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10 Books to Keep Kids Entertained 


It’s hard to believe we’re this far into 2020, as Winter sets in with its crisp weather and shorter evenings. And though you can't go very far this month, if you’ve got little ones, you’ll want to keep them entertained. Luckily, a whole host of gorgeous children’s books have just hit shelves, perfect for cosy story-time in front of the fire. With that in mind, we've partnered with Children’s Books Ireland to put together a list of ten beautiful books that are sure to delight babies, toddlers and teens. Read on for the CBI team’s reviews.


1.    While We Can’t Hug : Eoin McLaughlin illustrated by Polly Dunbar

(Age 0–4)
A timely follow-up to this author and illustrator’s previous collaboration, The Hug. Tortoise and Hedgehog are sad that they can’t hug right now, but Owl says that there are plenty of other ways to show someone you care. Hedgehog and Tortoise will lift your spirits when they dance, paint and sing together, while apart. With bright illustrations and cute characters, this picturebook shows children that there are still lots of ways to have fun while social distancing. 

2.    The Dead Zoo: Peter Donnelly

(Age 2–4)
In this story of an unlikely friendship between dour museum-owner Mr Gray and a mischievous mouse, Dublin’s ‘Dead Zoo’ (the natural history museum) is brilliantly immortalised. A slapstick chase takes readers on a virtual museum tour – featuring the iconic great Irish elk. Clever use of colour throughout juxtaposes the aptly named Mr Gray with vivid exotic animals, highlighting his transformation from strict and serious to a veritable Willy Wonka, clad head to toe in purple. Fun and stylish, The Dead Zoo is Donnelly at his best. 

3.    Bear Shaped: Dawn Coulter-Cruttenden: 

(Age 2–4)
Jack takes Bear everywhere. When Jack cannot talk to people or try new things, brave Bear can. If Jack needs quiet, Bear is there to snuggle. One day, Bear gets lost, leaving Jack with a bear-shaped void. Jack makes posters, which his father posts online. People begin to send Jack consolation bears and messages. Inspired by true events, this beautifully poignant picturebook easily invokes empathy for Jack’s loss. The gentle images sensitively underscore Jack’s autism. It is an impressive debut by a talented artist.

4.    P is for Poetry: Edited by Seamus Cashman, illustrated by Corrina Askin, Alan Clarke and Emma Byrne 

(Age 2–Adult)
More than fifteen years after it was first published, it’s great to have a refreshed version of this classic collection of poems. Covering everything from big ideas about our responsibility to this world through to more everyday matters of bike riding and dog poo, this remains a truly vibrant collection. The work of illustrators Alan Clarke, Corinna Askin and typographical illustrator Emma Byrne is outstanding and there can be few other poetry collections that rival its illustrative achievements. It’s a collection for every school and home bookshelf. 

5.    The Chill Skill: Niall Breslin illustrated by Emma Proctor

(Age 3–5)
Between a lengthy car trip and phone games being confiscated, Sam’s first day of summer holidays is a whirlwind of emotions. When she finally arrives at her grandparents’, she is frustrated and sad about fighting with her parents. However, with a little help from Granddad, Sam realises that we all get upset sometimes and the most important thing is to be able to understand and manage our feelings. Through cheerful illustrations and endearing characters, The Chill Skill introduces young readers to mindfulness practices with accessible vocabulary and a great sense of empathy.

6.    Will You Be My Friend?: Sam McBratney 

(Age 3–7)
This beautiful picturebook says so much with so few words. Little Nutbrown Hare, eager to play and have fun, comes across little Cloudy Mountain Hare one day. He bravely asks her if she would like to be his friend and she happily agrees. This book very quickly portrays the excitement and delight of going out into the world and making new friends. It is a heartwarming tale about the importance of play and friendship. Anita Jeram’s buoyant illustrations are endearingly Beatrix Potter-esque.

7.    MIP: Máire Zepf maisithe ag Paddy Donnelly

(Aois 3–8)
Ní féidir ach ardmheas a bheith againn ar an róbat cliste a dhéanann a bhealach go Mars agus a oibríonn go dian dícheallach chun taighde a dhéanamh ar an áit nua seo. Ach ní leor clisteacht chun maireachtáil san áit nua seo lán le clocha agus cráitéir. Déanann Míp machnamh ar an ngá le comhluadar agus dreas ceoil! Fíorscéal fíorspéisiúil atá ann agus tá an oiread céanna le léamh ó na léaráidí spleodracha a líonann an leathanach ar fad, agus ón mioneolas ar aghaidh gach carachtair.

8.    Mary Robinson – A Voice for Fairness: John & Fatti Burke

(Age 7+)
Another excellent addition to the Little Library series charting the life of Mary Robinson. From her birth in Ballina, it covers her lifelong activism for the rights of disadvantaged people through to her current work on climate justice. Surprising details from Robinson’s life are included and John Burke’s text is informative while celebrating her ambition, work ethic and many achievements. Fatti Burke’s illustrations are gorgeous and fill the book with warmth and humour. One for ambitious girls and boys, tiny feminists and strong girls everywhere.

9.    The Secret Scientist: Jason Byrne illustrated by Oisín McGann: The Accidental Adventures of Onion O’Brien

(Age 9–12)
The madcap adventures of Onion O’Brien and his crew, the Five O’s, continues in this the third instalment. Onion, (an ordinary kid with an extraordinary name), strives for normality – but things just seem to happen around him. It is up to Onion and his loyal gang to outsmart a maverick Russian scientist whose experiments on the residents of a local nursing home spill out into the community, and inevitably everything goes awry. A hilariously funny Scooby-Doo-esque romp in small-town Ireland brilliantly captured in Oisín McGann’s illustrations.

10.    Break the Mould: Sinéad Burke illustrated by Natalie Byrne

(Age 12–16)
A celebration of self and difference, Break the Mould is part instruction manual, part self-help, part activity book, and fully inspiring. Burke directly addresses the reader, encouraging them to embrace ourselves and our differences, to be open, curious and kind. The book features activities to build self-awareness, responsibility and confidence, as well as case studies of people who have used their differences to make in impact on the world. It is accessible, honest and frank, and doesn’t speak down or condescend. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the Children’s Book Ireland crew for sharing their brilliant reviews with us. Which will you be picking up for your little ones? Let us know Facebook or Twitter, using #ReadersWanted. 

If you are looking for more activities to keep your children busy, take a look at our ImagineNation booklet which has lots of exercises in drawing, writing and mindfulness.