Junior readers: Top children’s books to gift

This year’s selection of children’s books features stories with universal themes, cute dogs and reindeer, superb illustrations, and iconic Irish settings, says Emmet Arrigan

Junior readers: Top children’s books to gift

This year’s selection of children’s books features stories with universal themes, cute dogs and reindeer, superb illustrations, and iconic Irish settings, says Emmet Arrigan

Reindeer Down by Natasha Mac a’Bháird, O’Brien €14.99 (HB)

Some bad driving by Santa sees the sleigh crashing on a snow-covered rooftop to the dismay of Rudolph’s son Rory. Dancer seems badly injured and won’t be able to continue so Santa heads for Phoenix Park to enlist a sub.

All ends well in this delightful mixture of fantasy and iconic Irish settings. The illustrations by Audrey Dowling are beautiful, capturing the affection and support shown by the other reindeer, as well as Rory’s excitement. Age 5+

McTavish Takes The Biscuit by Meg Rosoff, Barrington Stoke €8.40

McTavish is a rescue dog who does the most rescuing! Pa Peachey had entered the town bake-off competition and set about constructing a cake in the shape of the Palace of Versailles. A total of 3784 gingerbread biscuits were needed as well as a horse load of sugar to glue the walls together. Pa’s creation wouldn’t even merit a novelty prize but McTavish has a devilish plan. Age 8+

Cora Staunton by Eimear Ryan, O’Brien €8.99

Here we learn about the inspirational Cora Staunton from her exchanges and interaction with other characters and family members. Cora’s path to fame was not straightforward, though the narrative has plenty of humorous anecdotes.

Her ambition was to win an All-Ireland title with the Mayo seniors, but just before the final, she suffered a horrific shoulder injury. The manager insisted she would line out for one minute — with the agreement of Waterford.

It was her first All-Ireland medal. All this before she had finished her Leaving Cert. Age 9+

The Girl And The Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes, Bloomsbury €12.50 (HB)

In this lovely, innocent story, Marianne digs in the sand and uncovers bones of a long-extinct dinosaur.

She wishes that ‘Bony’ would come alive and be her friend and sure enough she dreams that he takes her on an adventure to see unicorns and a magic town where other children have journeyed in their imagination.

Superb watercolour illustrations by Sarah Massini and a lively rhyming narrative all contribute to making this a classic book for keeps. Age 4+

Eva And The Perfect Rain by Tatyana Feeney, O’Brien €12.99 (HB)

When it comes to rain, Eva is a perfectionist — it has to be umbrella rain, not gusty nor thundering down.

Having survived the temporary loss of her new umbrella, she decides drizzle is acceptable as there will now be puddles to jump in and the flowers will look so much more colourful.

She is charmed when the sun produces a brilliant rainbow. A cheerful tale of a lively little girl with her bright umbrella and irrepressible enthusiasm. Age 5+

Jack And The Jungle by Malachy Doyle, Bloomsbury €5.90

During the summer holidays, Jack absentmindedly boots his football over the neighbour’s wall.

A girl shouts out that she is being attacked by a savage wolf, three ferocious tigers, and even a venomous snake. But the girl discovers a door in the high wall and invites Jack to come look for the ball himself. What he finds is a major surprise — he has a new friend.

Delightful illustrations by Paddy Donnelly and a typical Malachy Doyle twist in this multicultural tale. Age 5+

The Night-Time Cat And The Plump Grey Mouse. by Erika McGann, O’Brien €14.99 HB

At midnight a plump grey mouse emerges from the pages of The Book Of Kells followed immediately by a very hungry and famous cat-Panguar Bán.

Let the chase begin as the starving cat sets off in pursuit, not getting much sympathy from the Trinity College ghosts as he follows his prey. ‘Silly cat’ seemed to be the most frequent comment, though Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu were more interested in their own horrific creations than either Panguar Bán or the mouse. This is an ingenious collaboration between Erika McGann and Lauren O’Neill whose richly coloured illustrations bring a gentle inspiring tale alive. Age 6+

All Better by Inese Zandere, Little Island €10

This attractive collection of poems translated by Catherine Ann Cullen, with cheerful illustrations by Reinis Peterson, looks at the ordeal of going to the doctor. Make the best of it is the message.

No point in blaming The Unfair Fairy for your ailment so get fighting The Jellyleg Germs by taking your medicine. Age 5+

Where Are You, Puffling? by Erika McGann and Gerry Daly, O’Brien €12.99 HB

The bleak landscape of Skellig Michael is no place for a lost Puffling not yet able to fly. But on her travels, Puffling had stopped to help a gannet, a kittiwake, and even the dolphins.

The big guns have to be brought in to effect the rescue as Puffling heads out to sea on board a small boat. The scenery of Skellig Michael is excellently realised in Gerry Daly’s illustrations. Age 6+

Mo Theachín Gan Chuma Gan Chaoi by Julia Donaldson, Futa Fata €9.95

An old lady is advised by a passing gentleman to invite in various animals to share her one-roomed house. Each one causes chaos: the hen breaks a precious vase, the pig roots in her cupboard, and the cow does Riverdance on her table. Age 4+

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