A Christmas Childhood

Posted December 18, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Recommended

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Here is my favourite Christmas poem.  Enjoy!



Patrick Kavanagh

My father played the melodion

Outside at our gate;

There were stars in the morning east;

And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called

To Lennons and Callans.

As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry

I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother

Made the music of milking;

The light of her stable-lamp was a star

And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,

Mass-going feet

Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,

Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters

On the grey stone,

In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,

The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over

Cassidy’s hanging hill,

I looked and three whin bushes rode across

The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:

“Can’t he make it talk” –

The melodion, I hid in the doorway

And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post

With my penknife’s big blade –

There was a little one for cutting tobacco.

And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,

My mother milked the cows,

And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned

On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.

Take 5…Non-Fiction!

Posted December 10, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, Recommended, Writing

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1.          Do Igloos Have Loos?

Have you ever wandered Why slugs are so slimy? What the stupidest thing ever done was? Who was the stupidest criminal ever? Does lightning ever strike twice? This book has the answers to all those things and more! And if you like this, why not read the other 7 books in the series!2.

2. Horrible Histories by Terry Deary

Handfuls of gory, disgusting centuries of laughter – enough to get your socks off! Tudors, Victorians, Greeks and Romans we really love them all, even though they are a bit gory!3.

3. Tom Crean, Ice Man by Michael Smith

Incredible children’s story of danger, heroism, endurance and survival. Tom Crean was an Irish man and this book looks at his amazing adventures in Antartica, the most hostile region of the world. Antarctica is not for ordinary people but Tom was no ordinary man. His exploits began when he was fifteen, ran away from home and lied about his age to join the British navy. His next step into the unknown took him to the frozen wilderness where he spent more time than the famous Scott or Shackleton – and lived longer!

4.        Pirate Queen:  Morgan Llwelynn


In the sixteenth century, Granuaile, the Pirate Queen, warrior and leader, was the terror of the North Atlantic and the most feared woman in Ireland. Heading a large army and a fleet of ships, she lived by trading and raiding and demanding tribute from all who sailed through her territory. Told partly through letters written to her son Tibbot, it charts the gradual decline of the Gaelic chieftains and traditions of Ireland as Elizabeth Tudor, the ‘Virgin Queen’ of England, extended her power throughout Ireland by bribery and slaughter.

5.        Seachain! Ná hEitilt Chuig an Ghealach ar Apollo 13! Ian Graham a scríobh.

Aistrithe ón sraith cailiúla The Danger Zone – Seachain! an t-ainm feiliúnach atá air agus ní mór do leitheoirí abheith cróga chun taisteal siar in am agus iad fhéin a shamlú i lár eachtaí stairiúla.Tugann na leabhair; Ná seol ar an Titanic!, Ná glac páirt i gCluichí Oilimpeacha na Sean-Ghréige!,Ná himigh chuig an Antartach le Shackleton!,Ná seol go Meiriceá aimsir an Ghorta!, agus Ná heitil chuig an nGealach ar an Apollo 13! léargas cruinn ar na heachtraí cuí leneart firicí caite isteach le iontas a chur ar fiú na saineolaithe is mó a bhfuil ann!


Take 5…Book Recommendations for Children

Posted December 4, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, Recommended, Vintage

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UnknownTake 5…Classics!

1. Watership Down

Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren – he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver’s sixth sense was never wrong.

They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all…

2.            The Hobbit

Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life. Then, one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again. This is the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures.

3.            The Railway Children

Stand firm’ said Peter, and wave like mad! ‘ They were not railway children to begin with. When their Father mysteriously leaves home Roberta (everyone calls her Bobbie), Phyllis and Peter must move to a small cottage in the countryside with Mother. It is a bitter blow to leave their London home, but soon they discover the hills and valleys, the canal and of course, the railway. But with the thrilling rush and rattle and roar of the trains comes danger too. Will the brave trio come to the rescue? And most importantly, can they solve the disappearance of their Father?

4.            Stig of the Dump

When Barney falls into a disused quarry he’s confronted by Stig, a caveman but none of Barney’s friends believe the story of Stig.  So Barney has the time of his life and the two of them get up to a whole heap of adventures.

5.            The Borrowers

The Borrowers lived in the secret places of quiet old houses, behind the mantelpiece, inside the harpsichord, under the kitchen clock. They owned nothing, borrowed everything, and thought human beings were invented just for their use. Until one of the Borrowers made friends with a human.

6.            Ballet Shoes

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are found as orphaned babies in different parts of the world by eccentric fossil collector and explorer Gum. He adopts them, takes them to his London home and leaves them in the care of his niece Sylvia and the family Nurse. Then off he goes to continue his exploring, saying that he’ll be back in five years’ time. When the three little girls are old enough, they choose the surname Fossil for themselves and vow to make the name famous. At first they lead privileged and sheltered lives. But when Gum fails to return after five years, Sylvia’s money begins to run out. First she is forced to take in some boarders – an engaging and eclectic mix of characters – but then she decides that the girls should go to acting school. This way they will be able to earn some money before they grow up. Pauline adores the school, as she dreams of becoming an actress. Petrova hates it, all she wants to do is learn about cars and planes and engines. Posy loves it too – she is born to be a dancer and the school is the perfect place for her.

Oops!  That was 6…!

Books For Christmas!

Posted December 1, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, News, Recommended, Writing

images-1Unknown-3images51VYgTWTdML._SL500_AA300_9781405254328Just a gentle reminder that you should be able to find all of my books in good bookshops!

1. Frogs Do Not Like Dragons, published by Egmont is suitable for independent readers 5-7years old.

2. Hedgehogs Do Not Like Heights also published by Egmont is a sequel to Frogs!

3. Cití Cearc, Picture book , published by Futa Fata.

4. Binji, Picture book , published by Futa Fata.

5. Mise Agus An Dragún, Picture book , published by Futa Fata.

Take 5: Christmas Recommendations Part 3…

Posted November 29, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, Recommended

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This is the third   part of my reading recommendations for children for Christmas.  These books are for experienced readers, regardless of their age!  Adults might enjoy them too.

Reaching out…

1. Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1)

Lyra Belaqua is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar Pantalaimon always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle—a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armored bears. And as she hurtles toward danger in the cold, far North, young Lyra never suspects the shocking truth: She alone is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle.

(Consider reading this together, parent and child.)


2. Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

 At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined. This is a good one for parent and child to read together, perhaps.

Also consider: The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.

3. Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson Series

Half Boy, Half God, All Hero, that’s Percy Jackson, but he didn’t choose or want to be a half-blood or the son of a Greek god. Percy was just a normal kid until he accidentally vaporised his maths teacher. Now Percy spends his time fighting with swords, battling monsters with his friends and generally trying to stay alive.

In the first Percy Jackson title, according to Zeus Percy has stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea…

Try the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.

4.        Neil Gamon:

The Graveyard Book

It takes a graveyard to raise a child. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

Try Constable and Toop by Gareth Jones; Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane.

5.        David Williams Gangsta Granny

Another hilarious and moving novel from bestselling, critically acclaimed author David Walliams. Our hero Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma. 1) She was once an international jewel thief. 2) All her life, she has been plotting to steal the crown jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help…

Reluctant Readers

Posted November 27, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, Recommended, Writing

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On the subject of getting children to read, I have a few suggestions.

1. Don’t make reading sound like something you have to do to get on well at school. Not many ten year olds see that as a priority.

2. Do make it sound like fun. And if it is such fun, lead by example. Read some books that were written for children yourself. You may find you enjoy them, and your enthusiasm will be catching.

3. Don’t rush them through the various stages of reading. If they love Picture Books, let them read Picture Books. I heard a Dad in a bookshop recently castigating his seven year old for wanting to buy Penguin by Polly Dunbar.

“Buy a book for big boys,” he said. “How are you ever going to learn anything reading baby books like that?”

That kind of attitude is what stops children reading, in my humble (well, maybe not so humble!) opinion. Picture books are wonderful, and remember there are now Picture Books for every age.  Some are called Graphic Novels , but it amounts to the same thing. Let them read what they want to read. Comics, Enid Blyton, Horrid Henry, the back of the cornflake box. It’s all reading and they will move on, when they are ready.

4. Don’t assume that they will love the books that you loved as a child. Sometimes the language is too archaic (sorry!).  Even Enid Blyton can be challenging for some children because the English is so formal, in a lot of ways. My favourite book as a child was The Secret Garden and I bought it for my daughter when she was seven years old, because in my memory, that was the age at which I read it. . She finally read it when she was twelve, which is probably the age I actually was when I read it. Memory is deceptive.

4. If they are reluctant readers, always let them read something that is EASY for them to read. Don’t worry about what their friends are reading. If your thirteen year old still likes to read The Wimpy Kid, encourage that. This is not a competition, and children develop at different rates. A child who likes The Wimpy Kid like humorous books. Build on that. Have a look at the lists on my blog for ideas.

5. If your child really resists and won’t read at all, read to them. Read to them from when their eyes can focus, and keep reading to them. If they stop reading, read to them. If they don’t have time, read to them. As young teenagers, read to them if they will let you. When our twelve year old son stopped reading, my husband read His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman,  to him. They both became Pullman fans for life and the teenager rediscovered books.

6. Relax. Teach them to see books as a treat from the earliest days. After all, that is what they were always meant to be.

More book recommendations…

Posted November 27, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, Recommended, Writing

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Moving On…

 These books will suit the majority of children in the middle and senior years of Primary School.  They are also some of my favourite books, so don’t let age be a barrier!  For reluctant readers I would focus on books that are funny! 


1.        Louis Sachar: Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes

‘Why did the guy eat two dead skunks for breakfast?’ ‘Because dead ones squeal when you stick the fork in.’ Gary W. Boone knows he was born to be a stand-up comedian. It is the rest of the kids in the class who think he is a fool. Then the Floyd Hicks Junior High School Talent Show is announced, and he starts practising his routine non-stop to get it just right. Gary’s sure that this will be his big break – he’ll make everyone laugh and will win the $100 prize money. But when an outrageous surprise threatens to turn his debut into a disaster, it looks as if the biggest joke of all may be on Gary himself.

Try also: There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Sachar; The Boy who Lost his Face by Louis Sachar and Holes by Louis Sachar.

  1. 2.        Sharon Creech

Walk Two Moons

Salamanca Hiddle is travelling across the United States with her eccentric grandparents. On her journey, she tells the story of her friend Phoebe, a girl of wild imaginings. But beneath Sal’s funny anecdotes is the deeper story of Sal’s mother, who left home and never returned.

Try also: Heartbeat by Sharon Creech. Keep reading Michael Morpurgo titles…like War Horse!

  1. 3.        Michelle Paver

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Book 1: Wolf Brother

Thousands of years ago the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon: a demon so evil that it can be contained only in the body of a ferocious bear that will slay everything it sees, a demon determined to destroy the world. Only one boy can stop it – 12 year old Torak, who has seen his father murdered by the bear. With his dying breath, Torak’s father tells his son of the burden that is his. He must lead the bear to the mountain of the World Spirit and beg that spirit’s help to overcome it. Torak is an unwilling hero. He is scared and trusts no one. His only companion is a wolf cub only three moons old, whom he seems to understand better than any human. Theirs is a terrifying quest in a world of wolves, tree spirits and Hidden People, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.

Have you tried the Darren Shan books?


4  Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines: Predator Cities 1

The Predator Cities quartet is a stunning blend of past and future technologies where the world of the traction era and mobile cities fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic future.  The publication of Mortal Engines, the first in the quartet launched Philip Reeve’s brilliantly-imagined creation, sets the scene for a stunning quartet of action-packed novels set in a richly inventive world.  Big cities gobble up smaller ones and London rules above them all. Tom Natsworthy, a third class apprentice in the Guild of Historians, has the adventure of his life after he sets out to try to find out what has happened to his parents. With a cast of inventive characters including Shrike, Anna Fang and Stalker, a deadly robot killer with a human brain, and cities whose imaginary and multi-layered architecture dazzles, this is a creation on a vast and imaginary scale.

Why Not Try: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy; Harry Potter by J.K Rowling; The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper and Eva Ibbotson’s books. 

  1. 4.      Hilary Mc Kay: Saffy’s Angel

The four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, is a fine-arts painter, have all been given the names of paint colors. Cadmium (Caddy), is the eldest; then Saffron (Saffy); Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena.At Grandad’s death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is “her angel,” although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured for a long, long time.

Consider the Striker series by Nick Hale if you love football!


Picture book

Posted November 20, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Uncategorized

I Like Cats — part lovely children’s picture book, part priceless showcase of work by some of the best-known tribal and folk artists from various Indian traditions.


Posted November 20, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Uncategorized


Christmas Is Coming…

Posted November 20, 2012 by kidsbookdoc
Categories: Lists, Recommended, Writing

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Lots of people have asked me to recommend books for children for Christmas. This can be tricky because, books are all about taste! Nonetheless, I have put together  a list for  the 8+ group that I have used successfully in schools. The list I recommend today is for fairly competent readers and possibly people who don’t read a lot. I think it is a good starting point.  A place to jump off from. It is based on nothing more than my own experience as a former teacher and lover of books for children.  I hope it helps!

Starting Out

1.    Michael Morpurgo: Cool!

A new book from award winning author Michael Morpurgo crams a great deal of emotion into this beautifully told short novel. Lying in a coma after being knocked down by a car, ten year old Robbie is unable to move or speak or see but inside his head, much is still going on and, able to smell, hear and above all, remember Robbie tells his story. Frighteningly, nothing seems to unlock Robbie from his coma. Even a visit from his favourite footballer cannot revive him. But then something of the greatest importance to him takes place and miraculously Robbie does recover.

Try: Fox Friend; Running Wild; Kasper and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.

2.  Oisín Mc Gann: The Evil Hairdo

Ten year old Melanie gets her Witch Craft hairdo in a mysterious salon that appears out of nowhere. Although thrilled with it, she soon realises that her hair is evil and has a mind of its own. From cutting up all her Mum’s clothes to summoning a plague of rats, Melanie’s hair tries to destroy her whole life.

Also have a look at Philip Ardagh’s books and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce; Socks Are Not Enough by Mark Lowry; Judy Moody; Horrid Henry.

3. Roddy Doyle: The Giggler Treatment

The hilarious tale of Mr. Mack, his wife Billy Jean, his three children Robbie, Jimmy, and Kayla, their dog Rover and, of course, the irrepressible, sometimes hasty, but well-meaning Gigglers. At the beginning of the tale we have a good man, a caring man, heading for his job as a cookie-taster but also heading for a terrible fate (he’s about to step in something smelly). Is this an accident? Who’s responsible?

Consider some of the Roald Dahl books: Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches and James and the Giant Peach. Or what about Andy Staunton and the Mr. Gum books?

5. Eoin Colfer: The Legend of Spud Murphy

This hilarious offering is the first in a new chapter-book series. When their parents become fed up with their boisterous behavior during summer vacation, Will and Marty Woodman are forced to do something educational: “Reading. It’s perfect. How can you get into trouble reading a book?” The brothers will spend time at the library, despite their worries about the librarian, Mrs. “Spud” Murphy, who is feared by all children. According to the rumors, she uses a gas-powered gun to shoot potatoes at kids who make too much noise. When Mom drops them off later that afternoon, Mrs. Murphy leads them to the children’s section and warns them that they are not to venture off of the carpet. Readers will immediately pick up that Marty has a problem following the rules and trouble ensues when he steps off the rug to cause some mischief. However, he has met his match in Spud, who silently appears on the scene like a “ninja librarian.” The cartoon illustrations enhance the funny mood of the story.

Try other titles by Eoin Colfer including:  Legend of Captain Crowe’s Teeth; Benny and Babe and The Wish List. Or have a look at The Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce4.        Marita Conlon Mc Kenna: In Deep Dark Wood

The mysterious arrival of Bella Blackwell, ‘The Bird Woman’, to the village of Ballyglen disturbs the peace and quiet of the Murphy household next door. Granny Rose is suspicious of Bella, and Rory doesn’t trust her, but ten-year-old Mia falls under the old woman’s spell. Bella tells Mia of a faraway place, a world where dragons and giants and ancient magic still exists, and asks Mia to become her apprentice and learn the old ways. One dark night Mia disappears and Rory, determined to find his sister, follows her to a world he does not believe in. Riding the ‘Shadow Hound’, he journeys to a strange land of legendary creatures and terrible dangers. Bella uses all her powers to prevent the brother and sister finding each other, but Rory begins a brave quest to rescue his sister, break the strange enchantment that Bella has over her and find a way home.

Try also: How to Train Your Dragon by Cessida Cowell; Witches At War by Martin Howard.