Marita Conlon-McKenna, Paul Howard, Patricia Forde recommend Irish children’s books

Three Irish children’s authors pick the books they will be choosing for the children in their lives this year

Paul Howard

Best known as the creator of rugby jock Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, Paul Howard has also authored a children’s book called Aldrin Adams and the Cheese Nightmares and co-written three children’s books with former Ireland rugby player Gordon D’Arcy

An eleven-year-old Bram Stoker, future author of Dracula, and ten-year-old fishmonger Molly Malone team up as child detectives to thwart crime in Alan Nolan’s The Sackville Street Caper and its recently published sequel, Double Trouble at the Dead Zoo (O’Brien Press). Nolan, one of Ireland’s finest children’s authors, brilliantly imagines Victorian-era Dublin in these two gripping, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, which are full of laugh-out-loud moments, colourful characters that almost leap from the page and a hero and heroine that you can’t help but take to your heart.

Amy Huberman’s The Day I Got Trapped in my Brain (Scholastic) is a book that deserves to become one of those never-out-of-print children’s classics. It tells the story of Frankie Finkleton, an eleven-year-old girl on the threshold of adolescence, who has a world inside her head called Thoughtopolis, where she goes for weird-and-wonderful adventures. But when she gets trapped there, she has to uncover a secret if she is to navigate her way back to the real world. Beautifully illustrated by Katie Kear, it’s filled with humour and heart.

Freddie Alexander’s Mr Spicebag (HarperCollins) is a darkly hilarious delight of a book, beautifully illustrated by Helen O’Higgins. Not only is it an origin story of that most peculiarly Irish fast-food delicacy, it’s an exciting tale of mystery, infused with Dahlian humour, about a greasy villain and the hypnotic hold he has over the town. At the centre of the story is George, a young boy who stands outside the chipper run by the devilish Mr Spicebag and wonders, ‘What’s he doing in there?’ Alexander is an author with a fantastically wacky imagination. His second foray into children’s fiction, Monster Island (Scholastic), is the magical story of a young girl named Sam, who discovers that monsters under the bed are real, but putting jam on your feet before you go to sleep will frighten them off. Needless to say, don’t try this at home.


Patricia Forde

Laureate na nÓg, Ireland’s Children’s Literature Laureate. Her latest book is The Girl Who Fell From Earth, published by Little Island.

I’ve always read children’s book both as a child and an adult. At the moment I’m really lucky that we have a fabulous selection of Irish authored books to choose from.

I love poetry and Púcaí Schmúcaí written by Gabriel Rosenstock and illustrated by Tarsila Krüse and Úna Woods does not disappoint. The book comes with its own soundtrack, music and singing by Sinéad Ní Uallacháin and the children of Scoil Naomh Gobnait, Dún Chaoin. Age 4+

If you are a fan of historical fiction, as I am, you will love Sarah Webb’s The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street. This book brings to life the Dublin of 1911 and the squalor of the tenements. A lovely cast of characters and a powerful story of family and friendship. Age 9+

Serena Molloy’s first book is Wider Than The Sea and is a gentle and moving story of friendship, hope and self-discovery. Serena herself is dyslexic and her book celebrates neurodiversity and the power to change. Age 9+

From the talented Meg Grehan comes The Lonely Book, a heart-warming story of magic-realism. Full of love and kindness, the story explores how a non-binary person comes to understand and accept themselves. It’s also set in a bookshop which is always a good thing! Age 10+

And finally, from Sinéad Ó Hart comes an exciting new fantasy firmly rooted in Irish mythology called The Silver Road. This is a fast paced adventure for middle grade. The old magic is fading and the Frost Giant has entrusted Rose with a powerful stone that can do great good or great evil. Can Rose keep the stone from falling into the wrong hands? Age 9+

Marita Conlon-McKenna

One of Ireland’s best-known children’s authors, and many parents will themselves recall reading her bestselling Famine story, Under the Hawthorn Tree, in school

Talented new writer and artist Kate Sheehy’ colourful and funny new picture book Too Many Cats is a sheer delight as cat lover Lily gets her wish and her house becomes overrun with cats of every kind. Picture book classic Owl Babies by the great Martin Waddell is one for little kids everywhere.

Shane Hegarty writing is zany and fun from the amazing Boot books about a little tin robot, to his latest series, The Shop of Impossible Ice Creams. Limpet and his sister move to a seaside town where his mum opens a shop making every kind of weird flavour ice cream but soon runs up against wicked ice cream maker Mr Fluffy.

Alan Nolan’s The Sackville Street Caper introduces us to the young Bram Stoker who runs away from boarding school and meets up with Molly Malone, a street urchin and pickpocket in a fast paced fast adventure set in Dublin of 1868. The two of them join forces to thwart hoodlums and the evil Count and his plans to steal the Irish Crown Jewels. Bram and Molly’s gripping adventures together continue in Double Trouble at the Dead Zoo.

Run with the Wind, the classic story of foxes battling to survive in a changing world by Tom McCaughren has been reissued and is ideal for a new generation of young nature lovers.