Summer Reading

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girl reading

There are a few weeks left before school starts again. Sorry to remind you all! I heard that big moan, and I know that was all of you poor teachers, including Mara. So make the most of the time you have left, grab a book and get reading. There are some fantastic new titles out there! Listed below is just a small selection that we think are especially good.

Picture Books 

  • Can I Play? by Rachael Darby. Gorgeous illustrations and a sweet story
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. Funny and quirky, Jeffers never disappoints.
  • The Big Hearted Book by Nicholas Allan. Deals with illness in a wonderful tale.
  • The Mummy Shop by Abbie Longstaff. From the author of The Fairytale Hairdresser, I love her style.

Young Readers under 9

  • In a Nutshell Series from Poolbeg Books. This is a series retelling Irish myths and historical moments including The Children of Lir, The Story of Newgrange, The Salmon of Knowledge.
  • Shrinking Violet is Totally Famous by Lou Kuenzler. Madcap adventure and humour
  • Dixie O’Day In the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy. Two friends and a wacky car race.

Older Readers 9-12

  • The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth by Julia Lee. Perfect for fans of Eva Ibbotson
  • The Broken Spell by Erika McGann. book two from a talented new author
  • Tall Tales from Pitch End by Nigel McDowell. A fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Artemis Fowl
  • Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper by Alan Early. The third book in the brilliant series based on Norse Mythology

Teen Fiction

  • The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson. This is not strictly new but this is now published in the UK and Ireland, so read it.
  • Acid by Emma Pass. If you liked The Hunger Games, try this.
  • Heart Shaped by Siobhán Parkinson. The follow-up to the amazing Bruised, our first and former Children’s Laureate never fails on delivering a great read.
  • The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. An excellent fantasy adventure from a master of the genre.


[Photo source]


Sharing a Secret

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Hi there,

Lisa D here. I am going to let you into a secret that myself, Lisa C and Mara share. There are other people who know this secret too, but we are an eccentric, odd and strange club and whether you join is up to you. Intrigued?

Well,the secret is that there is something that is even better than reading books. Gasp!, No, what?! Did I just hear you say that? No way, nothing is better than reading is it?!

Only one thing is and that is writing. The joy of creating a fictional world in your head. The joy of putting one word after another on a page or a screen and knowing that this a story that is unique to you, unique to your imagination.

Writing is the only activity where you can do almost anything: kill, travel, create, win battles and bring people together, live through generations and build entire landscapes without ever leaving your room. Yes, you can enjoy some of that power when you read books, but when you write, you are the absolute master of your characters’ destinies. When writers get together, they have the most bizarre conversations; including murder, time travel, spirit animals, plot and structure and the eternal problem of character names.


I have always felt that writing was a kind of magic, because when you open a book, you are held captive by the spell the writer has woven. The imaginary world that the author has created comes alive in your head, so it is quite literally a meeting of minds.

All writers are readers first. If you ever hear someone claim they want to write but they say that they don’t read, they are deluded. A writer who doesn’t read is as useless as a chef who doesn’t eat. If you are a reader who would like to write, then stay in touch, as this blog will feature writing tips, interviews with writers and writing workshops in the very near future.

If it’s something you have thought about doing, then why not give it a try? It not easy and it can be mind-meltingly frustrating but it can be also incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. Come on over to the dark side and join the writers… We are all mad here, but we have cookies.

Leopard Adventure by Anthony McGowan

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This is the story of Amazon and Frazer, cousins who have been given the task of tracking down a rare type of leopard in the forests of Russia. Frazer brings his cousin to America, before they head off on their adventure. This is their first time meeting as their fathers had a falling out years before.

Amazon learns on this trip to America all about her uncles’ foundation, which is involved in the protection and conservation of rare animals. When they arrive in Russia, they head off on their unusual journey which leads them through the Siberian jungle. This leads to a deadly game of cat and mouse with an injured tiger and a roller coaster of emotions!

I loved the style of writing which switched from the human’s to the tiger’s. It kept the book interesting all the way through and there were a few twists and turns along the way to keep the reader interested. The book also has rough drawings every now and again which I really liked. Fans of Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy will enjoy this book and I would recommend it to my friends and relations of similar age.

Leopard Adventure is out now from Puffin Books

Guest Reviewer: Finn Madden, aged 13

Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac a’ Bhaird

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Missing Ellen was such a great read. My only complaint is that it was actually too short! I want more! This book deals with a girl named Maggie who writes letters to her best friend, Ellen while she attends school without her. Outside of the letters, Maggie provides a blow-by-blow account of events leading up to… no, sorry, I can’t tell you. It’ll ruin the book!

The character of Ellen is so well executed, it feels like I know her in real life. I think that everyone has a friend like Ellen – someone who is mad and impulsive about all the right things in life but sadly, all the wrong things too. Whether you are more similar to Maggie, who wants to please Ellen so badly and be cool, or whether you are like Ellen, a girl who just wants to have fun, this book will speak volumes to you about friendships between girls and how delicate they really are. I look forward to the next book from this author, just please make it longer next time!

Missing Ellen will be available in October 2013 from O’Brien Press and is suitable for girls aged twelve upwards.

Lisa C

You Likey Read? (For Girls, Chicks and Huns)

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Good! Me too!

So I thought I would write a post for those girls who want to read more, but have NO interest in dragons, magic, Harry, Hunger Games or end-of-the-world-oh-crap scenarios. I feel your pain, ladies.

Up until recently, I also fell victim to the neverending onslaught of dystopian and post-apocolyptic fiction that has flooded the teenage shelves in recent months. Some good, some bad and some were just alri’, I mean, read once and donate to a local school. kind of books. Then I decided, enough is enough.

I decided to get back onto the realism bandwagon, because let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with a good realistic plot. No-one gets killed by wizards, or turned into something else! No-one has powers! And usually the main character gets to live out from under the threat of a world turned bad, or going from bad to worse. Sheesh, okay rant over. Breathe! Breathe…

So if you are over twelve, thirteen and you’re reading this blog, then chances are you are looking for great recommended books that have been tried and tested by the insatiable MOI. So I pulled together the following list of books to help you decide what next to read.  Trust me, I have great taste. These books are in random order, except for the first one… for obvious reasons.

  1. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. This is one of my absolute favourite books of all time. I would love to have written this book. Favourite quote: “I heard this expression once: Each time someone dies, a library burns. I’m watching it burn right to the ground.”
  2. Prim Improper by Deirdre O’Sullivan.  Pure-bred Irish.This is a more light-hearted book than most, and for this reason, I loved it. Also, it was a book that revelled in the awesomeness of words. I like words. The sequel is now out which I am hoping will make its way to me soon. The character’s voice is a perfect blend of sarcasm meets epic angst and sadly enough, it reminds me of my young teen self. #spottedyouth
  3. Bruised by Siobhan Parkinson. Pure-bred Irish. Now this one blew me away. There I was thinking that this was another story about a broken home. What I did not expect was to be thinking “what’s going on!?” The plot is fast and urgent. I literally read this in one sitting. Jono is an excellent character and Parkinson just has this amazing and powerful way with words. I am a few pages into the sequel Heart-Shaped and I just know that it is going to be just as good.
  4. Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac a’Bhaird. Pure-bred Irish. This book will be published in October 2013. MIssing Ellen really surprised me. Check out the review here. Tis epic. I promise.
  5. Last Chance/Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen. I do love all things Dessen lately. But this was my first love of Dessen books. These books literally make me want to write. Try one out, you’ll love it.
  6. Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter. This book made me remember how awful girls can sometimes be to each other. This is a great read for anyone looking for a more grown-up Jacqueline Wilson style book. In places, it is genuinely cringe-worthy, but you will come out on the other side pleasantly surprised.
  7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. If you haven’t read any of John Green, shame on you. His prose is so elegant, and practically every sentence he writes is quotable. My favourite of his has to be The Fault in Our Stars just simply because I connected with the characters more than in any other of his books.
    Favourite Quote: “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” Like seriously, this quote actually applies to this book.
  8. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.  John Green has a best friend, that person IS Maureen Johnson, and from what I have read of her so far, she is …ohmygodIjustfoundoutthereisasequel!!! Ok. Sorry, back to the book. Breathe. This is like a modern day coming-of-age, which I always love. John Green calls her his secret twin sister for a reason!
    Favourite quote: “Salt. Wound. Together at last.
  9. Flick by Geraldine Meade. Pure-bred Irish. Okay, there are no words for this book. Aside from wow. I wish a book like this had been around when i was crawling through teenagerhood. Aannnd, wait for it… yes there is a sequel. I would like for Geraldine to hurry up and write it faster. Please. Kthxbai.
  10. The Lucy Variations by Sarah Zarr. I just finished this book, and loved every page. This is the kind of book that I love, the kind that gives you a perfect window into someone’s soul, just for the few days or weeks that you read it. Sarah Zarr is a new author, and one whose next  book that I really look forward to reading.
  11. Large Mammals, Stick Insects and Other Social Misfits by Felicity McCall. Pure-bred Irish. This is a really funny read. Searingly honest with some very random events. There was some really laugh-out-loud moments. This author is not afraid to go the whole hog on some things.
  12. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. This was a disturbing and brilliant read. The plot is fascinating. Who did she kill? How did she get away with it? The book is a must-read-with-your-heart-in-your-mouth kind of book.
    Favourite quote: “Let’s pretend for just one moment that could actually happen. You close your eyes and I’ll close mine and let’s dream the same dream across the Atlantic, lighting up the darkness between us. Can you see it, Stu? Can you see us up there, shining in all the black?”
  13. Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari. This is just the sweetest book. If you loved Judy Blume, then this author is perfect for you. In fact, I hope she writes more books like this. And yes, I cried.
    Favourite quote: The outside layers of the artichoke are so tough they aren’t even worth eating but they become more and more tender as you come closer to the heart. These tough outer layers stop you feeling so much, so people walk around with hard little hearts that no one can touch.”
  14. Stolen by Lucy Christopher. This book was strangely hypnotizing. It started off like an episode of CSI but by the third page I was hooked. The plot explores the finer points of Stockholm Syndrome and I have to say, it was hard to not get attached to Gemma’s abductor, and it was a story that stuck with me long after I had finished it.
    Favourite quote: “It didn’t make me glow. I felt more like I was fading away, like the world had forgotten me.”
  15. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman. This is for readers who love the nitty-gritty drama in relationships. Young love, breaking up and trying to hurt one another for revenge. This has it all. This was well-written and a bit addictive.
    Favourite quote: “The thing with your heart’s desire is that your heart doesn’t even know what it desires until it turns up.”

Okay, that’s the lot for now… Phew. I need to lie down. This was a long-ass post. I hope you enjoyed it. I feel like my brain is leaking. Ta-ta for now!

Lisa C

Happee Birthdae Harry!

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As I write, it’s thirty-nine minutes late, but I’m a stickler for deadlines, even when I’ve already missed them.

As an avid Harry Potter fan for twelve years now, It is with a certain amount of embarrassment that I admit that  it took some work convincing me to read those books. Yes, me, with the two half-edited fantasy novels and the Masters thesis in fantasy, but at the time I had no interest in reading fantasy, unless it had a lot to do with horses, then it was horse fiction and not fantasy. I’m really very thankful to J.K. Rowling for getting me out of that rut, because I had just turned twelve, and it was getting uncool. Other girls in school were putting sugar lumps in my locker!

I don’t need to provide a break-down of the books. Unless you’re a blind-deaf and have been living in a cave under the sea for the past decade and a half, you will know about the Harry Potter books. If you are blind and deaf and live under the sea, I sincerely apologise but, why are you reading a children’s literature blog anyway?

What was it about the books that hooked me? I didn’t like fantasy at the time did I? So it wasn’t really the magic, vivid and exciting as it was, or the humour… although my parents often did come into my room while I was reading to ask what on Earth was so funny that I needed to breathe in a paper bag?

Nor did it grab me from page one. Like those hapless publishers who turned down the Philosopher’s Stone, I didn’t really care enough about what was going on. It took some persistence before I got to know the characters, but once I did, nothing, not even a dead unicorn (horse fanatic, remember) was going to make me put them down.

You fall in love with them, those characters. They don’t leave you from the end page of book one to the closing of book seven and beyond. You love them, grow with them, and when you reach the end of page three thousand, four hundred and seven, they haunt you, both the still-living, and the dead.

I, like most of my friends, consider myself so lucky to have been of the generation who literally grew up with Harry Potter. I was always a more or less the same age as the trio when the books were released, which meant that my experiences, albeit being the experiences of a muggle teenager, ran parallel to those of the wizarding teens. There was my transition to secondary school (pretty unmagical)  versus their journey to Hogwarts, state exams versus the infinitely more scary-sounding O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s.

Let’s not forget first kisses either (I think I got on a bit better than Harry there. Although I do remember that one of the reasons I broke up with the boy was because he spoiled the sixth books on me…).

Like Harry, I even cast spells on the school bullies (with less dramatic results). Granted, I never had to battle a dark wizard or risk my life to ensure the continuation of an equal and free society. But that does not mean that my meagre little muggle life did not present its own challenges: bullies, boys and exams aside, those books gave me a repertoire of values to strive to live by, such as loyalty to friends, appreciation of family (wherever you may find one), kindness, love, self sacrifice and perhaps most of all, courage in the face of injustice and oppression.

At the heart of every good fantasy book, I believe there is a story of rebellion. Good fantasy isn’t simply a battle between the forces of good and evil, but it can be pared down to a promise, on the part of the protagonist, to leave the world he or she inhabits in better shape than how they found it, no matter what the personal cost. If this is true, Harry Potter is not just a good fantasy, it’s an effing great one!

Even more significant is the fact that it is a children’s fantasy (though it was never intended to be). It is children who rush to the aid of adult characters and who ultimately succeed in overthrowing an genocidal dictator where their adult counterparts have failed, or even hindered them.

Not that I had to stand up to much oppression in fairness. I am white, female and Irish and attended a schools that were almost exclusively white, female and Irish. Mind you, they were Catholic, and it became clear by the age of fourteen that I wasn’t. And thank you Harry Potter, for earning me many an enemy in the staffroom for encouraging me to speak out, but my house was never in with a chance of winning the house cup anyway, because we didn’t have one. Nor did I mind that the confidence required to voice my sense of oppression (trivial as it often seems now) is something that, in this frequently unjust world, I want to invest in my pupils as a teacher, my readers as a writer and, maybe someday (in the distant, distant future), in my children as a mother. How will I do that? I’ll give them Harry Potter.