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All reviews tagged with Celia Keenan

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1913, Larkin’s Labour War

This book takes on a big challenge. The story of the Lockout of 1913 is a complex political and economic story. It is the story of Dublin’s working class. Like many other important events in Irish history it is also a story of failure, albeit failure transformed. This book is classified as a graphic novel,…

A Girl Called Blue

The suffering of children in the care of church and state in orphanages and other institutions is a very topical and politically sensitive issue at present, as Irish people re-examine the past. As we disinter this misery, it is to be expected that we need to mediate it for today’s children. Because of her earlier…

A Little Aloud for Children

This volume is an anthology of poems, stories and extracts for children of unspecified age. Everything about the volume is well-intentioned and all royalties are going to the Reader Organisation. There are about seventy pieces in all, arranged under approximately thirty headings designed to attract young readers, from ‘Sailing Away’ in the beginning to ‘Angels’…

A Poem for Everyone

This is an attractive lively collection of poems that would offer pleasure to the thoughtful reader whether of nine or ninety years. The blurb on the back jacket seems rather unfortunate as with its use of ‘From mums and dads to cowboys and spacemen – all human life is here’ it suggests that only a…

All of Us: A Young People’s History of the World

This book, lavishly and attractively illustrated in a rich, varied, colourful style is ostensibly for 7-10 year olds. However, its language register would suggest an older target age group.  It is problematic from the points of view of inclusivity and historical accuracy. I will use gender to illustrate this, though I could equally use ethnicity…

An Táin

The story of the Táin has more modern contemporary resonance than almost any of the other classic Irish stories, with its materialism, greed, promiscuity, drunkenness and boastfulness. Many of its happenings would not be out of place after contemporary weekend revelries in Ireland: and the results are equally tragic, particularly for the young. Conflict begins…

Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature

This substantial and wide-ranging study explores the construction of childhood in the so-called Golden Age of British children’s literature covering approximately seventy years from the mid nineteenth to the opening decades of the twentieth century. The introduction maps out the parameters of the book clearly and states that the study will take issue with previous…

Blood Tracks

**SPOILER WARNING** This reviewer loved the book so much that they couldn't help give some things away. You have been warned!   **SPOILER WARNING** This story begins in a dramatic, disturbing manner when  sixteen-year-old Gina’s beloved father picks her up from her running practice, drives through the rain-soaked evening to a desolate part of town,…

Bombs and Blackberries: A World War Two Play

Donaldson’s children’s play was first published in 2003, by Wayland, in a cheaper, practical edition suitable for using in schools. The most immediately striking thing about this more luxurious edition is the richly attractive illustrations creating a sense of warmth and intimacy not commonly associated with plays for children. In fact, those very illustrations contribute…

Children’s Literature in English at the Turn of the Millennium

Like so much published in the field of children’s literature, this collection is something of a mixed bag, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, reflecting as it does the diversity of interests involved in the field. It is a collection of essays and papers forming part of the proceedings of two conferences held…

Diver’s Daughter: A Tudor Story

Eve Cartright, twelve year-old English-born girl of African origin lives a precarious life with her mother in Elizabethan London. Hunger threatens continually. No one can be trusted. Exploitation is a constant threat. Eve’s mother is an excellent swimmer and diver, and saves Eve from drowning when a boat capsizes in the Thames. They then set…

Eloise Undercover

Eloise is a feisty French twelve-year-old with a passion for detective stories in which an ace sleuth, Monsieur X, solves mysteries and instructs readers on the art of mystery-solving. When her beloved father disappears in occupied France she decides, detective-like, to find him. She joins the local Resistance and endures many trials and challenges, which…

Lord of the Nutcracker Man

This is an extraordinarily compelling novel about 10-year-old Johnny, who grows up extremely rapidly in the three months between October and December 1914. In this most traumatic period his life changes for ever, as his father, a toymaker who has lived to give pleasure to children, goes to fight in the trenches, and his mother…

Love my Enemy

This novel set in contemporary post- Good Friday Agreement Belfast. Although military hostilities have ended, sectarian hatred has not. Typical young adult concerns about alcohol, sex, exams, money and work are given an added sharpness, pain and cruelty because of this. youthful sexual activity is depicted in a harsh, explicit, realistic and decidedly unromantic way,…

Oliver Cromwell: The Most Hated Man in Irish History

This time-slip novel tells the story of Cromwell’s Irish campaign. It is a well-grounded and well-researched book. It gives up-to-date references and online resources that would be very useful to students and teachers. The time-slip elements are imaginatively handled. In a re-enactment of Cromwell’s attack on Drogheda during a school trip, 12-year-old Liam receives a…

Passing for White

This novel is based on the true story of Ellen and William Craft, as told in their memoir. It is by and large a very faithful account of their journey from slavery into freedom. The reason for the change of names to the fictional Rosa and Benjamin of the novel may possibly be explained by…

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

This charming piece of nostalgia consists of an interconnected set of ten chapters, each with an individual adventure featuring the familiar cast of characters from A.A. Milne’s well-loved classics. The action is occasioned by a slightly older Christopher Robin’s return from boarding school to his beloved friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. There is one…

Robbers on the Road

This story in the ‘Tudor Flashback’ series is distinguished by an ingenious plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s comic robbery plot in Henry the Fourth Part One. Indeed, the boy heroes and narrators remind one of the noble prince Hal and his comic sidekick Falstaff. Francis Enterley is a boy who comes from a noble recusant Catholic…

Shackleton: The Voyage of the James Caird: A Graphic Account

This graphic history is one of a series which presents the explorations of the Arctic and Antarctic by Irish and British explorers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In some ways, this is the most important of all those stories because the purpose of the journey changes dramatically from one of glory (crossing the…

Something Invisible

In this book Parkinson returns to a simple third-person narrative form, with a single protagonist who remains the centre of our interest throughout the story, 11-year-old Jake, a clever and eccentric boy who discovers he is capable of friendship, courage and guilt. The novel is about his emotional growth in the course of a summer.…

Suee and the Shadow

This beautiful, unsettling Korean graphic novel combines text and art in an almost seamless way. Suee is a courageous but cynical twelve-year-old. Her parents have divorced. She lives with her recently demoted, depressed father. She is forced to move both home and school, from Bustle Elementary to Outskirts Elementary, and to a tiny house. She…

The Adventures of Pinocchio

This is a new edition of what has now become a 20th century classic, first published in English in 1988 in E. Harden’s fine translation. Innocenti’s superb illustrations rescued Pinocchio from Disney’s sentimental infantilism and restored to us a fairy story set in a real time and place, in Italy, in Tuscany, where hardship and…

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

Boyne’s latest novel for young people echoes The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, both in the title and in the cover image featuring barbed wire. The plot also echoes elements in the first novel.    Set between 1933 and 1951, this is the story of Paris-born Pierrot Fischer’s coming of age. At seven years of…

The Bull Raid

This is a courageous and ambitious retelling of the story of the Táin. It is courageous because it engages with the sexual earthiness, the graphic brutality and the heroic sense of tragic fate of the early versions. So Queen Maeve’s famous great bladder, and her use of sex to get her own way or simply…

The Fall

The Fall is a perfect example of how to write for young adults who find reading a challenge while still keeping the story intellectually and thematically engaging.  McGowan refuses to compromise on quality, substance or the emotional challenges that he offers readers – there is no condescension or dumbing down here. The young adult reader is…

The Grave

This is a strange and interesting famine story which is valuable because it tells a rarely told story of the relationship between Ireland and Liverpool in the 1840s, inspired by an event which the author claims really occurred in 1973. When a new school was being built in St Oswald’s parish, Old Swan, Liverpool, it…

The Great Fire of London

This strikingly beautiful historical picturebook has been published to commemorate the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the great fire of London of 1666. It is a very fitting tribute to that event. It is a model of how to present facts to children in a clear, logical, well-written but always engaging style. It uses…

The Industrial Revolution (A Graphic Novel)

This graphic history represents a number of positive values, most especially the value of mass migrations of peoples from country to city, and from countries to new continents. These facilitate and necessitate industrialisation. It places the highest value on individual inventiveness and the ceaseless quest for wealth. It ends by claiming that huge populations are…

The Little Hippos’ Adventure

When the words hippos, mud, riverbank, jungle, snakes, crocodile appear in a text, one might be forgiven for expecting colour, warmth, energy and excitement. However, these do not feature in this reassuring and quiet picturebook for young children. The story could be about chickens or kittens or puppies and it would make very little difference…

The New Policeman

Kate Thompson’s work always surprises with its daring, its inventiveness and the sheer quality of her writing. After each of her novels, the reader with a sense of excited anticipation wonders ‘what will she do next?’ And yet there is always the sense of continuity, of the authentic authorial voice and the same deep human…

The Rising Son

‘He had never wanted to come here… He only ever wanted to be the boy who enjoyed football and television and computer games… Until he came to Dublin that was who he was… now he was someone else. He was Irish … he had a history that was full of sadness. He shouted with all…

The Secret Summer of Daniel Lyons

An unusual little slice of English social history informs this unpretentious novel. It is set just before the First World War. It focuses on working class life in a seaside town near Brighton, and on the beginnings of the film industry which will transform 20th-century culture. The hero of the novel, Tom (or Daniel), is…

The Story of Michael Collins

In a series of short, clearly-headed chapters, this biography tells of the short life of Michael Collins from his West Cork boyhood to his tragic death. It is sensitive to the complexity of history. The character of Collins is very vividly portrayed as are those of some of the other characters. The late Iosold Ní…

The Summer of Riley

This fast-paced cleverly assembled story has as its central character an 11-year-old boy called William, who has suffered many of the rather clichéd troubles of contemporary children’s literature. His father has separated from his mother three years previously, has been inattentive to his son in the meantime, rarely responds to phone calls, visits even more…

Watcher of the Skies: Poems About Space and Aliens

This anthology is very ambitious. Its central idea is very laudable, to link poetry about the universe with serious and reliable scientific information and then to extend this to ideas about writing poetry and other activities for children themselves. It contains over thirty poems by twenty-seven different poets. The poems’ themes are hugely varied, from…

Wonder Goal!

This story signals that it has a highly significant personal meaning by making the end papers a collection of the author’s sketches of football games from troubled parts of the world from 1970 to 1999. It begins with a Lowry-like depiction of the nameless hero’s first game with his team on a cold grey-green pitch…

Young Irelands: Studies in Children’s Literature

This, the fourth collection in the Studies in Children’s Literature series from the Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature and Four Courts Press is arguably the most important and coherent to date. It is entirely devoted to Irish children’s literature. It both builds on what has gone before and opens up new possibilities. While alert…

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