December 3, 2020

December 2020: Recommended reads from 2020

As this has been such a challenging year, celebrating the festive season seems even more important. As some people won’t be able to physically be with family and loved ones, we know there are many different ways to connect with them. One special way is to share a story or give the gift of a story, whether it’s one you know and love, or a new book that stands out or one you know will be treasured. Artists, illustrators, writers, publishers and booksellers have all faced many obstacles in 2020, but despite this they have still managed to create, produce, publish, promote and sell exceptional books!

We have many irresistible picturebooks, stories and fact books featuring a range of topics to entice you to get cosy and curl up before settling down to a good read.

Young readers will really enjoy Go to Sleep, Hoglet! The Adventures of an Irish Hedgehog by Bex Sheridan. As other hedgehogs are settling down for a long winter sleep, restless Hoglet sets off on an adventure. The One with the Waggly Tail is one to read aloud or sing along to while you feast your eyes on the gorgeous illustrations. Peter Donnelly fans will be jump for joy when they set eyes on The Dead Zoo. Step into Mr Gray’s museum of stuffed animals, just watch where you step as one small creature is on the move! Nicola Bernardelli’s sublime art will draw you into To the Island by talented storyteller Patricia Forde.

There’s a lot of stories to delight emerging readers What We’ll Build: Plans for our Future Together by Oliver Jeffers is one to cherish. Maggie O’Farrell’s Where Snow Angels Go is a compelling modern day fairy tale. Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini’s beautiful illustrations add to this story’s magic. The Haunted Lake by P.J. Lynch is a surreal, sublime and spooky tale.

For ages 7–10, sports fans will love Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s The Story of Croke Park with vibrant and active illustrations by Graham Corcoran. Jam-packed with fascinating facts, this information book will captive GAA fans young and old. Jacqui Hurley’s fantastic and entertaining Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories of Irish Sportswomen is a wonderful book highlighting the wealth of talented and inspirational female athletes. Illustrated by a very talented team of illustrators Sinead Colleran, Rachel Corcoran, Jennifer Farley, Jennifer Murphy and Lauren O’Neill.

A Dancer’s Dream, by Katherine Woodfine and Lizzy Stewart, is a magnificent retelling of The Nutcracker. Readers looking for a captivating series to sink their teeth into will adore Jamie Littler’s Frostheart series. The second in the series, Frostheart: Escape from Aurora is just out and is equally as thrilling as book one.

This has been such a difficult year that now more than ever inspirational and life-affirming stories really strike a cord. For 9–13-year-olds, one book in particular is worthy of your attention: Sinéad Burke and Natalie Byrne’s An Post award-winning Break the Mould: How to Take Your Place in the World is an important book which will find a place in every home.

Older readers will be enchanted by The Enchanted Lake by Sinéad De Valera. Alexis Sierra’s illustrations are the perfect complement to these eight classic Irish fairy tales. Bestselling author and illustrator Mark Joyce is back with another amazing book, Mythical Irish Wonders. A gift to be treasured. With well-known favourites and some lesser-known tales, Kieran Fanning’s Irish Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends will engage readers, with eye-catching illustrations by David Wardle.

Try to find a quiet spot, get cosy and escape into a book. Happy reading.

For more recommendations, pick up a copy of Books Make Things Better available in libraries and bookshops or available to download on our website. For more, please visit our website:

Holy Shocking Saints: The Extraordinary Lives of Twelve Irish Saints by Síne Quinn and Margaret Anne Suggs is available in book shops and on Síne Quinn, M.Phil Children’s Literature, is the managing editor at Cubicle 7 Entertainment. A Children’s Books Ireland book doctor and creative writing teacher with the Bookmarks programme at TCD, she also provides editorial and writing support to publishers.

The One with the Waggly Tail by Sarah Webb, illustrated by Steve McCarthy, The O’Brien Press, €16.99, ISBN 9781788491518

‘We’re going, this way, that way,

Forwards and backwards,

Over the Irish Sea.

A bottle of rum to warm my tum,

And that’s the life for me.’

The Pirate Song

The One with the Waggly Tail is a sheer delight featuring a range of nursery rhymes well-known verses and much-loved songs including ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. With many familiar verses as well as delightful ones I hadn’t come across before, including the catchy counting song ‘The Pirate Song’ (see above). This marvellous collection of over eighty children’s favourites is another triumph from the dynamic and award-winning duo Sarah Webb and Steve McCarthy. The captivating illustrations add another layer of joy to this gorgeous book. Make sure to add it to your list. 2–5

To the Island by Patricia Forde, illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli, Little Island Books, €17.00, ISBN 9781912417513

Multi-award winning author Patricia Forde is back with another outstanding fantasy story. Inspired by the Irish legend of Hy Brasil, a mysterious island shrouded in mist that is said to appear every seven years off the west coast of Ireland, To the Island is an extraordinary picturebook with instant appeal. Follow Fia as she sets out on an incredible journey. ‘A silver moonbeam stretched beneath her feet, leading her out into the light.’ Nicola Bernardelli’s soft, warm and whimsical illustrations add wonder and awe to this magical book. An ideal gift for any time of year, but definitely one to brighten up a long dark winter day. 4+

The Haunted Lake by P.J. Lynch, Walker Books, €14.99, ISBN 9781406395563

P.J. Lynch’s art has a way of transporting the viewer instantly into another world, straight away you are immersed into the centre of a scene. The feeling is so strong that you can almost smell the burning turf, hear the lilting music, see the mist that surrounds you or shiver in the biting wind. The Haunting Lake has the same effect, it’s a story that alerts all your senses as you are drawn into a tale from another time but set in a strange yet familiar place. The Haunted Lake is a dramatic, enchanting, haunting love story about loss and return, echoing ancient tales. When Jacob is lured underwater by the ghosts that inhabit the sunken village, his fiancée is tenacious in her search for him for fifteen years. This spooky tale will remain with readers long after they’ve closed the pages of this incredible story from one of our most highly acclaimed storytellers. 6–9

Mythical Irish Wonders by Mark Joyce, Currach Press, €22.99, ISBN 9781782189220

‘Manannán Mac Lir is the king of the “otherworld” … had a magical sword known as Fragarach, “The Answer”. This sword could control the wind … when held to a captive’s throat they could not tell a lie or even move.’

Step into mysterious old Ireland full of wonder and awe, and travel through the vibrant, colourful pages, leaping with drama and excitement as you go on an exhilarating journey through ancient Ireland. You’ll discover fascinating facts and hilarious tales along the way. From ‘Mis’ the First Vampire to the four treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Mythical Irish Wonders is brimming over with amazing stories, and is a companion to Mythical Irish Beasts, which is just as entertaining and enchanting. Mark Joyce is an exceptional modern-day seanchaí or scéalaí. A book for everyone. 9+

More? Try These

Watch – Ollie

Watch – Ollie

Listen – CAKE

Listen – CAKE

Play – Nelly & Nora

Play – Nelly & Nora


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