit too young for the bestselling Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey. Dav himself says the books are: ‘Hilarious and charming. The most loveable duo since Frog and Toad’. Featuring adorable characters, witty dialogue and a healthy dose of silliness.


Boot: The Creaky Creatures by Shane Hegarty, illustrated by Ben Mantle

This book comes out in paperback today – the third book in the series about loveable robot Boot. As the author himself says, ‘It has broken robot pets, coffee, a trip inside the internet, a unicorn called Killer, and so many wonderful illustrations’. Boot was once a toy robot, but it has come a long way since it was scrapped and woke back up with only two-and-a-half glitchy memories. When Boot catches sight of a robot pet it used to know, Mr Piggles, our hero and pals follow it to a beautiful green square in the city of skyscrapers. Here they find not just real nature, but also a haven for broken and rejected pets. They also meet the children who look after the pets, and for whom this green space is a sanctuary too. But Boot is distracted by its emotions, swinging from happy to sad … maybe Boot is broken? Can it work out what is wrong, with the help of its friends? Perfect for fans of Toy Story and Wall E.


Jasper and Scruff – Take a Bow by Nicola Colton

The third in this series from Irish author-illustrator Nicola Colton, Jasper and Scruff features a smart cat and a mucky pup who are always getting in trouble. In book three, Jasper and Scruff hear about the Reach Fur the Stars talent show, and know it’s their big chance to shine. But while Scruff hopes his magic act will dazzle the judges, Jasper wants the limelight all to himself. And they’re not the only ones who want to get their paws on the Grand Prize – the Sophisticats have a sneaky plan to steal the show. Will Jasper and Scruff team up in time to stop the cunning cats? There is real humour in Colton’s illustrations, and this series will appeal to fans of the Dave Pigeon by Sheena Dempsey and Swapna Haddow, and to readers who loved Alex T Smith’s Claude series.


AGE 9–12

The Terrible Two series by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Mac Barnett is an American author of over forty picturebooks and chapter books for older readers. His Instagram channel is a treasure trove – through the pandemic he has been reading his own work as well as classic picturebooks. In The Terrible Two, Miles Murphy decides to become master prankster in his new school, but an anonymous, brilliant prank mastermind already occupies this coveted position. Full of witty details and the elaborately hilarious pranks themselves (which are humorous and wildly over-the-top rather than cruel), the book will appeal to fans of the Wimpy Kid series but with an added helping of antic silliness. Available as ebooks on Borrowbox.


Raymie Nightingale by Kate Di Camillo

Another brilliant American writer with an impressive back catalogue including The Tale of Despereaux which was turned into a major movie in the early 2000s. Followed by Louisiana’s Way Home and Beverly, Right Here these stories of childhood friendship and adventure are told with a warm, unique voice, these will appeal to children who may be outgrowing Enid Blyton and wondering where to go next. Available as ebooks and audiobooks on Borrowbox.


AGE 12–14

The Humiliations of Welton Blake by Alex Wheatle

This is published by Barrington Stoke, a brilliant publisher of great dyslexia-friendly books. Welton Blake has asked out the best-looking girl in school, and she’s said yes! But just as he thinks his luck, and life, is starting to change, Welton’s phone breaks, kickstarting a series of unfortunate and humiliating events. With bullies to avoid, girls ready to knock him out and all the drama with his mum and dad, life for Welton is about to go very, very wrong …

This is a high interest/low reading age book, so the content is suitable for teens, but the reading age is set at 8 years old. These books are designed with off white paper and a dyslexia-friendly font but are not stigmatizing in any way – the cover design is great and appealing to all readers. Check out https://www.barringtonstoke.co.uk for more dyslexia-friendly books for all ages.


What We’re Scared Of by Keren David

Evie and Lottie are twin sisters, but they couldn’t be more different. Evie’s sharp and funny. Lottie’s a day-dreamer. Evie’s the fighter, Lottie’s the peace-maker. What they do have in common is their Jewishness – even though the family isn’t religious. When their mother gets a high-profile job and is targeted by antisemitic trolls on social media, the girls brush it off at first, but then the threats start getting uglier. . . What We’re Scared Of is a taut thriller, a tale of sibling friendship and rivalry, and a searing look at what happens when you scratch beneath the surface. Karen is a super writer with plenty in her back catalogue to keep fans of this book reading.


YOUNG ADULT

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas’ hugely successful debut, The Hate U Give, was turned into a film in 2018. In that book we meet Starr Carter, a teenage girl who witnesses her best friend being shot by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. Concrete Rose is a prequel to this story, and brings us back to when Starr’s father, Maverick, is a young Black man growing up in Garden Heights. The book explores the near-impossibility of escaping the cycle of gang violence, what it means to be a Black man and a young father, and can be read before, after or independently of The Hate U Give.


Lore by Alexandra Bracken

This is a super new mythological fantasy with a great female protagonist, Lore Perseous.

In this brutal dystopia based on ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses, a major event is approaching, one that only happens every 7 years. For centuries, Zeus has punished the gods with a game called the Agon, which turns them mortal for one week, and at the mercy of being hunted by those with godly ambitions. Only a handful of the original Greek gods remain, the rest replaced by the mortals who killed them and ascended. Lore has escaped this world and laid low since the last Agon, trying to repress her simmering anger against Wrath, the God who murdered her own parents, and vowing to honour their memory by simply surviving. But when the Agon starts again and Lore finds the goddess Athena wounded on her doorstep, she enters an alliance and plans to take her revenge on Wrath.

Bracken’s previous series, The Darkest Minds, was a NYT bestseller and made into a movie starring Mandy Moore among others; it was pitched as ‘this generation’s Hunger Games’; Lore too has echoes of that darkness with its tagline ‘the games have begun and she’s playing for her life’.


The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants – as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flavia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flavia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flavia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled – and Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush…

A brilliant queer YA love story from a new Irish/Bangladeshi voice, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli (known for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which was adapted into the 2018 film Love, Simon). And if you like this one, try The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth, another Irish YA writer whose debut was published last year.