Unveiling the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Award winners 2023

May 2023
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Winners of the KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards 2023 (L-R) Fearghas Mac Lochlainn, Paddy Donnelly, Alex Dunne, Steve McCarthy, Ellen Ryan, Shona Shirley Macdonald
Winners of the KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards 2023 (L-R) Fearghas Mac Lochlainn, Paddy Donnelly, Alex Dunne, Steve McCarthy, Ellen Ryan, Shona Shirley Macdonald.

The winners of this year’s KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards were announced today by host Rick O’Shea at a ceremony held in Merrion Square, as part of International Literature Festival Dublin.

Selected by an independent panel of expert judges, including a Young Judge, and a network of Junior Jurors nationwide, the winning titles include an illustrated retelling of Cinderella as Gaeilge; an anthology of unsung stories about Ireland’s mythical goddesses; a mischievous mystery for younger readers; a colourful adventure tale of bravery and friendship; and a supernatural page-turner for ages nine and up, drawing on the darker side of Irish folklore.

Girls Who Slay Monsters, written by debut author Ellen Ryan and illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald (shortlisted in 2022 for Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí), won both the KPMG Book of the Year Award and the KPMG Junior Juries’ Award, which is voted for by thousands of young readers across Ireland.

Alongside the winners of the six awards categories, Maria Flannery, KPMG Ireland Partner, announced 13-year-old Shi Lei (Mila) Chen from Presentation Secondary School Waterford as winner of the KPMG Reading Hero Award, which recognises remarkable passion and achievements in reading by a young person. Shi Lei was selected as the winner of this award, due to her love of reading in both English and Chinese, having moved to Ireland just two years ago. Her sister, Shi Rong, accepted the award on her behalf.

A total prize-fund of €16,000 has been awarded to this year’s winners.

Speaking at today’s ceremony, Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, said: 'Our congratulations to every one of the authors, illustrators and publishers celebrating their wins today. Through our KPMG Junior Juries programme, we have seen the wonder and delight that these six books have inspired in young readers across Ireland, and it is a joy to recognise and reward the artists that created them at this level.

'Ireland has always been a nation of storytellers, and every one of these winners exemplifies the sheer excellence visible in contemporary Irish children’s books. As we celebrate another year of the KPMG Children’s Book Awards, we hope that today’s celebrations encourage them to keep creating stories that speak as powerfully to their readers as these.'

Award-Winning Titles
Girls Who Slay Monsters by Ellen Ryan, illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald

KPMG Book of the Year Award and KPMG Junior Juries Award: Girls Who Slay Monsters

Written by Ellen Ryan and illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald (HarperCollins Ireland)

This outstanding book brings oft-forgotten goddesses and heroes of Irish mythology out of the depths of an ancient past and into the reader’s present. Ryan’s wonderfully rich (and well-researched!) text and Macdonald’s sophisticated palate combine beautifully to create an innovative book that celebrates storytelling, curiosities, and female power. Firmly anchored in the landscape of this island, the book reminds us that these tales are forever etched into our hills and the valleys and the lakes and beaches; our mythic past is present in the everyday.

The Boy Who Lost His Spark

Honour Award for Fiction: The Boy Who Lost His Spark

Written by Maggie O'Farrell and illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (Walker Books)

'This remarkable and moving story of Jem as he tries to adapt to his new life in the countryside, is a refreshingly quiet tale about the necessity of having a little bit of magic in life. Unhappy with his lot, Jem begins to see his world differently when a mischievous little creature called a nouka makes its presence known. The calmness of the tale reminds readers that they are in the hands of assured and expert storytellers: writer and illustrator have created a special narrative that readers will want to revisit time and time again.'

The Wilderness by Steve McCarthy

Honour Award for Illustration: The Wilderness

Written and illustrated by Steve McCarthy (Walker Books)

'This fun and playful picturebook follows the story of the Vasylenko family as they head out to brave the wilds and search for adventure – well, all members of the family except young Oktober, who prefers to find his adventures in the safety of books. Until one day he discovers that maybe the Wilderness isn’t as monstrous as he thought. This original tale engages with the importance of dealing with your feelings and shows the transformative potential of a different point of view.'

The Book of Secrets by Alex Dunne (9+)

Éilís Dillon Award: The Book of Secrets

Written by Alex Dunne (The O'Brien Press)

'This fast-paced story inspired by Irish myth and folklore brilliantly intertwines the real and the magical. Eleven-year-old Cat Donnelly has the Sight, like others in her family before her, and so is particularly open to all things supernatural. Set around Hallowe’en when the Trooping Fairies descend on the small town of Clonbridge, this is an exciting adventure with just the right level of creepiness – dark, but not too dark. There’s a real urgency to the writing, sweeping readers along through an original and imaginative tale of magic in contemporary Ireland.'

An Slipéar Gloine

Judges' Special Award: An Slipéar Gloine

An Slipéar Ghloine, written by Fearghas Mac Lochlainn and illustrated by Paddy Donnelly (Futa Fata)

'A refreshing take on the story of Cinderella, this Irish-language retelling brings new life to an old classic. Fantastic pictures and playful rhyming text work together brilliantly to tell the tale of Luaithrín bhocht, tormented by her sisters Smaoisín agus Straoisín, as well as by her leasmháthair Camilla, until the prince arrives with the titular glass slipper, transforming Luaithrín’s fate. Full of humour and wit, this is a book that readers will want to return to again and again.'

Shi Lei Chen, KPMG Reading Hero 2023

KPMG Reading Hero Award: Shi Lei (Mila) Chen

'Congratulations to our Reading Hero Shi Lei Chen who was nominated by her teacher, Caroline Fox. Shi Lei came to Ireland from China aged 11 and is a voracious reader in both English and Chinese.  We were delighted to hear about the incredible kindness and empathy for the characters bought to life through reading in class. This along with her dedication to improving her reading and writing in English has been truly admirable.”

About the KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards

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 1st January and 31st December 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 one-hundred and thirty-nine titles in 2022. Previous winners include C.G. Moore for Gut Feelings, Oein DeBhairduin and Leanne McDonagh for Why The Moon Travels, Máire Zepf for Nóinín, Deirdre Sullivan and Karen Vaughan for Tangleweed and Brine and for Savage Her Reply, Chris Haughton for Goodnight Everyone, and former Laureate na nÓg Sarah Crossan for One.

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