Books are some of the most acceptable gifts we can give to others, especially children. Here is a small selection of what is now available, for young people of all ages, also with a reminder that Christmas is always a religious holiday, regardless of the bizarre business activities surrounding it now. Remember that the books are not just for Christmas, but for the whole year. Reading shapes growing minds and developing bodies.
A Hug for You by David King (Sandycove, € 11.99)
It’s a book everyone loves, recalling little Adam King’s appearance at the Late Late Toy Show in 2020. The still-circulating hugs he put into action continue because “they’re for everyone” . He is, as a lady – a complete stranger – whom he met in a cafe told him, “a real light in dark times”. In Adam’s world there are no strangers, only people he has not yet kissed.
Puffling and the Egg by Gerry Daly, illustrated by Erika McCann (O’Brien Press, € 12.99)
A delicious little fable of a little puffin about Skellig Michael, who stumbles upon an orphan egg (if that’s the right expression), in which he circles this rocky outcrop to settle his future. A book that says a lot about life to little readers in an engaging way.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Clement C. Moore, illustrations by PJ Lynch (Walker Books, € 14.99)
A long-time seasonal favorite, this poem was first published without a signature in 1823. Soon known, however, to be the work of scholar, evangelical preacher, and real estate developer, Clement Moore, it has become a staple. Christmas – especially in the United States. There, the holidays in some houses would not be the holidays without a reading around the fire. Irish families have long enjoyed it too.
Einstein the Penguin by Iona Rangly and illustrated by David Tazztman (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Gives new meaning to the expression “picking up a penguin”. While it may remind many of a certain Peruvian bear with a predilection for marmalade, this story of a family asking a clever bird to come home from the zoo is a lot of fun. I suspect he may be there for many vacations to come.
Ireland: The People, The Places, The Stories with a preface by Dara Ó Briain (Scholastique, € 12.99)
“A breathtaking celebration of Ireland’s rich culture and fascinating history featuring ten Irish illustrators. Discover everything that makes the Irish island so special – from its famous landmarks to its myths and legends, from its epic battles to its incredible music … and everything in between.
But that’s only half. There is nothing instructive about this beautiful book which presents the work of these ten Irish artists chapter by chapter, making for a very varied and inspiring treatment. And what a curious, inquisitive young reader could resist the chapters on Haunted Ireland, Magical Ireland, Underground Ireland, and others that incorporate people and scenery.
Girls Play Too, Volume 2: More Inspirational Irish Sports Stories by Jacqui Hurley (Merrion Press, € 14.95)
The story of girls’ power at the playground continues. As girls’ games in school date back as far as boys, it’s curious that they need a special celebration, except that female athletes have gained notoriety and attention through their powerful performances, and if there is to be more in the future, girls may, in these days of too fast growing, need to be persuaded to play. The author calls them models. In fact, they have always been heroines.
A Poet for Every Day of the Year edited by Ellie Esiri (Macmillan Children’s Books, € 21.99)
A brilliantly simple idea that takes poetry completely out of school, where it really has no real place. Poetry is for private moments and personal enjoyment. Have the children of the house read poetry at home now and they will read poetry forever (and also be able to recite it, which is more than many modern poets can). Believe me, they will remember and thank the donor of this book for years to come.
Tree Dogs, Banshee and other Irish Words for Nature by Manchán Mangan and illustrated by Steve Doogan (Gill Books, € 19.99)
The Gaelic world traveler is coming home, in a way, with this enthusiastic exploration of Irish nature traditions, some very strange, explored through the Irish language. It really takes you back in time, here echoes the kind of love for nature and for little creatures found in medieval Irish poetry.
Lilly’s Dream A Lissadell Diary by Judi Curtin, illustrated by Rachel Corcoran (O’Brien Press, € 12.99)
Set in the Sligo Mansion that Yeats and his friends are associated with, this novel explores an aspect of the Irish past – the life of servants in a large house – that is quite overlooked. Among so many books that can be found in stores today, this one has an unusual and original appearance. He deals with Lissadell “out of season”, so to speak in the foggiest days that no one talks about.
Gordon’s Game – Lions Roar by Gordon D’Arcy and Paul Howard (Sandycove, € 13.99)
Adults can often think they have had enough of a certain rugby freak over the years, but the enthusiasm for the game starts early and now has a character to carry the adventures and sporting misadventures of school. For boys who “don’t read” this could be an ideal stocking filler.
Banshee Rising by Riley Cain (Currach Books, € 12.99)
Here, notions from Irish lore are reimagined in the story of young Caitlyn McCabe’s encounters with a haunted past, aided by Professor Sackimun Brody, through which she herself matures as a courageous person.
Make Your Own Magic: Secrets, Stories and Tricks from a TikTok Magician by Joel M (HarperCollins, € 15.99)
Having once been an enthusiast of the Boys Book of Magic found on the shelves of the house – a holdover from the 1920s until now – I was delighted to see this. Joel M is a TikTok star, but as they say when it comes to stage numbers, “Oldies are the best.” The 23-year-old Ulster is sharing a few secrets, but there are more to come. And there will always be an audience for traditional type magic shows, revamped for modern times. And at € 15.99, it’s a book that might convince some young people that life isn’t all about becoming another accountant.
Spiritual and religious books for children
Juliet David’s Christmas story illustrated by Elina Ellis (Lion Hudson, € 5.95)
Narrated from the New Testament in accessible text for young readers and linked to contemporary, user-friendly images. It is only through books like these that the true meaning of the season can come to life for children. Every household should have a book like this.
A Robin’s Tale by Noelle Rock illustrated by Sasha Sakhnevich (Currach Books, € 14.99)
In this current situation, the death of loved ones is a real presence. Noelle Rock in this children’s fairy tale presents a way in which parents can deal with the topic of death in the family in a loving and compassionate way. A title worth noting perhaps, but many will find this book a great resource, if not for now, for a future date.
100 best Christmas poems edited by Roger McGough (SPCK, € 10.50)
A fine collection of Christmas themed poems put together by longtime Liverpool poet Roger McGough. Ideal for reading in a family group, but also for personal reading. If Christmas means anything, it is the continuation of the tradition, but it is only through immersion in the past that modern children can learn the tradition of family and faith.
The Same but Different by Emer O’Neill, illustrated by Debby Rahmalia (Gill Books, € 14.99)
“If we all looked alike, how boring life would be. The things that make me different are the things that make me myself! “
Emer O’Neill is a mother of two. Born and raised in Ireland, she is Irish / Nigerian and originally from Bray, Co. Wicklow. She teaches physical education and is a presenter on the RTÉ home school hub.
This story is therefore a reflection of the author’s own experience. But we all need to be more aware of how many new communities there are now in Ireland, and that each needs to do more to make Ireland a true home for all of us.
Banshee Rising and A Robin’s Tale are available at Currach Books.