Exploring Magic and Wonder: A Look at Recently Published Irish Children’s Picture Books and Graphic Novels

Children’s literature has the incredible power to transport young readers to far-off lands, spark their imaginations, and foster a love for storytelling. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of Irish children’s literature, focusing on recently published picture books and graphic novels that offer a glimpse into the magic and wonder of Ireland and its people. These works, whether produced by Irish publishing houses or created by Irish authors and illustrators, provide captivating tales that capture the spirit of the Emerald Isle or represent the talent of its artists.

The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly

Paddy Donnelly’s “The Vanishing Lake” is a triumph, earning the 2021 Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards and shortlisted at the 2022 World Illustration Awards for Children’s Publishing. It was first published with Yeehoo Press, transcending language barriers with translations into Chinese, Greek, French, and Dutch.

The narrative unfolds around Meara, a young girl visiting her Grandad by a lake that mystically appears and vanishes. Her persistent questioning sparks whimsical responses from her Grandad, weaving a tale of imagination. Rooted in reality, inspired by Ireland’s Loughareema, this tale captivates young minds with curiosity and magic. “The Vanishing Lake” is a journey that ensnares hearts and minds, sure to etch an unforgettable mark on Irish children’s literature.

There’s a Ghost in this House by Oliver Jeffers

I must admit, as a huge fan of Oliver Jeffers, I am desperate to get my hands on this book. Oliver Jeffers’ “There’s a Ghost in this House” promises an extraordinary literary experience. 

The narrative unfolds as a game within a book. Playing with the relationship between text and pictures, Jeffers juxtaposes monochromatic photographs with minimal text. A teal-haired girl, our “spirited” protagonist, beckons readers to join her in a Ghost Hunt. Yet, it’s the overlaid ghosts revealed through tracing-paper pages that truly captivate the reader. Despite her pursuit, our protagonist remains oblivious to their ethereal presence, unveiling a charming irony for readers of all ages.

Demonstrating the great ability of this artist, Jeffers transforms the form of the classic book into a captivating and interactive piece of art, using colour, transparency, photography, and white space ingeniously. Transparent pages and well-placed peepholes invite the reader into the game of this book, leading readers into a captivating exploration, brimming with interactive allure. 

Let’s See Ireland! by Sarah Bowie

In Sarah Bowie’s endearing picture book, “Let’s See Ireland!”, young adventurer, Molly, sets off on a national exploration accompanied by her parents and a mischievous stowaway cat. Throughout their travels, they pause at iconic heritage sites, including the awe-inspiring Rock of Cashel and the majestic Cliffs of Moher. Brimming with whimsical illustrations that radiate joy, the book playfully challenges readers to spot Mipsy, the cat, on every page, captivating younger audiences. 

It’s Too Dark, Puffling by Gerry Daly and Erika McGann

In this latest enchanting escapade stemming from the “Where Are You, Puffling?” series by Gerry Daly and Erika McGann, a heartwarming adventure unfurls. Released in September 2023 by O’Brien Press, “It’s Too Dark, Puffling” follows the story of a beloved puffling residing on Skellig Michael.

Nestled in her snug underground home, Puffling treasures the nighttime. Yet, her smaller puffling buddy is so afraid of the dark he can’t sleep. Determined to help her friend confront his fears, Puffling embarks on a journey through the island, seeking the aid of Skellig’s native animals to prove there are joys to be found in the dark! Through the anecdotes of the island’s animals, Puffling tries to assure her friend that there is nothing to fear.

With its endearing narrative and vibrant illustrations, “It’s Too Dark, Puffling” is a brilliant tale that illuminates the beauty and enchantment of the nighttime world while providing a model of friendship and courage.

The Kiss by Eoin McLaughlin, Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Though not particularly ‘Irish’ in the same way as some of the other texts addressed here, this is a beautiful picturebook which warrants the recommendation. In “The Kiss,” Tiger and Crocodile are sleepy, but they can’t fall asleep without a goodnight kiss, sparking a delightful, endearing quest. This inventive flip-book tale intertwines their journeys, where our dual protagonists each face challenges and unexpected rejection of a goodnight kiss from the other animals they encounter. 

Mclaughlin’s dialogues delicately infuse humour into the narrative while the evocative visuals from Dunbar amplify the storytelling. Its true beauty, for me as an avid picturebook-lover, comes in the strategic use of wordless pages and symbols to create meaning for the reader. The Kiss introduces some of the most adorable animal characters I have ever seen, and more importantly, introduces the reader to the idea of blended families through these lovable characters without complicating or decentring the narrative. 

Scout’s Best Day Ever! A Doggy Adventure Around Ireland by Jennifer Farley

Jennifer Farley’s charming tale, “Scout’s Best Day Ever! A Doggy Adventure Around Ireland,” takes readers on a delightful Irish journey. Scout, accompanied by Daisy and Dad, embarks on a holiday adventure across Ireland, promising to send postcards to their cat, who’s watched over by Gran at home. The excitement unfolds as Scout explores iconic destinations, from the breathtaking Giant’s Causeway to the lively streets of Dublin. Amidst archaeological sites, historic landmarks and lush parks, Scout’s adventures come to life for the reader.

Told through Scout’s postcards, the story captures the essence of each location and the joy of exploration. As anticipation builds for the “BEST. DAY. EVER,” readers young and old will be captivated by Scout’s shenanigans, making this book a delightful addition to any Irish-loving adventurer’s collection and a great way to encourage a love for Irish heritage in readers.  

The Great Big Book of Irish Wildlife Through the Seasons by Juanita Browne

Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Irish wildlife throughout the seasons with “The Great Big Book of Irish Wildlife Through the Seasons” by Juanita Browne, featuring exquisite illustrations by Barry Reynolds. This literary gem, a recipient of the Literacy Association of Ireland Award, captures the essence of Ireland’s natural wonders.

From your backyard to mountains, rivers, and forests, this book offers a uniquely Irish perspective. Discover the enchantment of the natural world, where birds, mammals, plants, insects, and amphibians are vividly portrayed through stunning photographs and engaging cartoons paired with accessible text.

An ideal gift for children, this book awakens a deep appreciation for Ireland’s diverse ecosystems. Juanita Browne’s expertise ensures an insightful journey into the world of Irish wildlife, making this book a window to the country’s remarkable outdoors. 

In conclusion, the realm of Irish children’s literature is a treasure trove of magic, wonder, and cultural heritage. From enchanting picture books that capture the beauty of the Irish landscape to stories that weave together history, fantasy, and the modern Irish family, these recently published works provide young readers with immersive literary experiences. Whether produced by Irish publishing houses, authored by Irish writers, or illustrated by Irish artists, these books serve as windows into the vibrant storytelling traditions and rich landscapes of Ireland. As young readers explore these pages, they embark on journeys that inspire their imaginations and foster a deep appreciation for the power of literature.