Children’s books

Robin’s Winter Song by Suzanne Barton (Bloomsbury; €14.80) Winter is coming and the autumn trees are bustling with activity. 

As the birds prepare to fly away to warmer climes, curious little Robin stays on to find out how the animals who live in the forest would fare in the cold winter. 

Because cold harsh wind was coming, Squirrel was burying his nuts, and Owl was making his feathery nest cosy and warm. This is a beautifully tender story of a little robin’s first winter, garnished with splendid illustrations.

Actual Size By Steve Jenkins (Frances Lincoln; €10.80) This is a book for any age, divided as it is to first show the actual size of a creature, or part thereof, followed at the end by a glossary of significant details about each one. 

From the nine-millimetre long dwarf goby fish to an actual sized elephant’s foot this is visual stimulation at its best. 

The realism of the illustrations, mostly collages, will appeal to the very young as they measure their own hands against those of the gorilla, or retreat in horror from the Goliath birdeater tarantula. Suitable for age six and upwards.

The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White (O’Brien; €8.99) This is the story of 12-year-old Marie who is really at a crossroads in her life. She has just begun secondary school with all its attendant fears and uncertainties.

Here she falls prey to the class bullies, a cabal of snooty well-off, self-styled popular girls led by Rachel who goes out of her way to make her life a misery. 

Marie, now nicknamed Other Marie, has issues of her own which are exacerbated by these new pressures.

She imagines she can hear a baby crying at night — the sister who died before birth. As often happens, the outsider Marie eventually befriends an eccentric girl called Stella, who too is mocked and jeered at by the Super Six bullies. 

She, however, unlike Marie has the fortitude and imagination not to give in to intimidation and online bullying. 

This is a moving, character-driven account of the effects of bullying and how important true friendship and family values are. Suitable for age 12 and upwards


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