We’re all excited here at Mykidstime as the 25th Childrens Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards had 10 titles coming up trumps. Here are the 10 Best Childrens Books in Ireland last year:
: Gabriel Rosenstock and Brian Fitzgerald for Haiku Más é do thoil é!
#1. Once Upon an Alphabet – winner 25th CBI Book of the Year Award
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers. Oliver is the third author ever to win both the Book of the Year Award and the Children’s Choice award.
The letters of our alphabet work tirelessly to make words that in turn make stories, but what if there was a story FOR each of the letters instead? Turn the pages of this exquisite book to find out… Here you will discover twenty-six short stories introducing a host of new characters (plus the occasional familiar face).
From Edmund the astronaut with his awkward fear of heights, via the dynamic new investigative duo of the Owl and the Octopus, through to the Zeppelin that just might get Edmund a little bit closer to where he needs to be, this book is packed with funny, thrilling, perilous and above all entertaining tales inspired by every letter in the alphabet.
Judges’ Comments: Every school, every home, every person should have at least one copy, as this is a book that bears repeated readings. Each letter of the alphabet is introduced with its own story, that weave in and out of one another asking the reader to make connections and cross-references. Although this is an alphabet book, the cleverly constructed stories and quirky line drawings make this the perfect read for children of all ages.
#2. Shh! We Have a Plan – Honour Award for Illustration
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Four friends, three big and one little, are out for a walk. Suddenly, they spot it – a beautiful bird perched high in a tree! They simply MUST have it and – SHH! – they have a PLAN. So they tip-toe, tip-toe very slowly, nets poised – “Ready one … ready two … ready three … GO!” But, at the turn of the page, we find a ridiculous bunch of very tangled characters and a blissfully oblivious bird, flying away.
One hilarious foiled plan after another and it’s clear that this goofy trio CANNOT catch that elusive birdie! But the littlest of this group, a quiet spectator up until now, knows that a bit of kindness and sweetness can go a lot further than any elaborate scam. Will his three friends follow his gentle lead or will they get themselves into even more trouble?
Judges’ Comments: Three determined but incompetent baddies and a whole world of humour in a story that is perfectly paced and revealed visually with the minimum of words through vibrant, carefully chosen colours and inventive collage. A perfect picturebook that provides space for the reader to make predictions, to draw inferences, to activate prior knowledge, to discuss, appreciate and really enjoy the expressive (and impressive) artwork. Every art-room, every classroom, every home should have multiple copies.
#3. Daideo – Honour Award for Fiction
Daideo by Áine Ní Ghlinn
Buachaill ar a theitheadh óna thuismitheoirí. Seanduine ar a theitheadh óna pháistí. Castar ar a chéile iad ar an traein go Baile Átha Cliath. Éisteann siad le scéalta a cheile. Tuigeann siad a chéile. Cén toradh a bheidh ar an gcairdeas nua seo?
Judges’ Comments: Gearrscéal fada nó úrscéal gearr? Is cuma – is scéal fíor-chliste so-léite í a gheobhaidh greim docht agus a rachaidh i bhfeidhm ar léitheoirí d’achan aois. Agus iad ag éisteacht le scéalta a chéile ar thraein go BÁC, fásann gaol idir seanfhear agus gasúr óg (12) atá ag éalú óna thuistí. Cuireann rithim na rothaí ar ár suaimhneas muid agus ní bhraitheann muid i gceart an teannas agus agus dorchadas ag bagairt. Gaeilge den scoth, do dhaltaí meánscoile sa 1ú/2ú bhliain.
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#4. Only Ever Yours – Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Mean Girls in this bold and original debut. In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends freida and isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year. But as the intensity of final year takes hold, isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…
Judges’ Comments: A powerful debut novel set in a dystopian future which reflects many of the most worrying issues in our own world. The novel gives a terrifying insight into a dark and unsettling world where young women are powerless in choosing the direction of their own lives, where their self-worth depends on their diet and their wardrobe and whether they are chosen to be a wife. Suitable for older teenagers, this novel highlights the inequalities and double standards of our own society, making it a thought -provoking read for both girls and boys.
#5. Haiku Más é do thoil é! – Judges’ Special Award
Haiku Más é do thoil é! by Gabriel Rosenstock illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald
Gheobhaidh tú freagra na ceiste sin, chomh maith le mórán ceisteanna eile faoin haiku, sa saothar spraíúil seo le Gabriel Rosenstock. Ar an aos óg atá an saothar seo dírithe ach bainfidh idir óg agus aosta sult as an léargas a thugtar ann ar dhomhan iontach an haiku.
Judges’ Comments: Saothar fíor-shuimiúil, fileata é seo. Éiríonn leis an údar (agus is file é féin) an léitheoir a mhealladh gan aon stró i saol agus filíocht haiku ón 18ú aois sa tSeapáin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann. Ní fada go mbeidh an léitheoir faoi gheasa ag draíocht an fhile, í/é beo i saol liteartha aoibhinn álainn, ag féachaint ar an dúlra agus ag smaoineamh faoi, agus sleachta Haiku ag rith go tréan lei/leis.
#6. When Mr Dog Bites
When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Dylan Mint has Tourette’s. For Dylan, life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that escapes whenever he gets stressed. And, as a sixteen-year-old virgin and pupil at Drumhill Special School, getting stressed is something of an occupational hazard. But then a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he’s going to die next March.
So he grants himself three parting wishes: three ‘Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It’. It isn’t a long list, but it is ambitious, and he doesn’t have much time. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no one – is quite as he had previously supposed.
Judges’ Comments: Dylan Mint is a sixteen-year-old living with Tourette’s Sydrome. This coming of age story is by turns touching, hilarious and innovative in its use of language. Conghan writes with a finely tuned ear to the true ways in which teenagers communicate. The book delivers some excellent talking points for teenagers and young adults around the nature of masculinity, friendship, family and love.
#7. Apple and Rain
Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
When Apple’s mother returns after eleven years of absence, Apple feels whole again. She will have an answer to her burning question – why did you go? And she will have someone who understands what it means to be a teenager – unlike Nana. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother’s homecoming is bitter sweet, and Apple wonders who is really looking after whom. It’s only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is, that she begins to see things as they really are.
Judges’ Comments: Sarah Crossan’s insightful, thoughtful, heartfelt poetry is juxtaposed against prose that is stark by contrast. Both poetry and prose work together to paint a vivid picture of a teenage girl coping with the loss of and subsequent reunion with an absent, occasionally untrustworthy mother. This first-person narrative completely captures Apple’s pain and anger, bewilderment and confusion. There is much to discuss and to explore, touching on themes of immigration, prejudice, love, family and coming of age.
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#8. The Apple Tart of Hope
The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
The best baker in the world, Oscar Dunleavy, is missing. Everyone presumes he is dead but no one seems too surprised. Only Meg, his best friend, and his little brother Stevie are shocked. Surrounded by grief and confusion, Meg and Stevie are determined to find out what happened to Oscar, and together they learn about loyalty and friendship and the power of never giving up hope.
Judges’ Comments: Twenty chapters make up twenty ‘slices’ of a deep-filled apple tart: the interwoven and beautifully written alternating narratives of Meg and of her best friend Oscar. He is missing, presumed dead by his own hand. The sliver or two of magic realism adds piquancy to the story, gradually revealed, of how sustained bullying combines with insecurity and poor communication skills to (almost) destroy even the most popular of students.
Primperfect by Deirdre Sullivan
No, don’t DO it! Prim’s alive (though the dashing Roderick is, alas, no more). She’s sixteen. She’s trying to make sense of her mum’s diaries. She is trying desperately to make Joel be friends with her again, but he’s all friends with Karen (aka the devil) now, and Prim’s found a boy called Robb-with-two-bees, and then there’s Steve the Goblin, and her dad’s getting together with you’ll-never-guess-who, and as for what’s going on with Ciara and Syzmon … Everything’s a little imperfect.
Judges’ Comments: Life, death, and everything in between. Young people reading the final instalment in the diaries of Primrose Leary (and, in this book, of her mother) will wish more final instalments were as insightful, as honest, as touching, and as laugh-out-loud funny. Few writers deal so sensitively, so convincingly and so intelligently with the ups and downs, hopes and disappointments – the realities – of young adulthood. Read these diaries – laugh, and weep.
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#10. Beyond the Stars
Beyond the Stars, compiled by Sarah Webb, features twelve tales of adventure, magic and wonder, written by some of the most outstanding talents in children’s fiction today, including John Boyne, Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin, Roddy Doyle and Derek Landy, with stunning illustrations from the likes of Chris Haughton, Chris Judge, P.J. Lynch and Niamh Sharkey.
Judges’ Comments: A beautiful collection of twelve proper short stories, no textbook excerpts here! There is a great freshness and variety to the stories and the illustrations, donated by twenty-three of Ireland’s best and best-loved authors and illustrators to raise funds for Fighting Words, the creative writing centre in Dublin where so many young people have written and illustrated their own stories. The stories range in subject from dogs in space, to invisible cats and ancient warriors, most suitable for the 8-12 age group. The anthology includes a story from competition winner Emma Brade, age 14, who will surely be an inspiration to young students with ambitions of writing and publication.
Over to you now. Have you read any of these? Tell us what you thought in the comments below.