Christy’s Dream by Binch, Caroline
Picture Mammoth, 0-74974-294-1
This is set in a real area of Dublin, Ballymun, where children look after their horses amid the tower block estates. Tellingly illustrated with meticulous watercolour paintings, it relates how Christy saves up his money to buy the horse that he so longs to own like other boys on his housing estate. Nobody can stop him making his dream come true - except his ma. What will she say when he brings his new horse home? Christy’s Dream provides an excellent introduction to modern urban Ireland for children used to the Ireland of myths and legends.
The Five Hundred by Dillon, Eilís
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-262-7
When Luca finally bought the Fiat Five Hundred, Pierino was extremely proud and happy for his father, who could now easily transport goods to and from his market stall. However, Fiat Five Hundreds were stolen in Rome every day of the week and, before long, the car had vanished. Pierino refuses to accept that the car will not be recovered and, with the help of the neighbours and an observant Aunt Maria, follows the trail of the robbers along the whirling, downhill roads that lead to the strange cave in the valley.
Call of the Whales by Parkinson, Siobhán
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-691-6
This is a haunting coming-of-age novel. Tyke, who breathes, sleeps and dreams whales, gets a chance to do whaling in the icy wilderness of the Arctic with his father, an anthropologist. From his humdrum life in Dublin, Tyke steps into a world beyond his dreams, where he makes friends, has unforgettable adventures and learns the value of life and death. The author is at pains to point out ‘I have deliberately told this story of Arctic life from the point of view of an Irish narrator. And this is all this novel is meant to be: an outsider’s perspective on a rich and fascinating way of life in a place of great beauty.’
The Moon King by Parkinson, Siobhán
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-573-1
This award-winning novel is a sensitive and thought-provoking story dealing with 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. Away from his ineffectual mother and her abusive boyfriend, he is petrified and unable to speak until he discovers a special, secret place where he and his only friend, the soft toy Freddy, can be alone. There, in the Moon Chair, he escapes his fears and becomes the Moon King, holding court in an attic kingdom. Apart from addressing the problems facing foster-children, it has ‘other universal themes’ which would appeal to pupils in primary schools - the world of the imagination; friendship and love; jealousy and destructive tendencies; development of trust; gaining acceptance; childhood; and families.
The Battle Below Giltspur by MacRaois, Cormac
Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-356-4
At the foot of the Sugar Loaf Mountain in Co. Wicklow, Niamh, Daire, and the magical Glasán begin a fantastic adventure. The first of the Giltspur trilogy, it is set in modern Ireland and provides opportunities to work on the themes of mystery and fantasy, with real characters embarking upon a journey and mythical characters and powers appearing within a modern setting. Full of blood-curdling happenings, it is a rivetting fantasy, a magical tale of power and revenge, blending high adventure and ancient Irish myth.
The Lough Neagh Monster by McBratney, Sam
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-375-5
‘There are good monsters, and there are monsters who are downright pests.
Everybody knows that the Lough Ness monster is a downright pest.’
Everyone knows of the Lough Ness monster, but very few had ever heard of Noblett, the one in Lough Neagh, until Nessie decided to pay her quieter cousin a visit. Nessie, whose idea of fun is to headbutt boats and frighten old age pensioners, had left her Scottish home when her antics caught the interest of journalists and scientists. However, the pupils of Ballymascullion School are not so easily outwitted, and Noblett finds himself protecting his cousin from their Ancient Reptile Trap and the dangerous yellow monsters as Nessie makes the most of her Irish holiday.
Charlie Harte and His Two-Wheeled Tiger by Murphy, Frank
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-532-4
Charlie Harte really wanted a bike. His family could not afford to buy one, so when he found a bike frame lying between two bins, he brought it home and visited the scrapyard until he had all the makings of a functioning bike. When the bike was finished, he named it Tiger and then discovered that he and his bike could communicate with each other. With Tiger’s help, Charlie set up his own courier service, and all went well until bicycle thieves
moved into the area. In the end, though, ‘The Hair’ and his accomplice were no match for Charlie Harte and his talking Tiger!
Cirque du Freak by Shan, Darren
Harper Collins, 0-00675-416-3
Darren Shan’s first children’s book is about something out of the ordinary, but set against the background of children’s normal lives to chilling effect. The narrator and main character, Darren Shan, is a strange boy. He goes to a freak show with his friend, Steve. It’s the gothic ‘Cirque du Freak’ where weird, half human/half animals appear and interact with the audience. Darren ‘falls in love’ with a tarantula and determines to steal the spider so that he can train it to perform amazing deeds. Soon, Darren and his friend Steve are caught up in a deadly trap. Darren must make a bargain with the one person who can save him. But that person is not human and only deals in blood. Darren must become the vampire’s assistant and a half-vampire himself in a bloody initiation ceremony. According to the author, ‘It’s not a book that sets out to be frightening for the sake of it. Dark things happen, but they happen for a reason, and there are definitely repercussions.’
Under the Hawthorn Tree by Conlon-McKenna, Marita
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-206-6
This, the first of an award-winning trilogy, is a gripping story of love, loyalty and courage set in the time when Ireland was devastated by the Great Famine of the 1840s. Three children, Eily, Michael and Peggy, are left to fend for themselves. Starving and in danger of the dreaded workhouse, they escape in the hope of finding the great-aunts they have heard about in their mother’s stories. With tremendous courage they set out on a journey that will test every reserve of strength, love and loyalty they possess. There are also a Channel 4 film of the book, available on video from 4 Learning, and a study guide (O’Brien Press, ISBN 0-86278-383-9) to both the book and the film.
Safe Harbour by Conlon-McKenna, Marita
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-422-0
In this exploration of the trauma of evacuation and the tensions between generations, Sophie and Hugh are left homeless when their house is bombed during the London Blitz. Their mother is seriously injured and their dad is away fighting, so the children are sent to their grandfather in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, which maintained its neutrality during World War Two. Sophie is scared - they had never met their grandfather but his letters cause such trouble in the house, and their dad never speaks of him. How will they live in a strange country, with a man who probably hates them - and will the family ever be together again?
Hugh adapts quickly to his new surroundings but Sophie finds it difficult to communicate with her grandfather until they work together to save an injured German pilot
Favourite Irish Fairy Tales by Lally, Soinbhe
Poolbeg Press, 1-85371-777-0
There are seven stories in this lavishly illustrated volume which creates magical worlds where magnificent heroes, beautiful maidens and evil villains abound. Many of the stories Soinbhe Lally ‘heard from story tellers when I was a child. Others I found in books. To a child they are windows which open upon glowing landscapes of the imagination.’
The Story of Bran; The Sea Woman - the favourite among IiS schools; The Children of Lir (front cover); How Cúchulainn Got His Name; Oisín in the Land of Youth; The Brown Bull of Cooley; The Salmon of Wisdom.
Celtic Magic Tales by Mac Uistin, Liam
O’Brien Press, 0-86278-341-0
The rich lore of magic from the ancient Celts fills these stories:
The Quest for Mir and Aideen
a touching love quest, one of the oldest and loveliest of the traditional stories, where magical powers get people in and out of trouble.
The Fabulous Deeds of the Sons of Tuireann
one of the three stories known in Gaelic tradition as ‘The Three Sorrows of Storytelling’.
Chuchulainn and the Feast of Bricriu
heroes of other tales, instead of being at one another’s throats, are involved in humorous events connected with the contest for her hero’s portion at the feast organised by the devious Briciu.
Deirdre and the Sons of Usnach
love brings tragedy in this epic story of bravery, loyalty and honour intermingled with jealousy, betrayal and death.
Shak & the Beanstalk by O’Loughlin, Aishlinn
Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-574-5
When Shak, the blackbird, lands himself in trouble with the kingdom’s most notorious crooks - that well-known housebreaker Goldie Locks and her less-than-bright brother Jack - he has to fly for his life, and ends up in a cloud country he never knew existed. That’s where he meets Ark, a giant who dreams of being a stand-up comedian. Only problem is, he just isn’t funny. But while Shak’s trying to help Ark develop a sense of humour, Jack has got his family’s cow-selling scam all wrong, and Ma Locks has thrown his magic beans away. The author, an Irish teenager, has re-told several other traditional tales in a similar style.