Some children’s and young people’s books for Christmas

Some children’s and young people’s books for Christmas

This time of the year is for booksellers at least the busiest time for children’s books. Books always make an acceptable present. But for those buying them, mostly parents and grandparents, some care has to be taken.

Don’t get carried away by the title hypes in the press or prominently displayed in bookshop windows (that space is paid for in many cases – so you are seeing a commercial offering rather than a staff curated presentation of what is best). Here nevertheless are some notions for presents.

The President’s Dog, by Peter Donnelly
(Gill Books, €16.99)

This is the good news, a further addition to artist Peter Donnelly’s series about the goings on up in the Park which have been the most delightful of Irish publications over the last decade.

The great hairy friend of his Excellency in real life is transformed into the friend of us all. In the new episode the President and his dog have an adventure on those high Wicklow hills to the south of the Park.

It’s the first outing there for the dog. But the weather turns bad, as it does so quickly up there, and while he shelters, the President sends the dog off to find help. After some adventures this he manages to do, bringing the air rescue team to the right place. So all is well, and both the man and his dog “are back in the Áras in time for tea”.

It’s Too Dark, Puffling, by Gerry Daly, illustrated by Erika McGann

(O’Brien Press, €14.99)

All is not well on Skellig. Puffling’s little friend is afraid of the dark – how well we all know that feeling – so Puffling and the other birds on the rock have to rally round and show the timid little one that the dark nights can be friendly too. (It’s a lesson we all have to learn at some time, and this book presents a happy way of dealing with it.)

I Am the Wind: Irish Poems for Everywhere Children, edited by Lucinda Jacob, Sarah Webb and Ashwin Chacko

(Little Island, €22.99)

An anthology of poems suitable for younger readers from the Irish tradition. ‘The Song of Amergin’, from which the title comes, though found in a medieval manuscript, as they say, is a very ancient song, perhaps the earliest Irish poem known in fact, coming as it does from an ancient account of how this island was settled.

One cannot introduce children early enough to the long line of Irish verse, but the price seems a little bit steep for what is involved. Still this is an ideal book for this time of year.

Peter and the Wolf, text by Gavin Friday with illustrations by Bono

(DK Children, €16.99)

This book is sold partly in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation. The text is by Gavin Friday, the illustrations from drawings by Bono. I have some doubts about this treatment of the great composer’s own original narrative.

This is not a folk tale, but a story by the composer Prokofief himself. But ‘reimaginings’ are, as we all know, current everywhere and often well respected, so perhaps I am just being old fashioned.

Wonder Vet: The Amazing Adventures of Aleen Cust, by Jennifer Farley

(Beehive books, €16.99)

Within any family network there is always at least one pony-mad girl who wants to become a vet, and why not? This delightful book relates in graphic form the adventures of the girl who became the first qualified female vet in these islands.

By the way work is under way by a group of vets to create a museum to her memory in the west of Ireland; for many years she had a practice of her own in Roscommon. She was a remarkable woman.

Show Me the Science, by Luke O’Neill

(Gill Books , €16.99)

One of Ireland best known scientists undertakes a mission to make science both real and relevant to young people, but it’s worthwhile keeping in mind in our enthusiasm for the knowledge that has transformed Ireland in recent decades, that other elements in our culture are important too, such as literature and philosophy, which scientists too often seem to discount.

Kay’s Incredible Inventions, by Adam Kay, with illustration by Henry Parker

(Puffin Books,  €14.99)

Coming as I do from a family of inventors, patentees and gadget makers I am all for those people who manage to transform our lives with better aids to living. I know too that many of their ideas are daft and in the end unusable, but where would we be without them.

They are the people, and not heroes and patriots, who have really changed and improved life over the centuries. If you have a budding inventor or two around the house this is the book to encourage them. A mechanical engineer is as valuable today as a digital mastermind.

The Spiritual Journey of Saint Patrick, by Aidan J. Larkin SSC

(Messenger Publications, €14.95)

One often feels that there ought to be something serious for older young adults in their Christmas stockings. Surely in that wide family network alluded to above, there might be at least one young adult who might perhaps harbour what used to be referred to as ‘a vocation’.

For that young person this book might be one to think of. After 15 young people read books of an apparent difficulty that would surprise their parents. So why not?

If anyone wants to understand the role of religion in Ireland over the centuries, the place to begin is at the beginning. Nothing in this book would be beyond the understanding of a young person facing their Leaving. (If it is, they are in the wrong school.)