Books newsletter: Children’s Books Ireland award shortlists; new Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and a round-up of the latest literary news

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Schindler’s Ark author Thomas Keneally takes time out on a trip to Ireland to look back on his long, distinguished career with Alex Clark. Bestselling crime writer Patricia Gibney discusses her life and work with me. Marc Davenant writes about Outsiders, his compelling photographic book and exhibition documenting the lives of homeless people.

Reviews are Jennifer O’Connell on This Won’t Hurt: How Medicine Fails Women by Marieke Bigg; Ray Burke on The Snakehead An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe; Emma Flynn on If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery; Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction; Mia Levitin on Victory City by Salman Rushdie; Declan Burke On Love Me Fierce In Danger: The Life of James Ellroy by Steven Powell; Adesewa Awobadejo on A Spell of Good Things by Ayobami Adebayo; Gerry Moriarty on Learning Behind Bars: How IRA Prisoners Shaped the Peace Process in Ireland by Dieter Reinisch; Matthew O’Toole on Confidence Man by Maggie Haberman; Niamh Donnelly on Brutes by Dizz Tate; Pat Carty on The World and All it Holds by Aleksander Hemon; Lucy Sweeney Byrne on Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell; and Sarah Gilmartin on The Home Scar by Kathleen MacMahon.

The Colony by Audrey Magee, longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for Irish Novel of the Year, is this week’s Irish Times Eason book offer. You can buy it with your newspaper this Saturday for only €4.99, a €6 saving.

A magical retelling of Cinderella as Gaeilge; wild and wonderous stories of adventure; tales of seeking asylum and Direct Provision; unsung stories of Ireland’s mythical goddesses reimagined; and a gripping mystery which brings together two girls from opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide. These are among the picture books, short story collections and young adult novels shortlisted for the 2023 KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards, which were announced yesterday by RTÉ broadcaster Rick O’Shea at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast.


This year’s shortlist, which includes four debut authors, will compete for the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year and five other awards, including honours for fiction, illustration and a Junior Juries’ Award which will be decided by young readers from across the country. A total prize fund of €16,000 will be awarded to this year’s winners, who will be announced at a special ceremony at the International Literature Festival Dublin on Wednesday, May 24th.

The Shortlist

· An Slipéar Ghloine, an Irish language retelling of the famous Cinderella fairytale, written by debut children’s author Fearghas Mac Lochlainn and illustrated by Paddy Donnelly (Futa Fata).

· The Boy Who Lost His Spark, an atmospheric long-form picture book, written by award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell, and illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (Walker Books).

· One & Everything, a thought-provoking celebration of stories and written languages, written and illustrated by Sam Winston (Walker Books).

· Be Wild, Little One, an uplifting picture book which explores the beauty of nature, written by debut author Olivia Hope and illustrated by Daniel Egnéus (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

· The Wilderness, a colourful adventure tale of bravery and friendship, written and illustrated by Steve McCarthy (Walker Books).

For readers aged nine and up, the shortlist includes:

· Girls Who Slay Monsters, a collection putting strong female characters back at the heart of Ireland’s ancient myths and legends, written by debut author Ellen Ryan, illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald (HarperCollins Ireland).

· Run for your Life, a moving and empathetic telling of a young girl’s experience of seeking asylum in Ireland, written by Jane Mitchell (Little Island Books).

· The Lost Girl King, a sophisticated fantasy tale which puts a twist on the myths of Tír na nÓg, written by Catherine Doyle (Bloomsbury Children’s Books).

· The Book of Secrets, a unique supernatural page-turner drawing on traditional Irish folklore, from debut author Alex Dunne (The O’Brien Press).

· Truth Be Told, a young adult novel which explores family secrets, religious differences and suppressed sexuality, written by Derry-based writer and peace-worker, Sue Divin (Macmillan Children’s Books).

Founded in 1990 and sponsored since 2020 by KPMG Ireland, the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards are recognised as the most prestigious awards for children’s books in Ireland, celebrating the best of Irish writing and illustration for young people.

Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, said: “Year after year, we are blown away by the incredible talent in Irish children’s writing and illustration, and this year’s shortlist raises the bar yet again. The shortlisted books announced today represent voices from across the island of Ireland, drawing on some of our most ancient myths and legends and the diverse experiences of children and young people today. We’re delighted that our Junior Juries will have such a rich tapestry of Irish writing and illustration to dig into!”

Debut author Niamh Hargan, who was born and raised in Derry and now lives in Edinburgh, has been shortlisted in the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award category with her novel, Twelve Days in May, for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual Romantic Novel Awards for 2023. Dublin author Emily Bell (who now lives in north London), has been shortlisted in the Christmas/Festive Holiday Romantic Novel Award category with her novel, This Year’s for Me and You. The awards celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in all its forms.

A new annual book prize, the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction has been launched by the charity, which champions equity for women in the world of books and masterminds the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The impetus to launch the prize was motivated by new research, which demonstrates a clear inequality in both consumer visibility (through media coverage and prize announcements) and author remuneration. This research found that female non-fiction writers, in comparison to their male counterparts, are: less likely to be reviewed in the UK national media: only 26.5 per cent of all non-fiction reviews; less likely to appear in the ‘Best Books of 2022′ newspaper articles: only 33.7 per cent; less likely to be shortlisted, or win, non-fiction book prizes: only 35.5 per cent of books awarded a non-fiction prize over the past 10 years; and more likely to receive a lower advance: female authors’ median earnings have fallen by 16.6 per cent over the past five years compared to a 13.5 per cent drop experienced by male writers.