Childrens books

IGGY AND ME by Jenny Valentine (Harper Collins; €5.92). It’s end of term and little Iggy is worried. “Who will look after the hamsters and the guinea pigs?” she asks.

Reassured that people would take them home and look after them during the holidays, she wonders what the teachers will do. “Someone will take the teachers home too,” says Dad. Iggy doesn’t get to take home a hamster or a guinea pig, but she is given the care of Barnaby, the class teddy bear, and takes him on the family holiday. Minding a precious teddy at the seaside can be risky! This is a charming, funny and well-paced read for ages seven to eight, or as a read-aloud for ages five to six.

Across The Divide by Brian Gallagher (O’Brien Press; €7.99) is an interesting blend of fiction and history in a tale set against the backdrop of Jim Larkin’s labour movement and the 1913 Lockout. Liam O’Meara’s father is a Larkin activist and has the wholehearted support of his son, while Nora Reynolds’ father is a well-off employer and consequently diametrically opposed to any hint of unionisation. Nora is a strong-minded young girl who, inspired by an idealistic young teacher, is not afraid to voice her opinions and stand up for her principles – a suffragette in the making. Liam too is caring and courageous and the youngsters forge an unlikely friendship, which is severely tested when Liam’s father is jailed as an agitator. The atmosphere of a troubled Dublin city awash with tension and poverty is excellently captured, and while the events are dramatic in themselves, protagonists Liam and Nora are rather too similar in outlook and that bit too perfect for us to engage with them fully.

101 Things To Do to Become a Superhero... or Evil Genius by Richard Horne and Helen Szirtes (Bloomsbury; €8.35). This is the latest in a series, with tongue-in-cheek assignments and challenges ranging from creating a moral compass to learning how to communicate with animals.

Mary Arrigan

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