From tiny field mice to big blue whales, creatures of all shapes and sizes have been celebrated in children’s books, picturebooks in particular, for many glorious years. Readers young and old enjoy discovering new lands, coming to terms with many of life’s lessons as well as getting to grips with cautionary tales and hilarious mishaps through the eyes of our friends from the animal kingdom. Big ideas and mastering new things can sometimes be easier when seen from an adorable animal’s point of view; everything from potty training, going to big school, going on holiday, learning to read or making a friend. We have a menagerie of amazing animal stories for you to put your paws, claws, trotters and hooves on – not forgetting tentacles and fins – everything from boardbooks on cuddly pets to detective noir featuring a quirky turkey.
For very small animal fans we have some bright shiny board books. 0–2 Jane Foster’s Pets by Jane Foster is a simple and engaging introduction to a variety of very cute pets. Jarvis’s joyful and colourful This Little Piggy is ideal for nursery rhyme enthusiasts. Meekoo and the Big Red Potty is a musical potty book to guide and support both little ones and their minders through the process.
2–4 The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld is a sensitive and gentle story highlighting the importance of listening. This is a Dog AKA My First Animal Book is an adorable tale perfect for canine champions. Everyone will love Polly Dunbar’s illustrations in The Hug written by Irishman Eoin McLoughlin. Follow the lonely hedgehog as he goes in search of affection in this poignant and warm story. Brenda is a Sheep will grip young readers as they discover just why Brenda looks so different to the rest of the flock!
For emerging and independent readers 5–8, the dynamic duo, Rabbit and Bear, are back with Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night – another excellent tale of friendship and community. Sarah McIntrye’s Grumpycorn is dazzling, captivating and down-right entertaining. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! features three stories about Narwhal and Jellyfish as well interesting facts on sea creatures. Nicola Colton fans will be chuffed to see the return of this canine and feline comedy act: Jasper & Scruff and the follow-up Jasper & Scruff: Hunt for the Golden Bone. For Irish speakers and readers: Percy Péacóg by Gemma Breathnach and beautifully illustrated by Tarsila Krüse is a fantastic story. The Night-time Cat and the Plump Grey Mouse by Erika McGann and illustrated by Lauren O’Neill is a thrilling chase across the Trinity college campus.
Older readers, 8–11, will love Pax by Sara Pennypacker; a beautiful tale about friendship between a boy and a fox with gorgeous illustrations by Jon Klassen. And last but not least, The Free Range Detective Agency: Murder Most Fowl by Jed Lynch with entertaining illustrations by Stephen Stone is a mad cap adventure full of mayhem featuring a turkey called Seamus – need we say more?
Síne Quinn, MPhil Children’s Literature, is an editor working with Cubicle 7 Entertainment, and Irish and international publishers, Children’s Books Ireland Book Doctor and creative writing teacher for the Bookmarks Programme at TCD.
This is a Dog
Nosy Crow, £11.99 ISBN 9781788005159
Award-winning and highly talented Ross Collins is back with this latest amusing canine tale, which will make dog lovers of all ages rejoice. Chase this cheeky-looking dog as he causes mayhem throughout the book meeting a wide range of bemused animals along the way, including a squirrel, a giraffe, an elephant and a monkey. This is a Dog (AKA My First Animal Book) is an irreverent marvellous picturebook from it’s arresting red cover right up to the last page. (Age 2–4)
Brenda is a Sheep
Two Hoots, £11.99 ISBN 978150984296424
‘This sheep is called Brenda. Brenda has a very nice woolly jumper… She is also very tall, has pointy teeth, and her wool is all knitted and colourful.’ Brenda is a Sheep is a clever cautionary tale introducing the concept of a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a wonderful twist. Readers will love award-winning Morag Hood’s latest mischievous tale about acceptance and the benefits of not eating your friends. With bright-green backgrounds and amusing ovine and lupine expressive illustrations. Readers will be transfixed! (Age 2–4)
The Night-time Cat and the Plump Grey Mouse
Erika McGann, illustrated by Lauren O’Neill
The O’Brien Press, €14.99 ISBN 9781847179456
Follow the hungry Pangur Bán leaping from the pages of an old book quietly tiptoeing through the Long Room, into front square across the cobblestones; sidestepping ghosts, encountering royalty and vampires, crossing rooftops all the while stealthy hunting its prey. Can the white cat catch the plump grey mouse before it slips back safely between the ancient pages? Erika McGann has created a thrilling Trinity tale. The somewhat terrifying tale is complemented by Lauren O’Neill’s distinctive and expressive illustrations from amusing features to imposing facades. Not to be read after dusk … (Age 5+)
The Free Range Detective Agency: Murder Most Fowl
Jed Lynch, illustrated by Stephen Stone
Little Island Books, £6.99, ISBN 9781912417414
Set in the Free Range Detective Agency Murder Most Fowl is a whacky poultry caper filled with throw-away lines, cracking dialogue and cringeworthy gags which will make you laugh out loud and groan at the same time. Meet Seamus the Turkey, private detective or ‘shamus’ – which is another word for a private detective – apparently. With clever cartoon-style illustrations, featuring an entertaining all-animal cast of characters, including pigs, cats, snakes, and a meerkat called Elvis, Seamus the turkey will ruffle your feathers and might just solve a mystery or two along the way. (Age 8–11)
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.