Animals Don’t Have Ghosts

This is a pleasant variant of the ‘town mouse, country mouse’ fable, set in modern Dublin. It is told in the voice of eight-year-old Michelle who is visited by her country cousins Sinéad and her younger brother Dara, whom she describes as ‘culchies’. Michelle’s description of a range of amusing incidents allows her to reveal her prejudices: she prefers grass ‘the way they have it in St Stephen’s Green, properly mown and with flowerbeds in the middle’ to the untidiness of the countryside. A visit to the Natural History Museum gives her the idea of frightening Dara by pretending to be the ghost of a megaloceros, a giant prehistoric Irish deer, but the scene is unlikely to frighten the reader and Dara’s tears are assuaged by the promise of a midnight feast. There is a little gentle teaching about tolerance for people who are different, such as ‘winos’ and immigrants, but this is not obtrusive.

The book is graded by O’Brien as ‘red flag’ which is intended for readers of 8+, though I think the subject matter could well appeal to children younger than this, especially if it were read to them. Certainly the interaction between the characters, and the visits to places with which readers may be familiar, such as museums, galleries and shops, could appeal to both boys and girls as young as 6.