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Darker side of Irish society
Ireland is not all giants, leprechauns and magical bikes. Modern social issues, showing the 'darker underbelly of Irish society', are being addressed in writing for children and young adults.
The Moon King
A case in point is The Moon King by the much acclaimed Siobhán Parkinson, a sensitive, thought-provoking and award-winning story about the problems facing foster-children.

Issues addressed
Apart from addressing the the question of foster-children, it has ’other universal themes which 'appeal to pupils in primary schools and the early years of secondary schools.'
These include the world of the imagination; friendship and love; jealousy and destructive tendencies; development of trust; gaining acceptance; childhood; and families.'

Other novels addressing contemporary issues in a way that engages children include:

Christy's Dream, an uplifting story of dreams of a horse-mad boy on a Dublin inner-city estate, and

The Blue Horse, the uncomfortable but absorbing story of the prejudice facing a young Traveller girl.

The story
The Moon King tells of the fears and hopes of a foster-child settling in with a new family. A young boy creates his own world to try to cope with his traumatic past.
Ricky is about to begin a new life, fostered by Mammy Kelly in a house away from his ineffectual mother and her abusive boyfriend.
The new house, set in a sloping garden, is tall and full of stairs. ’It is also full of children; laughing, bickering, and riotous.'
Ricky is petrified and unable to speak, although his mind races with jumbled words and thoughts.
He discovers a special, secret place where he and his only friend, Freddy, can be alone. There, in the Moon Chair, he escapes his fears and becomes the Moon King, holding court in an attic kingdom.
Rosheen & Helen
Freddy is only a soft toy, but now there is a real friend waiting for him. This is Rosheen.
She is concerned for Ricky and takes time to show him the pigeons, talk to him and save him from the cruelties of the jealous Helen.
Lipstick Woman
Rosheen cannot, however, protect Ricky from his worst fears which Helen has stoked up - that Lipstick Woman, the social worker, is coming to take him away and send him home to Ed.
Ricky runs away and the whole neighbourhood joins the search for him. Anything could happen to a confused, frightened boy on the run in a strange town.
Ricky actually makes his own way back to Mammy Kelly's tall house full of children.
He returns to the Moon Chair in the attic court, back with his old friends - Rosheen, Mammy Kelly and Tomo.
He also has the promise of a new friend, Helen, who is learning to change.

Susan Kyme-Wright's workbook
Susan Kyme-Wright of St Joseph‘s R.C. Primary School, Penketh, has compiled an engaging Year 6 workbook to help children reach a deeper understanding of The Moon King and to meet the demands of the National Literacy Strategy.


1. Predicting the story
2. What kind of boy is Ricky?
3. Who are Spiderboy and Lipstick Woman?
4. Word detective
5. You are Ricky

6. Similes and metaphors

7. What kind of girl is Rosheen?
8. Why does Helen behave badly towards Ricky?
9. Ricky and the Moon-Chair
10. What are Mammy Kelly and Tomo like?
11. Why? - Ricky, Rosheen and Helen


O'Brien Press resources: Siobhán Parkinson    The Moon King