Tune in at 12 noon Tuesday 19th May to enjoy the ceremony and be the first to find out the winners!

For the first time in its thirty-year history the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards will be announced online, with all welcome to join in. These awards are the most prestigious awards for children’s books in Ireland and are a celebration of Irish writing and illustration for younger people. The ten shortlisted titles will compete for a total of five awards, with the winners to be announced from 12 noon on Tuesday 19 May on YouTube Live by book-loving broadcaster Rick O’Shea. A new award will also be presented to a young ‘Reading Hero’, encouraging involvement from young readers across Ireland.

The shortlisted titles are:

All The Bad Apples written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Madame Badobedah written by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

Mór agus Muilcbased on a traditional tale told by John Óg Hiúdaí Neidí Ó Colla and

illustrated by Kim Sharkey

Nóinín written by Máire Zepf

The Deepest Breath written by Meg Grehan

The Hug written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

The Tide written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

The Star-Spun Web written by Sinéad O’Hart

Toffee writtenby Sarah Crossan

Scúnc agus Smúirín written by Muireann Ní Chíobháin and illustrated by Paddy Donnelly

The shortlist includes four books published by independent Irish publishers, three written in Irish, three verse novels and a spread of books for all ages, including picturebooks up to young adult novels.

The five awards to be announced are The Book of the Year Award, The Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Judges’ Special Award, and the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book, named in honour of the revered Irish children’s author Eilís Dillon, whose birth centenary was on March 7 of this year.

The Reading Hero Award is a new initiative that recognises a young person’s potential and gives them encouragement to pursue their chosen path. Teachers, parents, guardians, relatives, friends and librarians across the country are asked to nominate their KPMG Reading Hero via the Children’s Books Ireland website, with the winner being announced as part of the YouTube Live awards ceremony on May 19. Children’s Books Ireland and KPMG are also offering many other ways for young readers to get involved across their websites and social media; with videos from shortlisted authors and illustrators to enjoy, fun, creative activities to get involved with and weekly competitions to enter.

Commenting on the awards and the online format for this year’s announcement, KPMG Managing Partner Seamus Hand said, “We are delighted to partner with Children’s Books Ireland in supporting these awards and while circumstances require that the ceremony will now be held online, we are all still really looking forward to celebrating the very best of Irish writing and illustration for younger people on May 19.”

CEO of Children’s Books Ireland Elaina Ryan said, “In a year when artists are facing unprecedented challenges and interruptions to their work, we are so proud of our partnership with KPMG and the ability of these awards to support authors and illustrators, with the prize fund doubled compared to last year. We are excited to showcase excellent Irish writing and illustration in new and innovative ways as we move our ceremony online.”

The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards recognise excellence in writing and illustration in Irish or English and are open to books by authors and illustrators who were born in Ireland, are permanently resident in Ireland or are citizens of Ireland and which were published between January 1 and December 31 each year. Founded in 1990, the Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland. Each year a panel of judges read all of the books submitted by publishers, some 98 titles in 2019, and a shortlist of 10 is announced in March, with the final awards ceremony taking place in May. Previous winners include Kelly McCaughrain for Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, Deirdre Sullivan and Karen Vaughan for Tangleweed and Brine, Sarah Crossan for One, Oliver Jeffers for Once upon an Alphabet, John Boyne for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded and Kate Thompson for The New Policeman, Annan Water and The Alchemist’s Apprentice.

The KPMG Awards and Junior Juries programme are kindly supported by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Ecclesiastical Movement for Good Awards.

Anyone can watch and enjoy this year’s ceremony at 12pm on Tuesday 19 May at Children’s Books Ireland’s channel via YouTube Live.

For further media information please contact Stephanie Dickenson 087 993 7650  

Photocall images, and author, illustrator and book cover images, can all be accessed here.


A judges’ comment on each shortlisted title follows:


Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Penguin Books ISBN 9780241333969

An atmospheric and powerful story tracing trauma through three generations of the same family. Alternating between the contemporary first-person narrative of Deena and the haunting story of her ancestors, it draws on dark aspects of Ireland’s history that have come to light in recent years relating to attitudes towards female sexuality and callous treatment of single mothers and their babies by the Catholic Church and wider society. After disastrously coming out to her family, Deena embarks on a road trip with friends in a quest that leads her to find her mother, her own voice and, ultimately, freedom from the family curse. The apple motif is cleverly woven into the story, in which themes of witchcraft and healing are linked with female agency and power.


Sophie Dahl and Lauren O’Hara

Walker Books ISBN 9781406384406

When an eccentric elderly lady with a mysterious past comes to stay at The Mermaid Hotel, the curious young daughter of the owners sees an opportunity for honing her skills in espionage. An unlikely friendship develops between the pair, leading to a shared fantastical adventure. Lauren O’Hara’s lively and characterful illustrations include wonderfully detailed double spreads and humorous vignettes that perfectly complement this intriguing tale of first impressions, friendship and the power of imagination.


John Óg Hiúdaí Neidí Ó Colla and Kim Sharkey

Éabhlóid ISBN  9780995611993

This is a stunning retelling in picture and text of an unusual and dark tale from oral Irish culture. The rhythmic repetition of dialogue as each new character is encountered and the beautiful curving lines in the sumptuous and evocative illustrations perfectly capture the circularity of the cumulative tale. A hypnotic sense of movement is created as a growing cast of wonderfully named characters join the elongated Mór and the jester-like Muilc in a dance towards their doom. Stylish, quirky and admirably faithful to the oral tradition.



Máire Zepf

Cois Life ISBN 9781907494949

A compelling verse novel that depicts, with beguiling subtlety and nuance, the online grooming of a shy teenage girl, the slow build-up to a shocking crime and the aftermath from the perspective of her best friend. The insidious nature of grooming through flattery, exploitation of teenage insecurities and isolation from friends is very convincingly portrayed. The effects of violent crime on the family and friends of the victim are shown and questions of blame considered, but the novel ends with an empowering manifesto on the right of young girls to full life and liberty. Rich imagery, poetic language and intertextual references to fairy tales and Irish myth lend resonance to this very modern and accessible tale of the dangers of social media. An artful and gripping narrative that will reward multiple re-readings.


Meg Grehan

Little Island Books ISBN 9781912417186

A thoughtful, exquisitely gentle and heart-rending verse novel that explores with a superb lightness of touch important themes relating to anxiety, emerging sexual identity, friendship and love. The lyrical narrative captures with great delicacy the fragile voice of an eleven-year-old girl, whose feelings for her friend both excite and confuse her, as she seeks understanding and affirmation from her mother. The motif of water, of drowning and breathing, lends a dreamy atmosphere to this tender, courageous and ultimately uplifting story.


Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar

Faber & Faber ISBN 9780571340019

A charming picturebook of novel design that can be read from either end and concludes in the middle. Tortoise and Hedgehog, each lonely and in need of a hug, embark on separate quests that end when they happen upon each other. Tortoise’s hard shell and Hedgehog’s prickly pins do not deter the pair from hugging in a heart-warming double spread at the centre of the book. The texture, colours and facial expressions of the animal characters are superbly rendered, with pictures by Polly Dunbar and text by Eoin McLaughlin working in perfect tandem to engage and delight young readers.


Clare Helen Welsh and Ashling Lindsay

Little Tiger Press ISBN 9781788810852

This poignant portrayal of a young girl coming to an understanding of her grandfather’s memory loss is uplifting and enlightening for child and adult readers alike. Exquisitely illustrated with a warm palette and a keen eye for pattern, its gentle rhythms mirror the ebb and flow of the tide and the passage of time. A stunning double spread depicting the pair dancing in the orange glow of the full tide at sunset creates a glorious sense of harmony that assuages earlier moments of disquiet, while the warm presence of the mother, who features in most of the illustrations, provides reassurance and comfort throughout. An evocative portrait of intergenerational bonds.


Sinéad O’Hart

Stripes Publishing ISBN 9781788950220

This distinctive steampunk-sci-fi fantasy adventure features an extraordinary heroine with a special talent for science, her endearing pet tarantula, a strange device that enables her to access other worlds and a colourful cast of unforgettable characters, including her male double in a parallel world. From the mysterious opening to the dramatic denouement, readers are brought on a rollercoaster journey of scientific exploration, intrigue, treachery and mortal danger. A captivating and original story that will excite and enthral young readers.


Sarah Crossan

Bloomsbury YA ISBN 9781408868133

A lyrical and moving portrayal of the relationship between a teenage girl, who has run away from her abusive father, and an elderly woman with dementia, who mistakes her for a close childhood friend. Every note in this first person verse narrative rings true. Each poem is a gem in itself and they combine in a series of vignettes, employing a subtle interplay between information given and deferred that allows space for readers to reflect while savouring the beauty of the language. Through deft storytelling and masterful characterisation, complex themes of identity, child and elder abuse, memory loss, loneliness and connection are explored with sensitivity, honesty, warmth and respect.


Muireann Ní Chíobháin and Paddy Donnelly

Futa Fata, ISBN 9781910945476

When Scúnc finds his missing Teddy, he is dismayed to discover that its special smell has been eradicated by a spell in the washing machine. After much searching and sniffing, Scúnc makes the happy discovery that Teddy’s smell came from his mother’s hugs, so lots of hugging of Teddy will be required for the comforting smell to be regained. It is unusual to feature skunks as main characters in a picturebook and much is made in the illustrations of their comic indifference to the repulsion that their odour arouses in other animal characters trying to give them a wide berth. A warm, humorous and highly engaging celebration of love between mother and child.