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All reviews tagged with Paula NicIomhair

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A Place Called Perfect

Helena Duggan has taken the brave step of self-publishing her first book for children. A Place Called Perfect concerns a young girl named Violet who moves with her family to a new town where her father has just been given what (on the surface, at least) appears to be the perfect job. The houses, gardens and…

Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire You

As its title suggests, this is an amazing resource for young girls and boys, with a vast selection of women who have changed the world in some way. Potted biographies stand alongside glorious illustration. Some of the names are familiar – Michelle Obama, Helen Keller – but others such as Shirin Ebadi and Radia Perlman…

Becoming Dinah

Becoming Dinah re-imagines Moby Dick in a modern YA setting. Dinah has been brought up on a remote commune, home-educated and sheltered from society. After her parents’ messy separation, she convinces her mother to allow her to attend secondary school, with a view to university entrance. Dinah’s strange clothes earn her the nickname ‘Clothes Bank’…

Beyond the Bright Sea

Roughly once a year comes a children’s book of unexpected brilliance, a book that has you hooked from the first sentence and keeps you eagerly turning pages until the early hours of the morning. It has the feel of an instant classic; and like an addict, you want more. This is such a book. Wolk’s…

Bloodsong

Gay sex, masturbation and teenage pregnancy sit alongside betrayal, warfare and infanticide in this aptly named gore fest from master of controversy, Melvin Burgess. Inspired by the Volsunga Saga, Burgess utilises the story of Sigurd, his battle with the dragon and his doomed love for Brynhild: transplanting the characters and themes into a dystopian vision…

Carve the Mark

Veronica Roth is perhaps one of the better known writers of Young Adult dystopian fiction. Divergent was made into a film and Roth has a certain multimedia or crossover appeal. In this her latest novel, she stretches her oeuvre to include science fiction, setting this book in a different galaxy with two main planets peopled…

Dead Time (The Murder Notebook)

It is unusual to find a book for teens which takes on adult themes and an adult genre, and succeeds as well as this. A murder-mystery and cold case investigation with a difference, it blasts previous detective fiction for young adults out of the water. Cassidy’s characters are precisely defined and believable, and her descriptions…

Doctor Illuminatus

A timeless battle between Good and Evil (where genomes, quantum physics and medieval history coexist with an homunculus, alchemy and time- travel) lies at the centre of this exciting tale of three children (siblings Pip and Tim from the present, Sebastian from 1442) who spend their summer engaged in a battle of wits with the…

Eldest

Christopher Paolini, the wunderkind of fantasy, finished his home education at the age of fifteen and translated his love of science-fiction into his first novel, Eragon, a bestseller in the US and the UK. Eldest takes up the story where the first left off. Both books are mighty tomes, and Paolini provides a synopsis of…

Forged in the Fire

No Shame, No Fear was shortlisted for both the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2004. This sequel continues the story of young 17th-century lovers, Will and Susanna, a story containing many universal themes – romance, struggle against parental disapproval, not being able to afford to marry and set up…

Grisly Tales from Tumblewater

Grisly tales from Tumblewater is a collection of stories, tied together with an overarching metanarrative. The setting is a darkly comic town, at an undetermined, Victorian-esque point in history. The misery of the inhabitants’ lives is only lightened by the telling of horrific tales, which function as an acknowledged type of group catharsis. The main…

High Rise Mystery

Knights Of is the amazing new publishing house for children’s books started by David Stevens and Aimée Felone, set up to address the imbalance in children’s publishing and to offer a window into different worlds. Figures from Book Trust Represents from the period 2007 – 2017 showed that just 5.6% of published UK children’s authors…

Lionboy: The Truth

The mother and daughter writing team behind the ‘Lionboy’ books have produced a fitting finale to the trilogy. Charlie, the young hero, has just been reunited with his parents. They live on a futuristic/parallel earth, where a sinister capitalist firm, the Corporacy, has set up ‘Gated Communities’ to cater for the paranoid rich. The Corporacy…

Little Evie in the Wild Wood

This is a wonderfully lyrical book which perfectly encapsulates the beauty of a woodland walk, whilst also tapping into our primal fears of the dangers of the forest. It is a beautifully illustrated and lovely story which subverts the traditional moral/ lessons of the folktale and challenges the reader’s expectations. The text locates itself firmly…

Mostly Mary (A Mary Plain Adventure)

Mary Plain is an orphan bear living with her relatives at Berne Zoo in Switzerland. Her delightful adventures were first published in 1930 by Welsh author Gwynedd Rae, and the books were much loved by the family of author-illustrator Shirley Hughes, whose daughter Clara has illustrated this charming book. The childlike Mary Plain is a…

Nest

Esther Ehrlich’s début novel is a riveting journey into the psyche of a young girl dealing with complex and intense emotional states due to circumstances beyond her control. Naomi ‘Chirp’ Orenstein lives on Cape Cod with her sister Rachel and her parents, next door to the troubled Morell family with their boisterous and sometimes troublesome…

Ossiri and the Bala Mengro

This is a charming and fun tale about a young traveller girl named Ossiri whose family are ‘Tattini Folki’ or rag-and-bone people. Ossiri’s family recycle unwanted old goods, mending old clothes, fixing broken furniture, selling scrap iron. They live in caravans and are happy. Ossiri loves music, but the family can neither afford to buy…

Outside: A Guide to Discovering Nature

Winner of the Bologna Ragazzi award in 2015, this amazing book is full of information and hints for outdoor activities to get even the most reluctant couch potato up and out. Part encyclopaedia, part instructional guide, it is written in plain, straightforward terms which will appeal to reluctant readers and fact aficionados alike. The writers…

Over the Wall

A family split by the Berlin Wall leads to a young girl’s difficulty in accepting a father she’d thought dead. Karo and her mother have always lived alone, with Karo believing that her father had died before she was born. The discovery of his existence shatters her youthful idolisation of an unknown figure, when the…

Pass the Parcel

Big, bold, bright simplistic illustrations perfectly partner simplistic repetitive text in this ‘lift the flap’ picturebook for infants. Mouse delivers Frog a square parcel which is patterned and coloured the same as Frog. When the flaps are lifted, a circular parcel with a different colour and pattern is revealed. When the page is turned, a…

Paws Off My Book

I love this gorgeous picturebook! It celebrates the joy of reading whilst at the same time encouraging diversity and individuality. Olaf the giraffe is delighted to have a great book to read – but his delight is soon tested by the enthusiasm of his other animal friends, who each try to convince him that their…

Skychasers

The plot and story for this book came from an innovative competition, the Big Idea Competition which has been running for the last few years and is open to all entrants aged 13 – 103! The judges have a wealth of literary magic behind them, and include amongst their esteemed number Barry Cunningham (the man…

Soonchild

Russell Hoban’s latest offering is unconventional, unusual and innovative, as is to be expected from a man used to collaborating with illustrators like Quentin Blake and having writers like Will Self pen introductions to new editions of his work. Soonchild is one of those rare finds, a book so hard to classify or pigeonhole for…

The Angelica Touch

L. J. Sedgwick is a well-known name in screenwriting circles. Anybody with young children will be aware of Punky, possibly the first mainstream animation worldwide to focus on a main character with special needs. This, her latest book for young adults, is set on a wild peninsula in Donegal. Angelica is the titular main character,…

The Book of Learning

E. R. Murray’s middle-grade mystery of magic and reincarnation is a thrilling and promising début. Young Ebony Smart from rural Ireland lives with her grandfather as her parents disappeared when she was very young. Her grandfather (who has never been ill) is her sole carer, and when he dies suddenly, her life is thrown into…

The Book of Revenge (Nine Lives Trilogy)

E. R. Murray’s thrilling trilogy for younger readers comes to a close in fitting and fantastic style as the heroine of the books, young Ebony Smart, must overcome dangers and horrors to defeat the enemies of the Order of the Nine Lives. Without revealing too many spoilers, suffice it to say that Ebony overcomes ghosts…

The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales

Birds are the common theme uniting all the stories and poems in this wonderful and attractive anthology. There are twelve tales from a wide variety of sources. Ray begins the collection with Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’, a bittersweet story of generosity and love, and follows it with ‘Mulungu Paints the Birds’, a creation myth…

The Foolish King

With Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown on board, you know you can expect fun and irreverent accompaniments to the text, and this doesn’t disappoint. Mark Price, the current Minister of State for Trade and Investment in the UK, was prompted to write this for his daughter to teach her to play chess. It is a…

The Foreshadowing

Marcus Sedgwick, winner of the Branford Boase Award for his first book, Floodland uses World War I as a setting for his latest book. The foreshadowing of the title refers to the gift/ curse experienced by the narrator, teenager Alexandra Fox. Like the seer Cassandra of Greek myth (with whom she empathises), Alexandra can prophesise…

The Ghosts of Magnificent Children

Busher’s début novel opens in Victorian England, in the year 1848. Her evocation of dark streets populated by orphans and petty thieves is loaded with a sense of horror and fear, so that when young street child Ginny runs into the sophisticated grown up Antonia, the reader suspects that it will not end well. Both…

The Hidden Kingdom

Ian Beck began his career as an illustrator, he was notably involved with producing the cover art for Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, and has published over 60 books for children. His latest offering is a sword and prophesy fantasy utilising typical generic tropes: ancient evil threatening to erupt through the fissures separating our world…

The Invasion

Peadar O’Guilin possesses that rare literary talent, a gift for creating characters and images so visceral, so real, that they remain with you years later. I reviewed The Inferior for Inis over a decade ago – and I’m still describing it and recommending it to anyone interested in genre bending sci-fi. With this sequel to…

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

The basic premise of this charming picturebook is a familiar one from the world of fairy tales, that a young princess needs to find a husband and her parents must choose the suitor, with one caveat – he must be able to source the most wonderful thing in the world. Prospective grooms arrive laden with…

The Pack

True stories of maltreated children in Russia, Africa and sometimes closer to home are obvious influences in this Orwellian post-apocalyptic tale of a group of almost feral children who have formed a pack with wild dogs. The shocking but impactful first chapter manages to convey, through the description of a lorry driver’s journey from ‘Forbidden…

The Salmon of Knowledge

This retelling captures the essence of the Irish myth of Fionn MacCumhaill in a gorgeous modern edition by Irish writer and illustrator, Celina Buckley. A primary teacher, Buckley graduated from Cambridge School of Art with a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration, joining such graduates as Jenni Desmond and Steve Antony. This is her first picturebook,…

The Savage Kingdom

Screenplay writer Simon David Eden brings his skills in plotting suspense and action to his first book for children. Jam-packed with ideas, adventure and humour, The Savage Kingdom will appeal to animal lovers, video game fans and avid readers alike. There’s a strong political undercurrent to the plot, which involves the Animal Kingdom declaring war…

The Savages

Hardcore crime novels fade in terms of shock value by comparison to this particular black comedy, which, in terms of non-generic fiction, reminds me of The Wasp Factory in its ability to produce a physical reaction in the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed it – but I found it simultaneously disturbing. The subject matter won’t appeal to all,…

The Trouble With Perfect

Helena Duggan’s first novel, A Place Called Perfect, introduced amazing characters and a chilling plot. Fans of Neil Gaiman will appreciate this book, which continues the adventures of Violet and Boy whilst introducing new characters and new misadventures to befall them all. Beautifully presented by Usborne, the gorgeous artwork on the cover continues inside with…

The Watcher in the Shadows

Originally published in 1995 as Las Luces de septiembre, this haunting story by Catalan/Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon has finally been translated into English. Set in France before the start of World War II, it’s a gothic tale of an old mansion on the coast, and the mysterious Lazarus Jann who lives there alone, years after his…

The Widow and the King

An excellent first novel deserves an excellent followup, and with this sequel to ‘The Cup of the World’, John Dickinson has delivered. The civil war that beset the kingdom in the first book rages on, with kings being crowned and then deposed, towns sacked and innocents slaughtered by those in pursuit of power. Phaedra’s son,…

Unremembered

A teenaged girl miraculously survives Freedom Airlines Flight 121 crash over the ocean but as she recovers in hospital, it becomes clear to all that she has amnesia and that her family and background may never be found. Her name is not on the flight manifest and nobody can remember her boarding the plane. On the…

Untold: Lynburn Legacy

Set in the sleepy town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, Untold is the sequel toUnspoken. Kami Glass, the teenage heroine, is determined to keep evil out of her town, so much so that she will do everything that she possibly can to make a difference, helped ably by her circle of friends, including brothers Jared and Ash.The book is a…

Upside Down in the Jungle

This delightful and whimsical book follows the adventures of Ruby and Madeline Flynn whose scientist father, Dr Wade, is sent to work at a jungle resort called La Lava, ostensibly to track an endangered bird’s habitat. His job is not as it seems, and by way of a coded letter, he manages to let his…

Varmints

Shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway prize in 2009, this beautiful book has been reissued in paperback. It tells the story of an idyllic, rustic wilderness where the only noise is natural – the wind in the long grass, the bees and birds in the blue sky, and the moles underground. The tranquillity is shattered by…

Vitello Gets A Yucky Girlfriend

The Vitello series of books follows the adventures of the eponymously named Danish boy who lives with his mum in an industrialised area. The books proved highly successful in Denmark, they were included in a McDonald’s Happy Meals promotion throughout Scandinavia, and have piqued the interest of director Lars Von Trier, who has optioned the…

Warduff and the corncob caper

This picture book is ideal for children who are learning to read, but still enjoy the power of illustration to enliven the story. The language is simplistic enough for learners to sound out most of the words, while the basic plot has universal appeal. The inhabitants of Corncob Farm are under threat from a very…

Will Gallows & The Wolfer’s Deadly Magic

The young elfling, Will Gallows, made his first appearance in 2011’s Will Gallows and the Snake- Bellied Troll, and the series has continued with three further books of high octane adventure, the latest of which involves the return of a fearsome enemy (Imelda, the savage wolfer) intent on revenge, just as Will is about to…

Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire

‘Fiendishly fast paced’ says the press release, and this new book from Simon Nicholson does not disappoint. His television writing credentials (from ‘Tracy Beaker’ to ‘Timmy Time’, ‘Bob the Builder’ to ‘Tickety Toc’) stand to him as the action explodes from the very first chapter, where an imagined young Harry Houdini lies tied to a…

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