This year there is a real drive to shop local and buy Irish, so for Ireland AM our CEO, Elaina Ryan, has chosen a selection of books by Irish artists, some of them Irish-published, which you can pick up at your local bookshop. Reviews of these and more are featured in the Books Make Things Better reading guide, free to download here or to pick up in participating bookshops.
The Dead Zoo by Peter Donnelly (age 2+)
In this story of an unlikely friendship between dour museum-owner Mr Gray and a mischievous mouse, Dublin’s ‘Dead Zoo’ (the natural history museum) is brilliantly immortalised. A slapstick chase takes readers on a virtual museum tour – featuring the iconic great Irish elk. Clever use of colour throughout juxtaposes the aptly named Mr Gray with vivid exotic animals, highlighting his transformation from strict and serious to a veritable Willy Wonka, clad head to toe in purple. Fun and stylish, The Dead Zoo is Donnelly at his best.
Geansaí Otto by Sadhbh Devlin maisithe ag/illustrated by Róisín Hahessy (age 3+)
Otto is a fashionable little boy, and when his granny knits him baggy, unfashionable jumpers he is less than impressed. He makes up his mind that he’s going to tell his gran in person to stop making him ugly clothes that he can’t wear, but as he walks over to her house, he realises the real value of the jumpers, which are knitted with love from granny to Otto. A warm, funny story with a gorgeous grandparent/grandchild relationship at its heart. A lovely one for families that can’t be together this Christmas.
Mary Robinson and Tom Crean by John Burke, illustrated by Fatti Burke (age 7+)
Two excellent additions to the Little Library series from father/daughter duo John and Fatti Burke. These books cover the life of two hugely important people in Irish history from birth throughout their incredible lives. The illustrations are so compelling and these inspiring stories are told in an accessible and easy to understand way for younger readers. A great way to introduce the young generation to some of the nation’s heroes.
Tinsel by Sibéal Pounder (age 9–11)
A charming feminist take on the original story of Santa, Tinsel is set in Victorian London, where penniless orphans Blanche and Rinki carve out a life for themselves on the mean streets. When a mysterious old lady gives Blanche a Christmas bauble, telling her to use her gifts well, young Blanche sets out to give every child in the world a Christmas gift. A fun-filled adventure with a magical horse, a talking tree and two feisty girls makes for a great Christmas tale.
The Miracle on Ebeneezer Street by Catherine Doyle (age 9+)
George’s father won’t allow any mention of Christmas since the death of George’s mother on Christmas Eve three years ago. But when George discovers a shop that sells magical items and a snow globe which has captured one of his own memories, he and his dad are whisked away to see Christmas past, present and future. A beautiful contemporary retelling of Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol by a writer at the height of her powers.
Break the Mould by Sinéad Burke, illustrated by Natalie Byrne (age 12+)
Sinéad Burke is an advocate, model, broadcaster and little person, and this is her first book, a recent winner at the An Post Irish Book Awards. A celebration of self and difference, Break the Mould is part instruction manual, part self-help, part activity book and fully inspiring. Burke directly addresses the reader, encouraging them to embrace ourselves and our differences, to be open, curious and kind. The book features activities to build self-awareness, responsibility and confidence, as well as case studies of people who have used their differences to make in impact on the world. It is accessible, honest and frank, and doesn’t speak down or condescend. Highly recommended.