This year looks set to be another stellar one for children's books, and Irish young adult (YA) in particular will blaze a trail in 2016. There are new titles from brand names such as Julia Donaldson, Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, plenty of interesting debuts and some intriguing books from 'grown up' bestsellers Cecelia Ahern and Sheila O'Flanagan.
Children's Laureate Eoin Colfer's Iron Man novel for children comes from Marvel in autumn - and according to Colfer, the billionaire playboy Tony Stark is set to get the Dublin treatment. Puffin's lead title this spring is Dave Rudden's The Knights of the Borrowed Dark (March), the first in a trilogy featuring Denizen Hardwick, a boy who doesn't believe in magic until he's ambushed by a monster created from shadows. HarperCollins is very excited about Cecelia Ahern's debut YA novel, Flawed, set in a society where perfection is everything (March); while Hachette will be publishing The Crystal Run, Sheila O'Flanagan's fantasy debut for age 10-plus, in May. Gill and Macmillan presents its first YA novel ever in April, from Eilis Barrett, a writer who is a teenager herself. Her book, Oasis, is set in the future and follows a group of teen outcasts.
Little Island has been making waves with its strong fiction list, and looks set to do so again in 2016. First up in February is Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan, for young adult and adults, a novel about child abuse and its aftermath that I read in one sitting. An important and beautifully written book.
Also from Little Island for older teens is Anna Seidl's No Heros (March), the story of a school shooting and its aftermath, a publishing sensation in its native Germany; in May it launches The Best Medicine by Belfast writer Christine Hamill, about a 12-year-old boy whose mother has breast cancer.
Kim Hood's debut YA novel, Finding a Voice was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize in the UK last year and her second novel, Plain Jane, is out in April from O'Brien Press. The story of a 16-year-old girl whose sister has cancer, it's one I'm looking forward to as I love her vibrant writing voice.
The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (Macmillan, May) follows physics prodigy Gottie Oppenheimer as she navigates a summer of both grief and rips in the space-time continuum; while The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Macmillan, April) is a World War II story set in Amsterdam about a girl who gets involved with the resistance. Puffin Ireland editor Claire Hennessy's YA novel, Nothing Tastes as Good, is published by Hot Key in July and is already creating quite a stir. Annabel is a recently deceased anorexic teen who is assigned as a ghostly 'helper' to Julia, another girl with an eating problem. Brian Conaghan's The Bombs That Brought Us Together (Bloomsbury, April), dealing with terrorism and war, sounds very promising; and Derek Landy is back with the second book in his Demon Road trilogy, Desolation (HarperCollins, March).
For readers aged nine-plus, there's book three of Shane Hegarty's Darkmouth series, Chaos Descends (HarperCollins, April); and also the latest novel by Brian Gallagher (O'Brien Press, April) called Arrivals, a Canadian murder mystery set in 1928. Ger Siggins is to publish another book in his popular sport series, Rugby Flyer (O'Brien Press, February); and Matt Griffin tackles a war between humans and fairies in Stormweaver (O'Brien Press, April). It's great to see Corkman Kieran Crowley back with The Mighty Dynamo (Macmillan, May), about a boy who dreams of being a footballer. I'm currently reading the exquisite Anna and the Swallow Man by New York-based Gavriel Savit (Bodley Head, January), set in World War II. And finally for this age group, the US writer Kate DiCamillo returns with Raymie Nightingale, a novel about a friendship which changes lives forever (Walker Books, April).
Poolbeg will add Maebh Banrion na Troda (February) and Sceal Naomh Padraig (March) to their Nutshell library for younger readers; and the ultimate staying-between-the-lines challenge has to be Where's Wally? The Colouring Book, from Walker Books in June. Sarah Bowie's picture book Let's See Ireland (O'Brien Press, April) has striking artwork; and finally, Julia Donaldson's Detective Dog, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Macmillan, June), about a dog with an extra keen sense of smell, sounds as if it will make both children and parents smile.
This piece first appeared in the Sunday Independent.