Best new kids’ books: the Children’s Books Ireland list

Eoin Colfer, Chris Haughton and Historopedia on 10-strong shortlist

Chris Haughton, winner in 2011 of the Children’s Book of the Year prize, has been shortlisted again. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Chris Haughton, winner in 2011 of the Children’s Book of the Year prize, has been shortlisted again. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The shortlist for the 27th CBI Book of the Year Awards was revealed today at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, featuring former winner Chris Haughton, last year’s Eilís Dillon award winners Fatti and John Burke and former Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer among the 10 contenders. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 23rd at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • Anna Liza and the Happy Practice by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Matt Robertson
  • Billy Button, Telegram Boy by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey
  • Bliain na nAmhrán scriofa ag Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin, maisithe ag Jennifer Farley, Brian Fitzgerald, Tarsila Krüse agus Christina O’Donovan
  • Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton
  • Historopedia by Fatti Burke and John Burke
  • Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan
  • Óró na Circíní agus Scéalta Eile Ón Afraic athinste ag Gabriel Rosenstock, maisithe ag Brian Fitzgerald
  • Plain Jane by Kim Hood
  • The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
  • The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things by Paul Gamble

Founded in 1990, the CBI Book of the Year Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland. They are a celebration of excellence in children’s literature and illustration and are open to books for all ages written in English or Irish by authors and illustrators born or resident in Ireland. Previous winners include Sarah Crossan for One, Oliver Jeffers for Once upon an Alphabet, John Boyne for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded and Kate Thompson for The New Policeman, Annan Water and The Alchemist’s Apprentice.

Dr Patricia Kennon, chair of the judging panel that read more than 80 titles, said: “Each year the jury for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards explores and examines Irish storytelling and illustration for children and young adults in both Irish and English and across all genres, formats and reading ages, using the principle and standard of excellence as the compass for creating the annual shortlist of outstanding books. The awards emphasise the importance of the aesthetic, imaginative, intellectual and emotional resonance of literature for young readers, and celebrate artistic and literary distinction, innovation and impact.”

Children’s Books Ireland which administers the awards, will again be working closely with reading groups from schools, libraries and bookshops across the island of Ireland. These young readers will choose the winner of the Children’s Choice Award. Reading groups nationwide are invited to sign up for the shadowing scheme via www.childrensbooksireland.ie. Five other awards will also be made in May – the CBI Book of the Year Award, Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Eilís Dillon award for a first children’s book and the Judges’ Special Award.

CBI director Elaina Ryan said: “This year Children’s Books Ireland is celebrating 20 years of working to make books a part of every child’s life. We are proud to present this shortlist of ten excellent titles, marking the very best in Irish writing and illustrating for children. It is of particular satisfaction to note that six of the ten books on the shortlist are Irish published, highlighting the quality of books being produced for young readers. We trust that this shortlist will encourage a passion for reading for pleasure in children across the island of Ireland.”

Shortlist profiles

Anna Liza and the Happy Practice by Eoin Colfer
Barrington Stoke, Age 5-8
Anna Liza’s mother is a psychiatrist and Anna loves to help cheer up the unhappy children of her mum’s patients. However, her usual songs and favourite jokes don’t work with Edward who’s sad because his dad is sad so Anna Liza devises an unorthodox plan … This empathetic and optimistic first-chapter book has an irresistible appeal. Eoin Colfer’s deceptively simple story sensitively explores mental health issues while Matt Robertson’s witty and humane illustrations perfectly interpret and resonate with the text.

Billy Button, Telegram Boy by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey
Barrington Stoke, Age 5-8
Set at a time before mobile phones and email, this enticing historical chapter book chronicles the adventures of Billy Button, a telegram boy who finds himself involved in more than delivering messages when grumpy Mr Grundle receives an unexpected message from an old sweetheart. Sheena Dempsey’s delightfully nostalgic and whimsical illustrations, accomplished enhancement of Sally Nicholls' text, and visual interweaving of historical details skilfully conjure the time period, creating a warm and beguiling narrative experience for young readers.

Bliain na nAmhrán scriofa ag Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin, maisithe ag Jennifer Farley, Brian Fitzgerald, Tarsila Krüse agus Christina O’Donovan
Futa Fata, Age 3-7
This sumptuous illustrated collection of songs in Irish invites young and old audiences to celebrate the seasons and the natural world. Accompanied by a CD and beautifully illustrated by a team of accomplished illustrators, this multimedia collection offers a special aesthetic experience.

Cabhraíonn na hamhráin Ghaeilge seo le daoine, idir óg agus aosta, ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar na séasúir agus ar an dúlra. Is eagrán maisithe é seo de na hamhráin agus tá léaráidí áille sa chnuasach seo a thugann eispéireas céadfach dúinn. Tá dlúthdhiosca ar fáil in éineacht leis an eagrán maisithe.

Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton
Walker Books, Age 1+
The sun is setting, everyone in the forest is getting sleepy but one little bear is trying to stay awake … Chris Haughton’s vibrant illustrations combine perfectly with deceptively simple narrative in this mesmerising bedtime tale. Chronicling a series of animal yawns, the colour palette gradually darkens as the world of the forest is painted in sunset. Haughton’s use cut-outs are particularly effective and the star maps in the endpapers add a mystic dimension to this captivating story.

Historopedia by Fatti Burke and John Burke
Gill Books, Age 8+
Time travellers of all ages will be engrossed and delighted by this absorbing chronicle of Ireland’s history and mythic past across the eras to the present day. This talented father and daughter team have established a perfect partnership of research, text and visual storytelling where the innovative design deepens and skilfully visually interprets the rich and accessible range of historical knowledge. Readers young and old will enjoy exploring this created impressive and gorgeously executed narrative experience.

Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan
Little Island Books, Age 15+
Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan is a poetic and eloquent exploration of violation, abuse and neglect and advocacy of the transformative power of art. Starkly genuine and sincere, Sullivan’s powerful use of the metaphor of tattooing invites reflection about identity, difference, self-protection and self-invention. This searing yet delicate representation of adolescent experience will resonate deeply with teenagers and is a story that needs to be told and needs to be read.

Óró na Circíní agus Scéalta Eile ón Afraic athinste ag Gabriel Rosenstock, maisithe ag Brian Fitzgerald
An Gúm, Age 9-11
This collection of retellings of oral African stories juxtaposes the traditional and the contemporary while honouring the tales’ cultural contexts and is sensitively retold by Gabriel Rosenstock and evocatively illustrated by Brian Fitzpatrick. Perfect for reading aloud and for independent readers.

Is cnuasach béaloidis é seo de scéalta ón Afraic a bhfuil blas traidisúnta agus blas comhaimseartha le brath iontu. Tá comhthéacsanna cultúrtha mar chroílár na scéalta. Athinsíonn Gabriel Rosenstock na scéalta seo go híogair agus maisíonn Brian Fitzpatrick iad go hallabhrach. Is scéalta iad seo atá oiriúnach don léitheoireacht neamhspleách nó don léitheoireacht os ard.

Plain Jane by Kim Hood
O’Brien Press, Age 12+
Jane’s little sister Emma has cancer and for the last three years has occupied all their parents’ attention. Jane loves and worries about her little sister but still can’t help resenting her parents for not noticing the impact that Emma’s illness is having on her. Kim Hood’s novel sensitively and movingly explores what it is like to struggle with a mental illness, the push and pull of family dynamics, the turbulence of young adulthood, and the difficulties of seeing someone you love suffer.

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
David Fickling Books, Age 14+
Cut off from the rest of the world by carnivorous Sídhe, Irish children over the age of ten wait in fear to be abducted and hunted by these vicious faery folk. Following the travails of several teenagers, including Nessa (unlikely to survive the ‘Call’ due to being permanently disabled from polio), this intense story does not flinch from exploring the price of survival. Ó Gulín has created an engrossing young adult novel with rich world building and a distinctive evocation of dread, suspense and resilience.

The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things by Paul Gamble
Little Island Books, Age 9+
Get ready for a rollercoaster of zaniness, adventure and hilarity! This debut novel by Paul Gamble skilfully juxtaposes the fantastical, thoughtful, comic and mundane. The relentlessly curious Jack, on a mission to find his missing friend, is recruited into the secret Ministry of Strange and Unusual and Impossible Things (Ministry of S.U.I.T.S) which deals with all the weird creatures and objects in the world. Enhanced by witty footnotes and explanatory subsections, this deliciously imaginative and immersive novel is a joy to read.

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