Books for kids...

Vinnie Goes To Vegas by Stephen Walsh and Marita O’Donovan (O’Brien, €8.99)
Vinnie, a Leprechaun metal smith, finds a horseshoe which changes his luck forever. 

First he catches shoals of fish, his vegetables grow overnight and then he fortuitously smuggles his way to Las Vegas. Here he wins a small fortune and tips doorman Chuck O’Leary enough money for him to make a trip to Ireland.

However, the moral in this attractively illustrated book is that money need not corrupt, and when Vinnie builds a fine mansion he soon generously hands it over to be used by his fellow leprechauns. When he decides that enough is enough, he throws away his lucky horseshoe. Guess who will find it? And so the circle will go on. Suitable for age seven and up.

Stargazing For Beginners by Jenny McLachlan (Bloomsbury, €9.30)

This is the story of Meg whose ambition is to become an astronaut. As a first step on the road she must win a competition with a trip to Nassau as the prize.

Standing in her way is her mother, or rather her lack of a mother who has suddenly jetted off to Myanmar on one of her crusades.

Baby Elsa has been left in Meg’s care so she has to learn on the hoof about childcare, looking after a dog, and at the same time keep her over-enthusiastic grandfather in check.

Her mother’s trip couldn’t have come at a worse time as she struggles to complete her speech.School too, is a constant challenge as science-mad Meg feels awkward and isolated as she tries to fit in.

Detention for being late for class leads to surprising new relationships, especially with cerebral palsy student Annie. A major complication is Meg’s rival Ed, who is favourite to win the competition. 

She is torn between gentle resentment and her teenage feelings for him. The book is humorous and slapstick.

The characters are finely drawn, in particular her eccentric grandfather. The many information snippets about the universe are cleverly intertwined with the narrative in a lovely story of friendship and ambition. Suitable for age 11 and up.


We catch up with Bushmills’ master distiller, who tells Sam Wylie-Harris more about this liquid gold.Irish whiskey masterclass: 11 things you need to know

Temples, beaches, and several nations with new names.From Bhutan to Costa Rica, Lonely Planet reveals its top countries to visit in 2020

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman who’s unsure how to manage her mother’s dying wishes.Ask a counsellor: ‘Is it appropriate to notify my mother’s friends of her death by email?’

‘The Big Yin’ talks to Luke Rix-Standing about living with Parkinson’s, the power of forgiveness, and why he will never, ever stop swearing.Billy Connolly: ‘You don’t wake up famous, you wake up scratching yourself like everybody else’

More From The Irish Examiner