Winners of the 2024 KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards unveiled

May 2024
Share on
2024 Winners of KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards
2024 Winners of KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards (L-R) Dr Áine McGillicuddy on behalf of PJ Lynch, Thomas Docherty, John Dougherty, Clara Kumagai, Brian Conaghan and Serena Molloy

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 two Young Judges, and a network of Junior Jurors island-wide, this year’s winning titles include a compelling story of friendship, compassion, and grief; a tale of navigating life through loss, gang violence and tragedy that leads to slam poetry; a classic quest story with a modern twist and the disappearance of a special dolphin. The judging panel read a record 158 titles from Irish-born or Ireland-based writers and illustrators, the biggest year so far in the history of the awards.

Catfish Rolling the début young adult novel from author Clara Kumagai won the KPMG Book of the Year Award. Published by Zephyr, the novel explores Japanese legend alongside modern-day predicaments. Kumagai touches on themes of identity, relationships and grief along with the ethics of scientific study, exploitation and capitalism.

Alongside the winners of the six award categories, Maria Flannery, KPMG Ireland Partner, announced 11-year-old Alannah O'Donoghue a fifth class student from St. Patrick’s Girls National School, Limerick, received the KPMG Reading Hero Award, which recognises remarkable passion and achievements in reading by a young person. Alannah was selected for this award as she, "has displayed an unwavering determination and commitment to reading, and to learning through reading, whilst also finding magic in the turning of each page. She is a perfect example of what the Reading Hero Award is all about.” Alannah has been awarded a trophy, a €200 book token and her school will also receive a collection of books worth more than €1,000. With 119 nominations submitted for the KPMG Reading Hero award, five runners-up were also selected and have received €100 in book tokens. 

Speaking at today’s ceremony, Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, said: “This year’s award winners showcase the outstanding quality and variety of contemporary Irish children’s literature. The fact that so many of the winners and shortlistees are débuts is remarkable – the Awards are an opportunity for us to celebrate both emerging and established creators and to connect them with their audiences.

“Through our Junior Juries programme, we have seen the joy and excitement these shortlisted books have sparked in over 12,700 young readers across Ireland. Today, in front of an audience of 600 excited readers, we’re proud to recognise the talent and hard work of these extraordinary writers and illustrators whose work will no doubt be such a formative part of so many young readers’ childhoods.”

The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards and Junior Juries programme are supported by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Funding. A total prize-fund of €16,000 has been awarded to this year’s winners.

Award-Winning Titles
Catfish Rolling by Clara Kumagai

KPMG Book of the Year Award 2024: Catfish Rolling

Written by Clara Kumagai (Zephyr)

'From Irish Canadian Japanese author Clara Kumagai, this novel is plunges the reader into a haunting universe in the wake of a deadly earthquake in Japan that takes away seventeen-year-old Sora’s mother and fractures time itself. Japanese legend blends seamlessly with modern-day predicaments in this multilayered, philosophical book. Kumagai sweeps the reader along with powerful, authentic of her writing and the beauty of the catfish motif, which grounds it in a timeless, mythical dimension. Important themes on the ethics of scientific study, exploitation and capitalism are interwoven with tender portraits of friendship, loyalty and coming of age, set in a wholly contemporary and recognisable Japan.'

Treacle Town by Brian Conaghan

Honour Award for Fiction: Treacle Town

Written by Brian Conaghan (Andersen Press)

'Protagonist Con O’Neill and his close-knit circle of friends are caught up in a seemingly never-ending cycle of toxic masculinity, deadly gangland violence and social deprivation in a tough working-class area near Glasgow – a so-called Treacle Town that ensnares its inhabitants and drags them down. Con’s introduction to slam poetry provides him with the means to improve his life and leaves the reader with a feeling of hope. The language, raw and authentic, interspersed with beautifully crafted slam poems, makes for an absorbing read. This is an uncompromising, at times heartbreaking but ultimately rewarding story that takes the reader on a remarkable journey.'

Three Tasks for a Dragon by Eoin Colfer and PJ Lynch

Honour Award for Illustration: Three Tasks for a Dragon 

Illustrated by PJ Lynch (Walker Books)

'The balance between traditional Irish legend and timelessness is brilliantly executed in this exciting story from two former laureates. The story sees the unlikely hero Prince Lir embark on a dangerous quest to rescue Cethlenn, a not-so-helpless maiden, from the lair of the fearsome (and wonderfully illustrated) dragon Lasvarg. The many twists and turns in this exceptional and evocative tale will leave readers of all ages wishing for more.'

Wider Than The Sea by Serena Molloy

Éilís Dillon Award: Wider than the Sea

Written by Serena Molloy (Hodder Children's Books)

'This début novel is a magical and uplifting story for older child readers. Written in blank verse and evocatively illustrated by George Ermos in black and white, this lyrical, dyslexia-friendly story recounts how a spirited young girl called Ró struggles at school but finds solace in the healing power of nature. Her friendship with the dolphin Sunny is beautifully evoked. This is a powerful and moving book about inclusivity, self-belief and the importance of friendship that is sure to inspire empathy and understanding in its readers.'

The Hare-Shaped Hole by John Dougherty and Thomas Docherty

Judges' Special Award and The KPMG Junior Juries' Award: The Hare-Shaped Hole

Written by John Dougherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

'Bertle the turtle and his best friend, Hertle the hare, did everything together, but suddenly one day Hertle is gone and all that is left is a hare-shaped hole in the air. This is a sensitive, poignant and gentle story about loss and acceptance. Young children will appreciate the sumptuous, colourful illustrations and read-aloud rhyming text. One of its many strengths is that the story is open to interpretation and could be about grief, loss or change of any kind. This is a book that sticks with you. Elegant and beautiful, The Hare-Shaped Hole is destined to be a modern classic.'

Elaina Ryan, Reading Hero Alannah O'Donoghue and KPMG Ireland Partner, Maria Flannery

KPMG Reading Hero Award: Alannah O'Donoghue

Alannah O’Donoghue, a fifth class student from St. Patrick’s Girls National School in Limerick, received the KPMG Reading Hero Award, which recognises remarkable passion and achievements in reading by a young person. Speaking on the award, Alannah said: “Reading gets me into the zone, it calms me. When I read it's like I'm living in the world of the characters, reading helps me escape from the stress of school and tests.”

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, with a record of one-hundred and fifty-eight titles in 2023. Previous winners include Ellen Ryan for Girls Who Slay Monsters, 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 National Lottery Funding.