Some of my favourite books of the year for all ages, from picture books to YA (young adult) novels. 2015 was a brilliant year for children's books - happy reading!
1/ Grandad’s Island Age 3+
By Benji Davies Simon and Schuster
One of my picture books of the year, a stunning story about a boy, Syd and his grandad which deals with death and loss in a sensitive way. Young children deserve wonderful writing and glorious illustrations and this book has both.
2/ The Day the Crayons Came Home Age 4+
By Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers HarperCollins
Belfast’s finest, Oliver Jeffers last picture book with Drew Dayalt (an American writer) , The Day the Crayons Quite was a number one New York Times bestseller last year, and was on the list for a whopping 67 weeks in total.
His new book about the crayons, The Day the Crayons Came Home, again written by Drew Daywalt, is a joyously funny book about the adventures of lost, forgotten and broken crayons with exceptional, highly original mixed-media illustrations. My picture book of the year for its originality and wit. I also love Imaginary Fred, written by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. (See below)
3/ I'm a Girl! Age 3+
By Yasmeen Ismail Bloomsbury
A celebration of being yourself by an Irish picture book maker, currently living in Bristol, with spirited illustrations that zing with colour.
4/ Irelandopedia Age 5+ WINNER OF THE IRISH BOOKS AWARDS, LISTENERS' AWARD
By Fatti and John Burke Gill and Macmillan
Beautifully produced book which brings Ireland alive in a stylish and witty way. Each spread is packed with info on the 32 countries of the island of Ireland. Not to be missed.
5/ Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill (Winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal) Age 7+
Flying Eye Books
Stunning book which won the Kate Greenaway Award for best illustrated book for children in 2015. It chronicles Shackleton’s epic journey with great originality and wit. Fascinating detailed illustrations (the dogs alone are worth buying the book for). A book made with love and passion and something a little different for fact loving children (and adults).
Irish Language Picture Book
6/ Eilifint Óg agus on Folcadán Age 3+
By Tatyana Feeney An Gúm
Recommended by my Irish speaking friend, Liz as one of the best Irish language picture books this year.
Early Readers – age 6/7 to 9
7/ The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland's Good Fortune
By P. J. Lynch Walker Books
Stunning illustrations – a book to read aloud to older children of 6+ with pictures to die for.
8/ Imaginary Fred WINNER OF THE IRISH BOOK AWARDS JUNIOR CHILDREN'S CATEGORY
By Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers HarperCollins
A heart-felt ode to friendship and the power of the imagination from an award-winning dream team.
9/ Pugs of the Frozen North
By Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre Oxford University Press
Orphan, Shen is abandoned with only 66 little pugs for company and is taken in by Sika and her family. Sika and Shen enter the Race to the Top of the World, using pugs instead of huskies to pull their sled. A funny, action packed, snowy story with great illustrations.
Fiction Age 9 to 12
10/ Once Upon a Place
Edited by Eoin Colfer, Illustrated by P J Lynch Little Island Books
A handsome hardback collection featuring original short stories and poems from Irish writers, illustrated by the award-winning illustrator, PJ Lynch. I’m proud to have a story in the mix, which sits beside pieces by Roddy Doyle, Siobhan Parkinson and Derek Landy.
11/ Darkmouth: Worlds Explode
by Shane Hegarty HarperCollins
Witty fantasy adventure aimed at a youngish readership (age 8+). Set in the mist-swirling town of Darkmouth, the last Blighted Village in Ireland plagued by Legends, mythical man-eating monsters, this book sees twelve-year-old Finn trying to save his father, Hugo who is trapped on ‘the Infected Side’. This is book 2 in the series.
12/ Grandad’s Great Escape
by David Walliams Harpercollins
Grandpa’s Great Escape takes place in 1983, ‘a time before the internet and mobile phones and computer games.’ Jack is twelve years old and adores his grandpa, a fighter pilot in World War II and now an old man.
Grandpa believes it’s 1940 and he’s still in the RAF. When Grandpa cuts food up and shares it out because of ‘rationing’, Jack thinks it’s charming. When Grandpa hurtles down a supermarket aisle in a shopping trolley, hurling bags of flour ‘bombs’ into the air, Jack thinks it’s hilarious. But Jack’s parents don’t find Grandpa’s dementia so funny and when the elderly man climbs the church spire and almost kills himself, the vicar suggests Twilight Towers, a home for ‘unwanted old folk’. But Grandpa is determined to escape.
13/ Illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay
Every house needs this book – stunning artwork. Makes the book a pleasure to read aloud to a new generation of Potter fans.
Fiction Age 12+
14/ The Truth About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin Macmillan
Honest, compelling book about a girl coping with the death of her best friend. Beautifully written and heart felt. I’m just reading this at present (it’s just out) – will finish it this weekend – but it’s stunning and def one of my books of the year. Age 11+
15/ One Age 14+
by Sarah Crossan Bloomsbury
Novel in verse about 16 year old conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi. They are beautifully drawn characters and in a short space of time you grow to love and care about them. It’s a brave, compelling, unusual book that deserves to be read.
16/ The Butterfly Shell Age 13/14+
by Maureen White O’Brien Press
Gritty Irish teen novel about bullying, self-harm and resilience, lyrically written. Nice piece of publishing by an important Irish children’s publisher.
17/ Demon Road Age 13/14+
by Derek Landy Harpercollins
Derek is an international bestseller. Book 1 in his new horror series with an arresting opening line: ‘Twelve hours before Amber Lamont’s parents tried to kill her, she was sitting between them in the principal’s office…’
Young Adult/ Age 15/16+
18/ I’ll Give You the Sun
by Jandy Nelson Walker Books
Wonderfully immersive read about twins Noah and Jude and how they manage to piece their lives together after the death of their mother. Beautifully written and highly original – it uses art/sculpture as a theme to talk about emotion and the creative process.
19/ Asking for It WINNER OF THE IRISH BOOK AWARDS SENIOR CHILDREN'S CATEGORY
by Louise O’Neill Quercus
One of the most talked about books of the year. For older teens and adults due to its subject (gang rape and consent). O’Neill’s main character, Emma O’Donovan is the Queen Bee of Ballinatoom. Her closest friends may be rich and privileged but Emma is the most popular and she knows it. But all that is about to change. An arresting, unflinching and deeply disturbing look at sexual consent and how society treats rape victims, it’s an important book in both an Irish and an international context. Jeanette Winterson says O’Neill ‘writes with a scalpel’ and she’s right. O’Neill is the strongest contender to win the Senior Award.
20/ The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness Walker Books
The premise – what does it mean to be the ‘other guy/girl’ – not the hero or heroine, just a teenager trying to get on with his or her life. Clever coming of age story by a giant of contemporary YA.