Irish Post Kidzone

Kidzone logoJon Myles (Deputy Editor of The Irish Post) and I knocked around a few ideas last summer holiday and he has now come up with KIDSZONE, a really innovative children’s page and a terrific space for reviewing new children’s books especially at a time when authors and publishers of children’s fiction are complaining bitterly about lack of coverage. The page was and is conceived as being inter-active so we want you out there to contribute. Your voice will be heard and appreciated.

Shaun Traynor Dec 2001


WEEK 1 24.11.01



The diary of Phyllis McCormack, Ireland 1845 - 1847

Published by Scholastic Press ISBN 0 439 99740 2 £4.99

The Hunger coverReviewed by Martin (age 10) from St Mary Magdalen’s R.C. Jnr School, North London. Introduced by poet and children’s book critic, SHAUN TRAYNOR.

I had hoped when the new millennium dawned that people in England wouldn’t still be talking about The War and the Germans. By the same token there had been a lot of books, pamphlets and lectures about The Famine toward the end of 1999, many of them worthy but sometimes, portentous. I wondered what there might be left to say. I am surprised and pleased to say that this new book does approach its subject in a lively and original way. So from the famine years, that most impoverished period of our history, has come rich literary and academic legacies, as if springing - paradoxically- from a rich and fertile soil. I now present reviews of the book through the thoughts and reactions of the young, the very young really, the inheritors of our history.

This is a diary by a young girl, Phyllis McCormack, who lived in Ireland during the great famine of 1845 to 1849. It describes the type of house people dwelt in back then. These usually consisted of one proper room and a covered bit at the back where the parents slept.

There were six children in the family and so they all had to share the same room to sleep in. Most people of that time had no beds, only a pile of straw. No one had blankets back then. Linen was produced in Ireland but it was too expensive for these people who rented their house and their acres from English landowners. The family in this story were lucky as they had a pig and piglet. The pig and piglet shared the same room as the children. There was a fire in the middle of the room, but no chimney, so it was very smoky. The family raised the pigs to sell in the market during the summer when the potato stock was getting low. The money raised helped to pay the rent on the 50 acres that this family rented.

Some families only had 5 acres and they went hungry most of the time. The potato was the main diet of the people of that time and they relied on it heavily. Ireland was under British rule at this time and Phyllis’s brother Pat was a member of the "Young Irelanders" who were a band of men that believed Ireland should be ruled by the Irish people, Catholics and Protestants alike. Pat’s hero was Daniel O’Connell, who was also known as "The Liberator" because he won back equal rights for Catholics and opposed the Act of Union which was made law by the British in 1800.

The book mentions that even back then people were arguing over marches by Protestants to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. The McCormacks lived in what was known back then as the Queen’s County. It is now known as County Laoise and it is where both of my parents come from in Ireland.

The story tells how the potato crop in August 1845 was the best ever seen, but by September of the same year many farms had been hit by potato "cholera", which was the proper name for the blight. People were evicted from their homes and sent to the workhouses if they didn’t pay their rent. There was an outbreak of typhus fever. Some died by the side of the road.

Daniel O’Connell and Robert Peel, Prime Minster of England and Ireland agreed that the food grown in Ireland should be kept in Ireland and not exported. Unfortunately the British government did not back this move and while the Irish starved, butter, oats, sheep, pigs, wheat and eggs were all exported abroad. One million Irish people died during the famine.

Part Two of Martin’s review next week.

Because this was such a popular book at our school, other children were clambering over themselves to review it - Sarah Kilcoyne had bought the book in Ireland in the summer holidays so was well qualified to offer her opinion, Carly Clarke - who is a very good imaginative writer - had her slant too, so I have decided to take the unusual step of carrying this book over for review again next week. Read it for yourselves, you’ll see what I mean. If you have already read it and want to send in your views and a review please do so and we’ll publish what you say. If there are other books you have recently read and enjoyed, send us in your views and reviews about them, all are welcome to this page. If you would like us to send your school books for review, email



Still claiming this spot is


The diary of Phyllis McCormack, Ireland 1845-1847

ISBN 0 439 99740 2 price £4.99

Reviewed by Martin Corcoran, (part two of Martin’s review) Sarah Kilcoyne and Carly Clarke, pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s R.C. Jnr School in North London.

Part Two

Phyllis and many other young girls had to go to work as servants in the grand houses of the English Landlords to help get money for their families to survive. Even this was not enough to prevent the death of her youngest sister Eileen and her mother.

There is then a part of the book which is about how Phyllis falls in love with the son of the owner of the house where she worked. Phyllis was lucky. One of the other maids had to steal food to survive and she was deported to Australia. Over one and a half million Irish emigrated to America and other countries, but a lot of them died on the way there, the ships they sailed in became known as coffin ships.

Phyllis then moved to Dublin and got a good job in the journalism business. Then she left Ireland in September 1848 aboard The Harmony bound for Boston. Her brother Pat was still on the run and hiding in Tipperary. Families were divided.

I think it is very tragic that so many Irish people died from the famine when many could have been saved if other food grown in Ireland had not been exported to other countries.

This book is very well written and you cannot put it down once you start reading. It gives very clear pictures of what Ireland was like at the time. It explains why there are so many Irish in other countries in the world now. It gives historical notes at the end of the book which are very helpful for anyone who does not know all of the history of Ireland.

When I went to Ireland this summer my dad took me to what they now call The Deserted Village. It was a village from the potato famine and from then on I wanted to know more. So when I found this book in a bookshop, I bought it straight away. It is a book that is based on the story of Phyllis McCormack, a fourteen year old girl who lived in Ireland at the time of the famine. Her family were among the people who lived on rented land, farming their crops and looking after a few animals. It tells of her love for her brother Pat and how the family coped with the terrible blight that came upon Ireland’s main food source, the potato. It also tells of the death of two people, some parts are very sad.

This book touched me in a way that I thought could never happen and it will always remain my favourite book. The book has moments which will make you smile and will make you cry. It has lots of interesting history as well as a gripping story, a definite buy for any 11 yr old.

I would rate this book a 10/10.

The Hunger is a brilliant book. It is based on the famine in Ireland during 1845-1847. It is the diary of Phyllis McCormack a girl who lived through it all. It was a terrible time but Phyllis writes with real fun, she is funny and she writes fun things in her diary about the day to day things of life in those times.

I give the book a great 10/10.



Selected by a panel of children who attend St Mary Magdalens’s R.C. Junior School in North London and introduced by Ursula O’Reilly Traynor.

Jack, Sasha and David are in Year 5. When choosing a book to review, the children were encouraged to trust their instant responses - the books were laid out very much like they would be in a bookshop. Picture books never fail to appeal and I still enjoy their visual delineation and strong message delivered with a minimum of words and those, more often than not, repeated over and over. They are everybody’s comfort blanket; a problem is addressed and resolved and all within a world that ultimately makes you feel safe and loved. So, what were the responses from the children? Over to you, Jack:

Jack reviewed an already classic story by Belfast writer, Sam McBratney.

Guess How much I Love You

Sam Mc Bratney

Walker Books ISBN 0-7445-5439-x £4.99

Guess How Much I love you coverI think this book would be suitable for 3-6 year olds. It is easy to follow, with clear bold writing. Anita Jeram, the illustrator has used natural colours in watered-down shades. The illustration on the front is eye-catching. The story is about a big hare and a little hare who are like humans.

The story is set in just the one field so there isn’t much action. They are using distances to show how much they love each other. The story shows movement by making the hares move all the time. The book changed the way I look at showing emotions. It’s not my sort of book but I’m sure younger children would like it!

U. Did you like the element of friendly competition in the book and the way the adult hare would gently tease the baby hare because of his greater capability

J. I liked the idea that even such important things in life can be explored through fun and games!

Sasha read Tom Rabbit by Northern Irish author, Martin Waddell.

Tom Rabbit

Martin Waddell

Walker Books ISBN 0-7445-6771-8 £9.99

Tom Rabbit coverThis book is for seven and under. Younger children do like animals in stories, especially cute ones like Tom. This toy rabbit has human characteristics. It is a softly coloured book, and a pale watery blue is used a lot. This gives a comforting feel to the book. However it has scary and fearsome parts in it too.

It is set at night. The teddy rabbit is left alone sitting on a wall and is left outside all night by the little boy Sammy. Later the real rabbits come, first one, then two, then the whole lot. Tom Rabbit is scared and wants Sammy to come and rescue him. It touched me to see how Sammy cared for his rabbit so much.

The book is really about friendship. Friendship, bravery, trust and love are all in these pages. Also a feeling of real sadness when Tom Rabbit is just about to give up hope of being with Sammy again, snug and safe in bed together once more. This is one adventure Tom could have done without!

U. A story with feelings, one to share and enjoy over a cup of hot chocolate in front of a warm fire!



RED FOX ISBN 0-09-972210-0 £4.99

Tiger and Me coverThis is an excellent book. It’s about a tiger alone in the jungle with all of his brothers and sisters locked up in the zoo. A little girl comes along and decides that this will just not do and sets off to prove that she can make a difference. The plot of the story is to get the tigers out of the zoo but the story is really about love and friendship. The illustrations are interesting and use bright colours. If you have a baby brother he would like it because babies like cuddly things and the pictures of the tigers make them look like teddy bears. You can tell this book is for little children because they don’t use big words and it is easy to read and remember because it rhymes.

U. Yes, David, it does rhyme, in fact it is a poem, each verse has four lines, the story is told by a poem. I thought the language was quite sophisticated but I did I like the book. One for parents to read to their children perhaps? END


Chosen by


and his PANEL OF EXTRAORDINARILY PERCEPTIVE CHILDREN (ages 7-10) attending school at St Mary Magdalen’s R.C. Primary School, London NW2.

The Names Upon the Harp coverTHE NAMES UPON THE HARP is a re-telling of Irish legends by Marie Heaney , wife of Nobel prize winning poet, Seamus Heaney, our national poet. It is a fine assemblage. It is particularly helpful as an introduction to Irish myth and legend as it puts all our legends into perspective; the stories fall into three cycles, THE MYTHOLOGICAL CYCLE, THE ULSTER CYCLE and THE FINN CYCLE. Many of these stories will be familiar to us adults, The Children of Lir (all the children’s favourite story) the birth and naming of Cuchulainn, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Tir na n-Og, countless others.

This book forms a found skeleton of Irish mythology, I can think of no simpler yet resolute introduction to Irish legend for children at home or here in the UK. This is a book you will enjoy and treasure in the house forever.

The illustrations which are sumptious are by Ireland’s leading illustrator, P.J. Lynch. There is a most useful Irish/English pronunciation guide at the back.

What did my panel think?

They were highly critical of many of the books brought to their notice but this one swayed their hearts.

Rosie Walsh Scarr (age 10) said “The book made me feel part of the story. I have never read a book about myths and legends before, but now I will read more of them. My favourite story was “The Children of Lir.” The pictures are brilliant especially the ones for the story of Oisin in the Land of Youth.” She added, “The pronunciation guide at the back was really helpful.”

Clare Glynn (age 9) “Really, really good! Brilliant! And at the back there is a dictionary of pronunciation for people who have no Irish in them. It will help those people enjoy the words more. My dad helped me read the stories, he speaks Irish. He was proud of me that I had such a book. I thought the book was amazing, inspiring, incredible. If the book has to stay in the school library then we will buy the book for the family.”

S.T. Comment: It is usual for reviewers to be allowed to keep the book sent for review but in this case since it is a shared enterprise I think it fair the book becomes school property and can be enjoyed by other pupils.

Sabrina Corcoran (age 10) “Fin and the Salmon of Knowledge is a brilliant story and it shows that people are born with knowledge or else some are born dumb. Many of the stories had sad endings and this made me cry.”

S.T. Comment: Yes, this is true. Many of the stories, if not all, had sad or even tragic endings. This is quite the reverse of accepted standard practice where children’s stories really do have to have a happy ending. But then of course these stories weren’t written or handed down as stories for children, these books you have been reading are a glimpse into a country’s culture and whilst not dumbed down, are very much simplified and many, many really horrid bits have been left out. As far as your comment about people being born with knowledge or not, no-one is actually born with knowledge, but there is a great inequality in how much and how quickly and how pleasantly different children acquire knowledge.

FAVOURITE IRISH FAIRY TALES is a similar type of book. It is less ambitious than Marie Heaney’s definitive work but is none the less charming in its way. It is published by Dublin based publishers Poolbeg Press and written by Soinbhe Lalley, it is again illustrated by P.J.Lynch. It predates the Heaney book by about three years and is a third of the price. Both books are value for money.

Let’s see what my panel thinks:

Catherine O’Connell (age 10) found the book “magical, simple, beautifully illustrated.”

Adam Mullins (age 9) found the book “Interesting. I particularly liked the story of “The Childen of Lir.”

THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF JONATHAN TOOMEY is another Poolbeg Press book and is a sentimental Xmas story, a perfect choice for very good girls and boys.

Martin Corcoran (age 9) wrote that “Jonathan Toomey was a wood sculptor who make religious artefacts but he was a very grumpy man. The children called him “Gloomey” not Toomey. Then a child asked him to carve some nativity objects and as child and sculptor worked together, so Mr Toomey’s gloom disappeared.

I came to the book in quite a bad mood, actually, but I found the book soothing, it calmed me down.”

S.T. Comment: We’d better order a few of those for the teachers!

Martin continues, “The words and pictures were beautiful. It is a very artistic book.”


by Roddy Doyle (Scholastic Press UK) is something new.

It’s not a Christmas story, it’s not a legend from Ancient Ireland, it’s actually a new book and it’s a poo book! It’s a book all about poo. Yes, I do mean the smelly stuff. You know how awful it is if you stamp in dog’s poo on the pavement and then have to get the wretched stuff off before wiping your feet on your parents’ (or spouse’s) mat, you know how it is when you were a kid splashing and ploshing through puddles and getting your shoes and socks really wet and then having to go home and face the music.

This is a book about a bloke who is just about to step into a collosally large amount of dog poo. The whole plot is about the just-about-ness of the squelch. It is a really funny book. It is brilliantly constructed, there is excellent characterisation, every character in it, human and animal, has a real personality and a role to play.

It is hilariously witty as one would expect from the author of The Commitments and how many other brilliant novels for adults? What did the children think? They didn’t like it at all, the prudish things! Michael: disgusting. Sabrina: Vile. I am sceptical about it. I had to hold my nose. It was all about poo! Only Adam came to save the day: “The Gigglers give “the treatment” to any adult who is bad or cruel to children. Their punishment is that they have poo put where they are going to step. It is a book about poo. I enjoyed it. It was funny. It was also a good book, it was good writing. Children will like it.”

SPANISH JOHN AND THE GREAT ARMADA (Mercier Press, Cork) is a rather dull workmanlike book about a survivor of one of the Spanish Armada attacks on England. I think the allure here is that Spanish people did find themselves shipwrecked on the shores of western Ireland and there is therefore Spanish blood in the genes of many an Irish family, there is certainly a bit of Spanish if the Irish physche. Since the Spanish were traditional enemies of England (and not without cause) republican Ireland held them in high esteem. For whatever reason the myth is perpetuated in this easily readable “in a series” type book. My young reviewer, Martin Sheehan (age 10) was more enthusiastic, he enjoyed it and felt that by retelling the plot in detail and with enthusiasm he might encourage other young readers to buy this book and enjoy!

THE MYSTERY OF THE GHOST SHIP MARY CELESTE (Mercier Press, Cork) I remember this story as a Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes mystery called Marie Celeste, Ms Regan corrects the great English detective at least in spelling, it is the Mary Celeste. My panel representative, again Martin Sheehan, again wrote at great length and with obvious relish, a precis of the plot and then concluded “the book is excellent for young readers who like mysteries.” So there you go!

Books reviewed:

The Names Upon the Harp: Irish legends retold by Marie Heaney, illustr by P.J.Lynch

Faber and Faber London ISBN 0 571 19363 3 £14.99

Favourite Irish Fairy Tales: legends retold by Soinbhe Lally, illustr by Finbarr O’Connor

Poolbeg Press Dublin ISBN 1 85371 829 7 £4.99

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustr by P.J.Lynch

Poolbeg Press Dublin ISBN 1 85371 870 X £5.99

The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle

Scholastic Press London ISBN 0 439 99794 1 £9.99

Spanish John and the Great Armada by Michelle Conway

Mercier Press Cork ISBN 1 85635 318 4 £3.99

The Mystery of the Ghost Ship Mary Celeste by Michelle Conway

Mercier Press Cork ISBN 1 85635 319 2 £3.99

Books can be ordered through the Irish Post website <a href=”” style=”color: blue; text-decoration: underline; text-underline: single”> <span lang=”EN-US” style=”font-size: 10.0pt”> or from any good bookshop.



The Magic Gifts

by Sinead De Valera

Wolfhound Press £9.99.

ISBN 0 86327 822 1

This is indeed a magic gift, a collection of stories for children written by Sinead de Valera, wife of Eamon, presented to us by Wolfhound Press and the author’s grand daughter, Sile de Valera, a TD and our present Minister for the Arts and Culture. Ms Sile De Valera writes an introduction and a tribute.

So how well do these “olden-style* stories stand up today and what will today’s youngsters think of them?

I thought they were terrific. They have real storytelling power, real suspense for children, real beguiling. They are full of repetition in the plot, drawing the child into a web of mystery and intrigue where danger is well land-marked. We want to shout out “Look out” but are powerless and agog as we read on.

My panel loved them too; Clare Glynn (age 10) wrote: “This is a brilliant book for anyone with an imagination. The book is one you can’t put down. A lot of the stories are about magic and my favourite is The Emerald Ring. It is about jealousy between two princesses. When danger threatens the emerald ring turns black....” Rosie Walshe Scarr (age 10) wrote: “This is a fantastic book about magical times. It has many strange stories and one even has a singing kettle. When the kettle steams it sings and the steam forms a rainbow. The writer describes the details of the stories so well I wish I were living inside the book.”

Tribute indeed. I agree with my young critics, the book gave me lasting pleasure.

Christy’s Dream

By Caroline Binch

Mammoth UK

ISBN 0 7497 4294 1

Christy’s Dream is emphatically set in the present day. It is a beautifully realised modern fairytale set in Ballybun and is all about a child who wants to own his own horse like so many of the kids do there. What did the panel think?

Catherine O’Connell (age 11) wrote: “I liked this book a lot. At first I wasn’t sure but the more I read the more I liked it. The illustrations were brilliant and so life-like. It is a story about a dream coming true.”

Sean O’ Sullivan (age 10) reported “I liked the story a lot. I come from Dublin originally. I’ve only been here in London a year. I like the parks and the open spaces here. The story you gave me is set in Ballybun in Dublin where a lot of people have horses. They tie them to goalposts and things like that. Christy wants to be a top Irish jockey, that is his dream and the story is about that. It is a good story and I would recommend it.”

So do I. The pictures are haunting and ephemerally depictive, indeed as in a dream. Lasting power to this formidable writer/illustrator. 200 words

A Wrenboy’s Carnival

Poems 1980-2000

By Gabriel Fitzmaurice

Wolfhound Press Dublin £6.99

ISBN 0 86327 802 7

This is a summing up, a testimonial book of poems by a poet and teacher from Moyvane in Co Kerry. In it he describes his life, his preoccupations, his anguish and his celebrations. None of them are his alone, all are shared with family, pupils at school, village. We rarely get an insight to the man himself, a man who has given so much, so unselfishly to his society and to poetry, it is only when A Teacher Sings the Blues we get to the nub of it:

I’ve never found the time

To indulge the child within –

All day I’m teaching children,

There are times I could give in.

It’s so lonely in the classroom,

And the kids don’t understand

That I, too, hurt like they do;

And my! How kids can wound.

At lunchtime I’ m “on duty”

I patrol the shrill school yard

A sandwich and a cuppa

In my hand. Oh it’s hard

To keep an eye on children,

And if one of them is hurt

You wonder of they’ll sue you

And you’ve never been to court.

And when you retire on pension

With forty years put in,

They’ll make a presentation

In the local Arms or Inn.

And you’ll look back, if you’re lucky,

On a job you hope, well done.

Then shortly you’re forgotten –

You know that life moves on.

This a parochial statement of how life is lived in small town rural Ireland written by someone who has been there for, it must sometimes seem, forever. This is not a book for children – although there is nothing in it to hide from them – but it is a noble introduction to Gabriel’s work. He is one of Ireland’s leading writers for children. So what did my panel think of his kids’ poems?

But Dad

Gabriel Fitzmaurice

Poolbeg Press Dublin £3.99

ISBN 1 85371 453 4

Michael Sheahan: “Very well written, very readable and suitable for very young children, their parents might have to read them to them, mind you. All of the poems are funny, some plain silly, some are clever, I liked


Kids are so demanding

When they’re boy-ster-us and shout

(At least you know what they’re up to)

But when they’re quiet


I give the book 10/10.”

Dear Grandad

Gabriel Fitzmaurice

Poolbeg Press Dublin £3.99

ISBN 1 84223 0115

Sabrina Corcoran: “These are an assortment of poems about everything under the sun, most of them very silly. I think they were written by a child, not an adult. One example –


I love our new computer,

The coolest you can get –

It plays CDs and ROMs and games;

It has the internet.

I don’t know how I did without it –

I could spend all day

In front of our computer

And not go out to play....

This is how a child speaks. All the poems are very funny. I give the book 10/10”.

I think Sabrina makes a salient point. The poems are child-centred and some are better than others but all have a child-like gift which owes much to Mr Fitzmaurice’s powers of observation as a teacher and a dad.

Puppy and the Sausage

Gabriel Fitzmaurice

Poolbeg Press Dublin £3.99

ISBN 1 85371 858 0

Martin Corcoran: “These are really silly poems. My favourite one is the one which isn’t silly. It is called Blossoming , it is really beautiful”:

Little buds upon a tree

Blossom forth eventually

Like me.

First they open, then they bloom

Pushing out to make more room

Like me.

And they flower as they please

And their beauty feeds the bees

Like me

Yes the blossoms flower and fruit

Growing into their own truth

Like me

Thank you God for me.

“I give the book 10/10”.

Books can be ordered through the Irish Post website <a href=”” style=”color: blue; text-decoration: underline; text-underline: single”> or from any good bookshop.




Let us begin at the beginning, the first few words, in this case in Irish. Two terrific new books have arrived on my desk: :

USBORNE VERY FIRST WORDS IN IRISH £4.99 ISBN O 7460 44836 The pages of this tiny book are made of wood so toddlers can hold it, drop it, chew it and no harm done. It is therefore very user-friendly for both parents and children. It has lots of pictures and noun names. It is a delightful and instructive book to have in a bi-lingual or developing bi-lingual household. Sarah said it was “bright and colourful like a parrot and will help you learn the basics.” It doesn’t have a guide to pronunciation.


In contrast, this is a large “sticker book” and more ambitious than First Words. There are pictures of (for instance) a sitting room with furniture and each item in the room has to be labelled with the correct Irish word from the “sticker” page. Other pages include a kitchen, a garden, and moving outwards a farm, and so on. It will provide hours of learning fun within the family. Clare found it “challenging.”

So to a flattering UK initiative. Because of the popularity and sheer talent of Irish writing , Red Fox (a subsidiary of Random House, one of the world’s biggest publishers) have set up a publishing division exclusively to develop and mature the best of new Irish writing for children. So what are their first offerings?

THE HIGH DEEDS OF FIN McCOOL Red Fox ISBN 0099414228 £4.99

This is a poetic re-telling of the myths by Rosemary Sutcliff. I gave the book to Sabrina and Martin the Corcoran to review:

The cover put me off, it was dull and suggested a dull book. However as I read into the book I began to be drawn to it. (Sabrina) A lot of effort has been put into the writing. The stories are full of detail and but there are lots of hard words. The further I got into the book the more I felt like clinging on. It is a difficult book and better maybe for teenagers. (Martin)

GHOST BIRD by Mary Arrigan ISBN 0099402874 £3.99

However it is with their choice of original work that a publisher will always be judged and with this new young children’s novel GHOST BIRD they have picked a winner. It is a straightforward mystery tale but is set in the present day and couched in everyday language, in words that children will immediately connect with. It is written in the language which kids speak, yet it is also about enchantment. The clever thing about the book is that the author, County Tipperary based Mary Arrigan, beckons us into a real and recognisable world and then leads us into a fantastic world and then back again. It is a perfectly accomplished novel and has the whiff of Skellig about it, no higher praise in my book. My panel were all captivated by it.

Carly wrote, this novel is full of action and scariness. The words are simple and easy to understand, the book is realistic and full of bright ideas for plot. I could read this book again and again. 10/10.

Well done Red Fox!

So to Irish publishing and what is new and best:

RUSTY NAILS AND ASTRONAUTS Wolfhound Press Dublin ISBN 0 86327 671 7 IR£16.99

Now comes a new and commanding poetry anthology from Wolfhound Press called RUSTY NAILS AND ASTRONAUTS which is not exclusively Irish in its choice of poems but it is very much an Irish book. Co-editors Moyvane based Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Northern Irish born Robert Dunbar have produced a lively, enthralling and all embracing anthology. Of all the books my panel read this time, this was their favourite. Here are their comments:

I think this is a marvellous book. There are lots of brilliant poems and lots of humorous ones too. I thought A Smile by Jez Alborough was fantastic:


Smiling is infectious You catch it like the flu,

When someone smiled at me today I started smiling too.....

I also liked Insides by Colin West:


I’m very grateful to my skin

For keeping all my insides in –

I do so hate to think about

What I would look like inside out.

(Michael Sheahan)

I found this book an interesting and funny read and no wonder - it has been collected together by my favourite poet of all time, Gabriel Fitzmaurice. I liked all the poems. (Sarah Kilcoyne)

This is a wonderful anthology of poetry for children. Here we have poems which rhyme, which are funny and ones that are serious too. I liked the poem A Smile best. (Antonia)

WORMS CAN’T FLY by Aislinn and Larry O’Loughlin Wolfhound Press ISBN 86327 786 1 £3.99

A new collection of poems for children by the Dublin based father and daughter team. Dad is a storyteller, Aislinn published her first book at the age of fourteen. So what of this latest offesring? The children loved it. Antonia thought it was “wacky, serious, fun; a brilliant mix.” My two favourites were,


When we were up in Donegal

We saw a great huge waterfall And Roisin asked in pure delight

“Do they turn it off at night?”



A collector came round last night –

A very nice young man

Collecting for the old folks home –

So I gave him Gran.....

There is no doubt children enjoy these funny poems, so do I, but there is more to life than fast food poetry,

consider these two poems written by one of our panel:

<p class=”MsoHeading7”> MORNING SOUNDS

Yawning in, yawning out

Sirens going nee nar nee nar

Radio chatting blah blah blah

Babies crying mwa mwa mwa What a noise!

Scraping scrape scraping

Pouring rain

Creaking doors, cockerel in the background.


The diamond sparkles in your eye

Twinkling of the colour red,

At midnight it glows,

In darkness shows

You the way.

Hard as rock,

Sharp as a blade,

In sickness and health

To be worn by our mothers.

Niamh Walshe McBride (then aged 9)

Makes you think, doesn’t it?



AUTHORS Richard Brassey and Stewart Ross

ILLUSTRATOR Richard Brassey.

PUBLISHER Orion Children’s Books

ISBN 1 85881 849 4

PRICE £4.99

The Story of Ireland – Written by Richard Brassey and Stewart Ross

Photo of book

Photo of Martin with the two girls

Reviewed by

Fionnuala Webb, Martin Corcoran and Holly Hogan

As soon as you open the book you see a large map of Ireland which shows Ireland before 1500. It shows the name of towns and gives a short piece of information on each one. There is also a smaller map up on the left hand corner that was drawn by a Greek called Ptolemy, who lived in Egypt over 2000 years ago. The wonderful illustrations that are present in this page continue right through the entire book.

The story begins millions of years ago when the super-continent called the Pangaea existed. Then we move onto after the Ice Age when new continents were formed.

The first Irish people were hunters and fisherman, followed in 3500BC by farmers from Britain. These farmers knew pottery, clothes making and making tombs.

The next settlers were good with metals, they were known as Beaker People and it is thought that most present-day Irish people and the Irish language descend from them.

The next settlers were the Celts in 600BC. There were four major kingdoms and about one hundred and fifty smaller ones, all constantly quarrelling. Some kings lived in stone hill forts while others preferred crannogs in the lake villages.

The Romans did not bother with Ireland, but when they had finished in Scotland some Irish went over and conquered it.

Ogham was the earliest Irish alphabet written on stones with a series of dashes.

Next Christianity came to Ireland and for the next 300 years Ireland became the wonder of Europe. Many missionaries and scholars travelled to Europe and Russia.

Everyone had an exact position in society consisting of twenty seven classes. Divorce was allowed and the rich could have several wives.

By the 11th century the Vikings had arrived and introduced money. Brian Boru died in 1014 after having defeated the Viking Dubliners and Leinstermen. The Ui Neill family were the most powerful family at that time.

The Normans were the next to arrive because Henry II wanted to let everyone know who was king. Common law was introduced in 1264. The Normans that arrived soon saw themselves as Irish.

The Black Death reached Ireland in 1348, wiping out half of the population.

Poynings’ Law was introduced when Henry VIII decided that he wanted nothing to happen in Ireland without his say so.

In the 16th century the English tried to make the Irish English by stopping the language and dress. Many English were brought to Ireland to force this way of life upon the Irish, this was known as The Plantation. There was a confederate war between 1641 and 1653.

In 1649 Oliver Cromwell arrived and confiscated his enemies’ land and gave it to his friends and supporters. Their families kept it for over 200 years. In 1688 James II arrived in Ireland. King William beat James’s army on the banks of the Boyne.

Once again the country was under English Protestant rule.

By the middle of the 18th century some of the ‘New English’ Protestants complained about the way the country was treated by England. They sympathised with Catholics and said that all people had a right to live under laws to which they had agreed. England was not happy with this and in 1800 bullied parliament into passing an Act of Union and then dissolving itself.

The country was now part of the United Kingdom.

The Great Famine happened in 1845-49. Many Irish died and others emigrated to America.

In 1893 the Gaelic League was set up to revive the Irish language. The Gaelic Athletic Association encouraged Irish sport. Members were not allowed to watch ‘foreign’ games such as cricket and rugby.

Home rule was promised in 1912 but was shelved because of the First World War in 1914. The Easter Rising took place in 1916.

In the 1918 elections Unionists, who wanted to stay in the UK, won Ulster. Sinn Fein, who wanted the British out, won the rest. The first Dail was set up in Dublin. A treaty in 1921 split the country but there were still many who could not accept Ulster staying in the UK. In 1937 the fully independent Irish Republic (Eire) was created under Prime Minster Eamon De Valera.

Conflict between Catholics and Protestants has troubled Ulster for over 300 years. It spilled over in 1969. In 1998 Unionists and Republicans accepted the Good Friday agreement that set out a formula for ending the conflict for ever.

In 1972 the people of the Irish Republic voted to join the EEC (now the EU). By the 1990s, with EU assistance, the economy of the Irish Republic was one of the fastest growing in the world. It has been nicknamed ‘The Celtic Tiger’.

There are more than 70 million people of Irish descent living around the world.

I found this book very interesting and fascinating in places, I was amazed at how many different people have been in Ireland through the ages. I also found it refreshing to know that the Catholics and Protestants can actually work together.

For illustrations I give this book 10/10, for information I give it 10/10 and for an all round great read I give it 10/10.

It must be the best book ever written about Ireland.

(Martin Corcoran age 10 yrs)

My Report on The Story of Ireland

by Fionnuala Webb

I think the story is fantastic. Richard Brassey and Stewart Ross have done a great job on writing and illustrating this really interesting book.

I have learned so many things I didn’t know before like about the Great Famine and how 250,000 left Ireland because of the fungus disease.

This book is great for children like me because it has pictures that help you understand all about Ireland and what happened in the past. I would give this book 10/10 because I learned things, enjoyed the pictures and I now understand Ireland more through illustration.

I really hope people will buy this book. Thank you.

By Fionnuala Webb aged 11 years.

The Story of Ireland

Review by Holly Hogan

The Story of Ireland is a brilliant book because I, and probably many more people, do not know about the history. For example, I never knew that Henry Tudor wanted to take over Ireland and that Henry V111 wanted everybody to agree that it was his land.

Most books that tell you about history are heavy duty, but this book tells you a lot about how it really was and breaks it up into short comic strip versions and if there is a building in the story it will show you a picture of the building and say where it is..

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone over nine years of age.

I have decided to give this brilliant book an outstanding ten out of ten because of the humorous style of writing. It is enjoyable to read.

By Holly Hogan. Age 10 yrs



introduced by SHAUN TRAYNOR

and top KIDSZONE reviewers, Clare Glynn and Emma Dubrey.

Who are your favourite writers? In Ireland there are two children’s writers who are more famous than others. One writes only in Irish and the other in Irish and in English.

Gabriel Rosenstock writes only in Irish and does not translate his poems. He does, however, allow other poets to translate from time to time. In my anthology, THE POOLBEG BOOK OF IRISH POETRY FOR CHILDREN, Sean Hutton and I, translated a number of Gabriel Rosenstock poems. Now here comes a book full of them, translated by none other than Gabriel Fitzmaurice - no stranger to KIDSZONE - since we have reviewed many of his books here. Gabriel Fitzmaurice is one of the most popular Irish writers for children today.


Speaclai an tSronbheannaigh

Poems in Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock

Translated by Gabriel Fitzmaurice

Illustrations by Cliodhna Quinlan

So what of this new book of poems? The good thing is that we have each poem in Irish and in English, side by side, so we can follow the words in two languages. I have found in poems by Gabriel Rosenstock, a certain flatness, maybe deliberately iconoclastic; an understated quality, always searching for the enigmatic.

Here is the title poem:

An Sronbheannach

Chennaigh an sronbheannach speaclai

Is chuir se iad ar a shron,

Ach bhuail se I gcoinne apa

Is briseadh iad – ochon!

Eist leis an gcaint anois aige:

An crann e sin no blath?

Abair liom, a chara,

Bhfuil ina oiche no ina la?

The Rhino

The rhino bought a pair of specs

And perched them on his nose,

But he collided with an ape –

They broke, alas. He goes

Enquiring, “Tree or flower?

(I can’t really say).

Tell me friend, I beg you,

Is it night or day?”

But what would KIDSZONE think of it? I asked Clare Glynn (age 10) to read it with her dad and report back. This is her review:


As my dad can speak fluent Irish this made the experience of reading this book even more enjoyable than if I had only had the English text. He helped me with meaning and pronunciation.

My favourite poem was THE UGLY HAG which is six verses long and every verse carries in it a bucket full of laughter:

An Chailleach Ghranna

Ce a sciobann uainini?

Ce a sciobann na gamhna?

Ce a sciobasnn coinini

Is a thagann Oiche Shamhna?

“Mise mise mise!”

A deir an chailleach ghranna,

“Agus sciobfaidh mise tusa

Ma bhionn tu dana.”

“Ni bheidh me dana, a chailleach ghranna!

Ni bheidh me dana, a chailleach ghhranna!”

Ce a itheann peistini

Am bricfeasta (is cupla frog)?

Ce a shiulann ar na seilidi Mar go bpleascann siad go bog?

“Mise mise mise!”

A deir an chailleach ghranna,

“Agus siulfaidh me ortsa

Ma bhionn tu dana.”

“Ni bheidh me dana, a chailleach ghranna!

Ni bheidh me dana, a chailleach ghranna!”


Who runs off with little lambs

And calves so young and green?

Who runs off with rabbits

And comes at Hallowe’en?

“Me me me!”

Says the ugly hag,

“And I’ll run off with you

If you are bad.”

“I won’t be bad, you ugly hag!

I won’t be bad, you ugly hag!”

Who eats worms for breakfast

And a couple of frogs maybe?

Who steps on snails to hear them

Exploding silently?

“Me me me!”

Says the ugly hag.

“And I’ll step on you

If you are bad.”

“I won’t be bad, you ugly hag!

I won’t be bad, you ugly hag!”

All the poems in the book would really be liked by anyone. You don’t have to be a poetry lover to explore this wonderful world of poetry. For anyone young or old, with or without an imagination, this book will show them the funny side of life and leave a smile on anyone’s face. The book shows us there is more to life than work and stress.

Poetry isn’t my favourite subject but this book has certainly changed my opinion and I know now what to read if I am ever depressed. I couldn’t recommend a better book to awaken somebody’s imagination. This book is truly wonderful. My dad’s favourite poem was the humorous THE TROUT:

An Breac

“Ta spotai os comhair mo shul,” arsa an breac.

“Maith thu,” arsa an bradan.

Is ma chreideann tu an sceal sin

Nil ionat ach amadan!

The Trout

“There are spots before my eyes,” says the trout.

The salmon says, “That’s cool.”

And if you believe this rubbish

You’re nothing but a fool!

Dick King-Smith is one of England’s most prolific and popular authors. He it was who wrote BABE if you remember. Here is a new collection of his stories in a big, bold, hardback book.



Illustrated by Amanda Harvey

Penguin Books ISBN 0 670 91240 9 £3.99

I gave it to Emma Dubrey to review. Here are her thoughts:

The book is called THE BIG BOOK OF SHORT STORIES and I enjoyed them all because there is always a different twist in Dick King-Smith’s writing. My favourite story was called THE EXCITEMENT OIF BEING ERNEST. In this story a dog named Ernest wants to know what breed of dog he is. Ernest goes to great extremes to find out what type of dog he is. While trying to do so, he takes a lot of hard words from other dogs. I favour this particular story because there are so many accents in it and the words are enjoyable to pronounce. Dick King-Smith has real imagination and he writes about many emotions, anger, love, sadness etc. The only fault I could find with the book was that it was a bit easy for me at age ten. It is for younger children although I do think it’s nice to take a break sometimes and have an easy read. Having said that, it is the most enjoyable book I have read at school this year.



Shaun Traynor explains the project:

KIDSZONE is about sharing. Each week we invite schools out there to get in touch with us and send us your news and views, book reviews, poems and stories.

Because of the special circumstances surrounding Holy Cross Girls School in Belfast, I wrote to them directly and asked them to join in.

In spite of the of the fact that they were in the middle of their “eleven-plus” exams and never mind the brain-numbing obscenities they have to live side by side with, pupils came up with brilliant reviews of the latest UK fiction for children.

Here is the first of their writings now:


Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. Faber Children’s Classics ISBN 0 571 20751 0

Reviewed by Aine McCreesh

This is a very funny book with a collection of hilarious poems. Some poems are quite long while others are quite short. This book has a lot of hard words in it so it would probably be best for over ten years.

I liked the way the book had very funny poems, it really made me laugh. What I didn’t like about the book was, it was very old fashioned to me. But it was still a brilliant book.

Well because this is a poetry book I don’t have a favourite character but I’ll tell you my favourite poem. It has to be The Dunce. I have read it over and over. I think it is one of the best poems in the book:

Why does he still keep ticking?

Why does his round white face

Stare at me over the books and ink,

And mock at my disgrace?

Why does that thrush call, “Dunce, dunce, dunce!”?

Why dos the bluebottle buzz?

Why does the sun so silent shine? –

And what do I care if it does?

I think this book is a little old fashioned for a girl of my age (11) but when I am older I will probably think his books are wonderful.

CHARLOTTE BRONTE The Girl who Turned her Life into a Book.

By Kate Hubbard. Short Books, 15 Highbury Terrace, London N5 1UP ISBN 1 904095 01 1 paperback £3.99.

Reviewed by Sonya Gorman

This book is about a girl called Charlotte. It is a fact book and the print is very small. This book is very good. It would be for nine year olds and upwards because it is very detailed. I would recommend it for that age.

What I didn’t like about the book was that there was a lot of detail in it, piles of it. I also didn’t like the way it was in short chapters, I would have preferred a long story.

The character that impressed me most was Charlotte as she was very smart. The part I liked the most of all was when she got a job. The saddest bit was when her sister died.

I would read more books by Kate Hubbard as she is very good.


Illustrated by David Roberts

Faber and Faber (paperback) ISBN 0 571 20947 5 £4.99.

Reviewed by Helen Boyle.

This book is very strange and very good at the same time.

When three convicts escape and capture a little boy called Eddie, they hold him prisoner.

Their plan to steal jewels fails them when a disguised detective, mad Uncle Jack, madder Aunt Maud, the Great Zucchini and his assistant Daniella, team up to save Eddie and catch the convicts.

I liked the humour and the dialogue in the book because it really went well with the background given. I didn’t like parts of the speech used because it was hard to read and understand.

The character that impressed me most was Eddie because he had the funniest lines and had an extremely interesting personality, the type of life he had wasn’t normal either.

I would read more books by Philip Ardagh as his books are well written and very enjoyable.


by Jane Clarke (Illustrated by Ant Parker)

Randon House Children’s Books ISBN 0 09 941743 X £3.99

Reviewed by Nicole Kane.

The name of the book I am reading is called SHERMAN SWAPS SHELLS. The authors who wrote the book are called Jane Clarke and Ant Parker. SHERMAN SWAPS SHELLS is very exciting, so exciting, that when my friend wanted me, I did not want to put the book down.

I think the book is terrific, especially Sherman. Mum is funny when she picks shells for Sherman. They are silly.

My favourite part of the book is when Sherman is out looking for a new shell (Sherman is a crab) and he sees a teenager strolling past with a shell with huge spikes. Sherman shouts to his mum, “Wow! Can I have one of those shells please?” Mum says, “But Sherman, those kind of shells are hard to find in your size.”

Sherman did find a shell he liked but it was the wrong size.

The most important characters in SHERMAN SWAPS SHELLS are Sherman and his mum. I like Sherman best because he always picks the coolest shells.

I recommend other children to read SHERMAN SWAPS SHELLS because they will really like it.

I love the book best because the illustrations are brilliant, especially the picture of Sherman with his new shell on. He does look funny!




reviewed by pupils of



ISBN 0 434 807869 Egmont Books £9.99. Hardback.

Reviewed by Stacy Owens

The book A PERFECT DAY FOR IT is fantastic. The author is Jan Fernley. She has made an effort worthwhile for her book. The bear sure had an adventure, a lovely one. The illustrations are fun and funny. The story is about a bear who said it was a perfect day to go to the highest mountain and he did. As he went he met all his friends walking up and they had lovely ideas but they were wrong.

It was a perfect day for them all because they got a slide down on the bear’s back.

The words like Tramp, Paddy-paw, Tippy-toes, Grunchy-bump made me get excited and really interested. When the animals go down in the snow the book pops open. That was my favourite part because it was so brilliant. The most important character in the book was the bear as the story was about him. I think that other people should read this book because they would love it. It is also colourful with lovely pictures and it is a great story. I don’t know how many times I have read it.


ISBN 0 09 176947 7 Random House Children’s Books £.9.99. Hardback.

Reviewed by Danielle Webb

The book I am reading is called Hoppameleon and the author is Paul Geraghty. The book is about a frog who wants to find a friend. I think it is a brilliant book and I didn’t want to stop reading it. I didn’t want it to end.

My favourite character is Hoppameleon because I would love to jump like Hop-Hop-Hoppameleon! My favourite part of the book is when Hoppameleon meets another frog because it is unusual for a frog to make friends unless it could talk. I like the book because there are good illustrations.

The characater does meet a new friend. I think that people will like it because it is fun to read very enjoyable.

I would like to read more books by this writer.


ISBN 0 09941709 Random House Children’s Books £3.99. Paperback.

Reviewed by Orlaith Stelle

My book is called Totally Trevor and the Author of the book is called Rob Lewis. It is an exciting and adventurous book. It is about Trevor who sneaks downstairs and opens all his presents under the tree. On Christmas morning he opens a big present and finds a go-Kart and his friend Alvin has a go-Kart, but Trevor thinks that Alvin has a better one than him and he tries to make his the same as Alvin’s by sticking stickers on to it. Trevor has fun staying our every night of the week, but gets a shock at the weekend.

My favourite part was when he had a dream about dinosaurs and when he woke up in the morning he was under the bed because he thought the dinosaurs were going to get him. This was a funny part.

The most important characters are Trevor and Alvin. I like Trevor because he is very sneaky and funny. I recommend that other people would like it and they would like the illustrations because they are very interesting and artistic.


Faber and Faber ISBN 0 571 207138 £4.99. Paperback.

Reviewed by Lisa Benson

This book is very good and interesting and it would be suitable for ten and up. Teenagers would like it better than ten year olds. It is about a boy and he admires a bike in a shop, he has no money so he thinks he should steal it.

I liked the part when Roy changed his mind from stealing it. There was no part in the book I didn’t like. There was another part I liked, the first day he did his paper round.

Roy was a good character and he is a brilliant person in the story. He has interesting stories and when he arrives late he has good excuses.

I would read the same author again because the stories are adventurous and interesting.


Dear Kids Zone,

My name is Liam Sheehan. I am 9 years old. I go to St. Joseph’s R.C. Primary School, Bradford.

I have written a poem about Harry Potter for the Kids Zone in the Irish Post.

I hope you like it !!!

Harry Potter is the best,

Harry, Hermione and all the rest.

Harry’s enemy is Voldermot,

potions are the Gryffindors’ last resort.

Quidditch is their favourite game.

The Gryffindors always win,

always lose do Slytherin,

hubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

Yours hopefully,





As promised, we put a collection of New Irish Writing for Children under the microscope. Our critics this week are Michael Sheahan from St Mary Magdalen’s R.C. Jnr School in North London and his sister, Bernadette who attends St Michael’s Grammar School in Finchley.

Photo Michael Sheehan

Lots of 8/10’s and 9/10’s show that this book has proved to be a success with pupils...


is a collection of new short stories for children by Irish writers brought together by Robert Dunbar who is from Northern Ireland but works in a Dublin Teachers Training College. He is a distinguished anthologist and expert on Irish children’s literature.

Photo: cover of book SKIMMING

THE KINGS by Mark O’Sullivan. This is a perfect children’s story. It fits in with the now popular style of chivalrous fairy-tales with Kings and honour. It’s sweet, enjoyable and written so everyone can enjoy this wonderful tale. Bernadette Sheahan.

SATELLITE BATTERIES by Eoin Colfer is a very amusing story with a moral. The moral is DO NOT BECOME A BULLY because you might be accused of doing things you didn’t do. In the story Mac the bully helps out a friend and gets in trouble. This story is very good and I would give it 7/10. Michael Shehan

THESAURUS by Gerard Whelan is a story about a girl called Molly who has to look after her baby brother on Christmas Eve. She loved it when her parents begged her to baby-sit. She found it funny. Boy did they beg! This story was very funny and deserves 8/10. Michael Shehan

THE WOODHEADS ON HOLIDAY by Pat Boran is a brilliant story about when one family called the Woodheads go on holiday and Rowena (the one who is scared of spiders) found one and screeched. She went out and told her dad, “I want that spider out when I get back.” When she came back the house had collapsed, but the spider was alive. This story was excellent and gets 9/10. Michael Shehan

THE BONFIRE WAR by Maeve Friel is a story about two different sides of town, North Side and South Side. They go to war because each year each side has a bonfire and objects from each pile go missing. I found this story very witty and amusing. I give it 8/10. Michael Sheahan

TWO MARY LEARYS by Eoin Colfer is about a girl who can’t afford a communion dress so her mother bleaches a blue one and makes something to cover up the stain on the front of her dress. Mary Leary says it was an old dress of hers and so it turned into a fight. The story was excellent. 8/10. Michael Sheahan

SWEEPER OF THE SANDS by June Considine is about a man whose life was disturbed because he moved away from home. He was moved away because he chose the wrong side of a 1p coin. He became a sand sweeper and lived in a cave. This story was really good. 9/10 Michael Sheahan

A CARDBOARD BOX by Stephanie J. Dagg is about a family who look after unwanted pets. One day they get more than they bargained for – a baby! This story was exciting and I would give it 9/10. Michael Sheahan

TWO FEET OFF THE GROUND by Frank Murphy is a story I didn’t really understand. It was about a girl who won a football match and the next day they were going to build a dam on the river but her sister said the water will rise up over the stepping stones. They get more stones to put on the stones and then more. Then they all went swimming in it. I really didn’t know what the story was about so I can only give it 6/10. Michael Shehan (This is indeed a very strange story, it does, however try to do things in a new way. I didn’t know what it was about either, but it had impact. Some of the use of language was terrific: Three years older than me, she is, and I need her the way I need air. Without her I’m a rabbit frozen with fright in the stare of the weasel. Look at me: a runt, fair game for any kind of bully, big or small, frightened of everything – even small kids, puppies, and hailstones. Without Sal I couldn’t face the light of day. Or They go under, come up again, go down. Sometimes they’re over, sometimes under the boiling water. A shoulder comes up, pale and shiny. A hand catches hold of it, then slides away along the arm. A thigh appears, and an arm is wrapped around it. Up come two bodies, clasped together, held close by straining arms. But mostly it’s hands. Hands like snakes, moving catching...I would give it 8/10. S.T.)

FRED MARTIN AND THE FAIRIES by Carlo Gebler. Folklore and superstition contribute to what seems to be a loss of a young boy’s faith. It is also about the loss of innocence, once reflected in his childhood games but now lost in self-blame. The tone is changeable and erratic but although this is distracting, it mirrors the young child’s train of thought and adds to the unusual subject matter and personally disturbing ending. Bernadette Sheahan

THE STRIPES OF THE TIGER by Siobhan Parkinson Out of a heartless request by a powerful, clever “one of us” a mischievous and local schemer is born. Well written and witty, this is a great story where the heroine wins all, including knowledge and well deserved power. Bernadette Sheahan

BABY OVERBOARD by Gregory Maguire. Children younger than my brother (11) would easily see through this crude characterisation in BABY OVERBOARD. From the engaging and humorous opening, I expected more from the rest of the story. Unfortunately I was disappointed. Bernadette Sheaha



This week SHAUN TRAYNOR talks about how he put together his POOLBEG BOOK OF IRISH POETRY FOR CHILDREN and talks about what he looks for in poetry for children and poetry by children.


is in three sections:

Ancient Ireland

which includes poems in translation:

If all of Scotland were mine,

From boundary to boundary,

I’d prefer to build my house

In the middle of sweet Derry...

(from Colum Cille’s Farewell to Ireland, trans by Sean Hutton)

And this my favourite poem of all time, because it actually describes like Walking with Dinosaurs, what Ireland was really like in the 7th century.

...A clear well beside me offers

Best of drink,

And there grows a bed of cresses

Near its brink.

Pigs and goats, the friendliest of neighbours,

Nestle near,

Wild swine come, or broods of badgers,

Grazing deer...

The Hermit’s Song. Anon. Trans Frank O’Connor.


Great Poets of the Past

Where I tried to find poems by really famous poets which mightn’t be all that well known:

To a Squirrel at Kyle-Na-No

Come play with me;

Why should you run

Through the shaking tree

As though I’d a gun

To strike you dead?

When all I would do

Is to scratch your head

And let you go.

W.B. Yeats.


Poets of the Present Day

Which was an easier task since most authors now, whether novelists or poets, try their hand at writing genuinely for children. I suppose my favourite has to be by Gabriel Fitzmaurice and it was with this poem I began the section as if to say, times have changed:

How High?

How high can I piddle?

Higher than the door?

But the piddle hit it halfways up

And dribbled on the floor.

I got a ball of tissue

And rubbed the door till dry

And soaked it off the lino.

Wow! I can piddle high!

Gabriel Fitzmaurice.

I have no doubt most children most enjoy short funny poems and given choice they would feast upon them forever as

heaven is in Macdonald’s

bliss, a bottle of chilled coke...

Teachers yearn for them to

Get into Swift swiftly,

Yeats, yeastily

and Seamus Heaney, teenily.

As to what children write, I will show some examples next week of simple, straightforward poetry writing.

The great poet Dylan Thomas once said, “It’s either easy or impossible!” Somewhere between that remark and the craft of writing, words which are memorable will exist for ever.

This week’s Books for Review


Tony Mitton is an interesting voice in UK writers of poetry for children. He has a resonance, a sense of listening to a shell by the sea-shore. His poems linger and ponder. They are at once contemporary (Mrs Bhattacharya’s Chapati Zap Machine and Early Walkman) yet have the ancient stuff about them, (The Hag of Beara and The Selkie Bride.) The books are endearingly illustrated by Peter Bailey and beautifully produced by publishers, Scholastic Books.

I gave the books to two sisters, Sarah and Clare Kilcoyne, pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s R.C. Jnr School in North London. Clare is our youngest ever reviewer in Kidszone. Well done to both of you!




ISBN 0 439 99392 X

Scholastic Press Hardback £9.99

Reviewed by Clare Kilcoyne (age 8)

I have just finished reading PIP and would thoroughly recommend it to people over the age of nine. It is a book of brilliant poems. Here are some of the highlights:

I really enjoyed the first part because it contained the poem GROWN OUT OF which is a poem about a boy who had outgrown all his clothes and he was worried he would grow out of his skin too. I enjoyed reading this poem. It was a poem full to the brim with humour!

When I remember reading the bok for the first time a smile springs upon my face. If you are looking for a book with humour you have found the right book.

I really liked the talent the poet has mastered for writing little poems like stories using rhyming couplets.

Though I have praised him, I also need to tell you that although he is a very talented poet, some poems may be difficult to understand for the under nines.

To show how great this book is, I’ll tell you, I loved it so much I read it in one night.

I give this book a fabulous 10/10.



ISBN 0 590 54456 X

Reviewed by Sarah Kilcoyne (age 10)

I enjoyed this writer’s ability to make you feel like you are in the place of the poem and many people will have experienced the situations he writes about.

He has made his poems interesting and witty. My overall favourite is I WANNA BE STAR.I was disappointed he didn’t finish up this poem with the boy becoming a star so I had to do some imagining.

He has varied his poems to cover all topics from haunted to hilarious stories. You can find children in really very funny situations. These poems will make children and adults laugh out loud until their sides ache. (They did to me!)

Another poem for older children is called GREEN MAN LANE and it has some difficult words but it is very well constructed. My favourite verse is;

The leaves crept close around me,

The earth pressed at my feet,

I felt the breeze upon my skin,

My heart’s insistent beat.

As you can see by the words, people under ten may find them a bit difficult, though there are very few like this.

Unlike so many other poets, his writing brought me so much joy and understanding, his writing made me feel happy on the inside and compassionate on the outside. Some of Tony Mitton’s poems contain little paragraphs of knowledge which are fantastic!

When Mitton was writing his poems, I think he sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down what he was aiming to do:

1. Bring joy to a child’s life by writing poems of wit.

2. Bring meaning to my poems so that children round the world will read them and enjoy them.

That is what I look for in a good poet. Tony Mitton has certainly lived up to my highest expectations; though before when I looked at the book and at the poet’s name, I thought, “Who is that?”

Now if I am ever looking for a good collection of witty, intelligent and very chatty poems I will know I am looking in the right place, Tony Mitton.

Well done, Tony Mitton - you have just gained an ultimate NO.1 Fan!

NEXT WEEK Shaun talks about how children do actually write poetry and shows some recent examples by children he has taught. Also book reviews of the latest published poetry. Kidszone invites you to send in your poems. Also send in a really difficult word search on any theme, a quiz question to which only you know the answer and, if you like, a joke or two. Contributions to or to Kidszone, The Irish Post, Cambridge House, Cambridge Grove, London W6 OLE


KIDSZONE CREATIVE WRITING CLASS WITH SHAUN TRAYNOR The children at St Mary Magdalen’s R.C. Jnr. School in North London have been writing poems and they want to share them with you:


School is getting changed for P.E. in this cold weather and I don’t like it.

School is P.E. I like it.

School is getting changed back again after P.E. I don’t like it.

School is getting skills in Numeracy and Literacy, English, Geography, R.E. I like it.

School is following in God’s footsteps.

School is everything to me.

School is a place not for fighting,

School is a place to keep your stuff.

School is a place where you learn good manners,

School is like a castle. Mr Molloy makes us laugh.


Photo of Michael Coats

By Michael Coats (age 9)

S cience is excellent!

C ool! Yes. School is Cool!

History is incredibly bo r ing.

Oh Yeah! Maths is great!

Oh! I almost forgot! I like P.E. a lot!

Lunchtime, time to rhyme.

I scored the goal! 6 – 3!

School is superb!



Inside my head I have all the answers.

Inside my head I have all my friends.

Inside my head is God and a fantastic cartoon network. There are also dreams which sometimes make me cry.

Inside my head are many different backgrounds and that is where the dreams come from.

Inside my head I try to think what other people are thinking. What do they think of me?

Inside my head is junk but I am creative.

Inside my head I imagine I am the book I am reading.

Inside my head I see God and I talk to my friends.

Inside my head I am day-dreaming, thinking; thinking about my life.

Inside my head I am on T.V. I am Batman. I am Batman for hours. And when my mum calls me for my tea – I don’t listen.

Inside my head I think about my mum and what she is doing. I think about my brother playing Play Station when I am asleep. I think about ways of getting back to sleep.

Inside my head I am in a jungle. I escape. Then it’s Christmas. Here comes Santa Claus. I see my sisters skipping. I think of the snake that escaped and I think about my pet rats, aliens and my friends.

Inside my head I help Jesus with his miracles. I imagine my family together. At Xmas, my family together.

Inside my head I think about food. About things I like to eat. I think I am normal.

Inside my head I think when will my mum give up smoking?

Inside my head there are dinosaurs, monsters, books. I dream of the good things. Things like luck.

Inside my head there is no pencil lead. My brain is dipped in rain. I have knowledge.

Inside my head I love my mum. I love her very much.



I am a crunchy kiwi that is round,

I am Sunny Delight,

a flat wooden table,

a honeyed daffodil.

I am fire,

sparkly and hot like a campfire,

I am a dress with flowers on it,

Snow White when she stays with the seven dwarfs.

I am a pair of high-heeled shoes

which are shiny in the daytime.

I am night time.

I am sleep.


by Lucy Rea (then aged 8)



I am green tasteful food.

I am brown-shiny.

I am a lumpy armchair.

I am tattered yellow.

I am a white, thirsty, paper drink.

I am a small room that’s not comfortable inside.

I am a sneezy purple flower that blows away in the wind.

I am straight thunder that you can see in the sky.

I am the telly babies that drink too much milk.

I am a fast aeroplane that goes up and down while people are inside.

I am a dog that runs faster than a cheetah.

by Jade Somers (age 9)


At my local zoo

There are loads of animals,

I’ve been there myself,

I think it’s the best zoo on the planet

round our way.

All the animals

have a lot of space to roam.

At the zoo

there are the following animals:










lions pumas













grizzly bears.

I like the lot

and they like me

I suppose.

by Romek Durkan (age 9)

Have you got poems to send us? If so send to KIDSZONE at The Irish Post, Cambridge Grove, London W6OLE or email to

Don’t forget to give your school’s name and address and tel no.

Hope to hear from you soon!


Introduced by Shaun Traynor

This week Kidszone critics look at two new poetry books by Yorkshire writer Gervasse Phinn.

Picture of the books:


Puffin paperback 0 141 30901 6 £3.99


Puffin paperback 0 141 31445 1 £4.99

Mr Phinn is an ex-headmaster, he is also an Ofsted Inspector, so with that kind of experience and with such access to so many schools, children and teachers, there should be real insight in his writing. I’ll leave that judgement to my young panel but the many, many humorous references, many of them self deprecatory and poems which are always at ease with people, make you think, well, in spite of all, in spite of having been A HEAD TEACHER, in spite of being a dreaded SCHOOLS INSPECTOR, he might also be a nice guy.....

My panel this week are all boys. Who says boys don’t read books? David and Kevin reviewed The Day our Teacher Went Batty, Riley and Liam reviewed It Takes One to Know One.


My first thought was that this is a really funny book. It was also interesting. It took a long time before I got bored. The poem I liked best was:


Oh, Miss, I don’t want to be Joseph,

Miss, I really don’t want to be him,

With a cloak of bright red and a towel on my head

And a cotton wool beard on my chin.

Oh Miss, please don’t make me a shepherd,

I just won’t be able to sleep.

I’ll go weak at the knees and the wool makes me sneeze

And I really am frightened of sheep.

Oh Miss I just can’t be the landlord

Who says there’s no room at the inn.

I’ll get in a fright when it comes to the night

And I know that I’ll let Mary in.

Oh Miss, you’re not serious – an angel?

Can’t Peter take that part instead?

I’ll look such a clown in a white, silky gown,

And a halo stuck up on me head.

Oh Miss I am not being a camel!

Or cow or an ox or an ass!

I’ll look quite absurd and I won’t say a word,

And all of the audience will laugh.

Oh Miss, I’d rather not be a Wise Man,

Who brings precious gifts from afar.

But the part right for me, and I hope you’ll agree,

In this play – can I be the star?

The pictures really helped the poems stand out. They help you understand what is happening in the poem.


I thought the book was really hilarious have never read anything like this before. We don’t usually get books like this. Most of it was about kids like us and about kids’ problems, for instance, the one about the cinema and the popcorn, I liked that one:


At the cinema,

Little Richard

Pushed a piece of popcorn up his nose.

“What’s wrong?” asked Dad.

“Why are you wriggling around in your seat?

Sit still and watch the film.”

“I’ve got a piece of popcorn up my nose,” sniffed Richard.

“What!” cried dad.

“Shush!” said the man behind.

“Shush!” said the woman in front.

“I’ve got a piece of popcorn up my nose,”

whispered Richard.

In the toilets,

Dad asked:

“How did you manage to get a piece of

popcorn up your nose?”

“I don’t know” snuffled little Richard, “I just pushed it up.”

“You are a very silly boy,” said dad.

“Blow your nose!”

So little Richard blew and blew on

His handkerchief,

But with no success.

Dad poked and probed.

Prodded and pinched,

But the piece of popcorn would not come down.

At the hospital,

Dad told the doctor:

“He’s got a piece of popcorn up his nose.”

The doctor shook his head and smiled,

And poor, sad Richard, he began to cry.

“Don’t worry little man,” said the doctor gently,

“I’m very good at popcorn up people’s noses.”

He produced a little torch,

And some long, long, silver tweezers.

“Head back, eyes closed, keep still.” He said,

And there, in his hand, was the piece of popcorn.

At home,

Mum asked dad:

“Did you both have a nice time?”

“No!” snapped Dad.

“Richard pushed a piece of popcorn up his nose.

We had to go to hospital.”

Mum shook her head and smiled.

“Are you alright Richard?” asked Mum.

“Fine,” said Richard smiling.

“What happened to the popcorn?” she asked.

“Oh that,” little Richard replied. “I ate it.”

I also liked


He looked like a little angel,

With his round eyes as blue as the sky,

And an innocent, childlike expression.

He peered through the curtains at the assembled parents,

Dressed in his white costume, trimmed with silver,

And waited for his entrance.

He turned to his friend and whispered:

“If Miss thinks I’m being a flipping snowflake next year,

She’s got another think coming!”

The author uses interesting words in his poems, one or two I had to ask the meaning of, like meteorologist, in NAME POEM , then the poem made sense


Photo of Riley

The book was funny, exciting and totally unexpected. My favourite poem was about the Bible. The teacher asks who ate the forbidden fruit and a child says suddenly, “It wasn’t me!” I also liked the way the poem rhymed, it was clever.

BIBLE CLASS Reverend Bright, our vicar, Came in our class today.

He started with a little talk,

Then we closed our eye to pray.

He talked about the Bible,

And the prophet Abraham,

How God created everything

And how the world began.

Then he asked us some questions

About the prophets and the kings,

David and Goliath,

And lots of other things.

“In a very famous garden

Grew an apple on a tree,

And who ate the forbidden fruit?”

And a voice said,

“Wasn’t me!”

The illustrations throughout the book are important, they enhance the book a lot.


Photo of Liam

I liked the poems at the beginning but I got a little lost toward the end. My favourite poem was POETRY LESSON. I liked the bit at the end where the teacher is being really strict and the pupil says finally, “Whose poem is it anyway?”


I like your poem, Mandy.... But

There are parts that don’t sound right.

You say that stars like diamond chips

Illuminate the night, And that the cold and distant moon

Gives off an eerie light... I think there are better words to use.

I like your poem, Mandy... but Be careful with the rhymes.

You say that from the lonely church Came strange and distant chimes,

Reminding you of far-off days

And of much happier times...

I think that there are better words to use.

I like your poem, Many... but

The images aren’t too good,.

Instead of spooky forest glade

Insert the ghostly wood

And avoid those dreadful gory bits Especially the blood.

I think that there are better words to use.

“And tell me,” said the teacher,

“Have you anything to say?”

And Mandy said, “I’d like to ask,


I also liked the pictures, they match really well.

The one poem which all four children liked best, were unanimous about, was all about parents...


Watch your manners, Be polite,

Tidy your room,

Switch off the light,

Wash the dishes,

Polish your shoes ,

Brush your teeth,

Watch your p’s and q’s,

Kiss your auntie,

Never swear,

Eat your greens,

Comb your hair,

Do your homework,

Go to sleep,

Set the table,

wipe your feet,

Flush the toilet,

Sweep the path,

Change your socks,

Have a bath,

Sit up smartly,

Stand up straight,

Blow your nose,

Clean your plate,

Hang your coat up,

Close the door,

Say “Please” and “Thank you”,

Be in by four...

And generally behave as they think they did

When they were our age!


Usborne Children’s New Testament

ISBN 0 7460 4603 0

Reviewed by Abi aged 8

This book is about Jesus, king of the world and Son of God. The stories are about Jesus being born, healing the sick and teaching people how to live their lives by loving and caring for other people.

I like this book because it is presented beautifully with colorful illustrations. It has big writing so it is easy to read.

Each story in this book has its own border and one or two pictures. I would recommend this book for children aged six to eleven.

Favourite Irish Fairy Tales

Re-told by Siobhan Lally

Illustrated by Finbarr O’Connor

Poolbeg Press Dublin 13 ISBN 1-85371-829-7

Reviewed by Aoife Boyle aged 9

I enjoyed this book very much because it was exciting and enjoyable. I think the age group for this book would be years 8 and up because some bits of it are hard to understand. The illustrations in the book are beautiful and very colorful. I liked them very much. The story I liked best was The Children of Lir because I like how the ending of the story in this book is different to the story that I had heard and read elsewhere. I found this interesting.. The Salmon of Wisdom is also known as the Salmon of Knowledge.

I would recommend this book to older people who enjoy Myths &amp; Legends but I would like to see more women included in the stories.

The Present Takers

By Aidan Chambers

Red Fox Publishers ISBN 0 09 999160 8

Reviewed by Elizabeth Bell Age 11

Photo of Elizabeth with book

Lucy Hall was an innocent young girl who is continuously being bullied by Melanie Prosser and her two side kicks. The book is based on her taunts and horridness. Then Lucy’s classmate Angus Burns steps in, failing to be the story’s hero!

But as things turn nasty, Burns has no choice but save the damsel in distress before it’s too late....

I enjoyed the book, it was good for simple, laid back reading. It made me feel sad at times and angry when I realised that this was really happening to some children. I found the book humorous at times but not in a ‘laugh aloud way’ I would recommend it to 12 and 13 years olds.

Mighty Fizz Chilla

By Philip Ridley

Reviewed by Laura Age 11

Photo of Laura with book

Milo Kick has turned from mum’s little angel to mum’s little monster! Five months ago something happened to Milo which only he can control. Since then he has turned into a stubborn, domineering, rude and cheeky young boy!

He is sent away to an old family friend by the sea, a resort called Avalon Rise. The lady is plump and pretty and her name is Cressida. Cressida and Milo both embark on a series of stories all about her childhood and of course the mighty Captain Jellicoe.

Milo visits Jay Dee Six (his grandmother’s twin brother) disguised as Captain Jellicoe in his cave and is told the story of the Mighty Fizz Chilla, the creatures designed by his father Griff. Cressida uses the story of the Mighty Fizz Chilla to transform Milo into the nice young boy he always was. His life will never be the same again!.

This is a funny book with a unique layout. The book is well written and at times you would not want to put it down. I would recommend this book to confident young readers. You should all fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a long and excellent adventure beautifully written. This is a fabulous book complemented with detailed pictures.

There is a surprise in store at the end but you will have to read on to find out! Mighty Fizz Chilla is a perfect read for those ready for longer novels. It has one hundred chapters but is well worth reading!

I would give it nine out of ten.

From Above.... With Love!

By Andrew Matthews

Published by Red Fox ISBN 009943427X

Reviewed by Judith Welikala age 1111

If you think your life is hard enough, then think again! Lauren Hunter is stuck having to work long hours for very little pay, selling fibre optic lamps at a local market. Her only joy is having gorgeous Adam Roden as a boyfriend. Sadly though, she thinks her life is over when suddenly, from out of the blue, Adam decides to end his relationship with Lauren. However, little does she know what is in store for her. In an attempt to drown her sorrows by the river, Lauren stumbles across Pontifex, a mysterious man who claims to be her guardian angel! After meeting Pontifex, Lauren’s attitude on life is completely changed. She no longer feels distressed over Adam, but confident to get on with her life.

As Lauren grows as a person, she encounters distractions and temptations, as well as even more heartache! Lauren also has to come to terms with love, friendship and faith in a huge way. The story has a valuable and intimate meaning. The life of a struggling sixteen year old girl has been brought into depth using hints of light-hearted humour in a mild yet effective manner. This beautifully written novel beholds a worldly tale of a humble heroine, with a heart-warming conclusion.

‘From Above.... With love’ definitely deserves ten out of ten!




Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette

Babette Cole

Hamish Hamilton ISBN 0-241-14096-X

Reviewed by Theresa Bell aged 6

I read this book which was about a dog teaching her puppies how to behave. The book was interesting because it was fun to read like when they were arguing for the bones. Most pictures were colourful and told you about the story. This book is good to read to myself and to others especially to my little sister Anna who wanted it read again and again!

The Invasion of the Vampire Spiders

By Susan Gates

Puffin Books ISBN 014131074X

Reviewed by Dinuka Sylva Age 10

A marvellous book about flesh-eating spiders. These spiders originally come from Lord Withers collection of rare, primitive spiders. Finn, Phoebe, Miss Burgess and Dr. Clinton C Clinton must first deal with the ghost of Lady Withers, a horrible, mean, life-wrecker who does not care about anybody’s dreams, before they can deal with the spiders. When Finn and Dr Clinton come across the spiders there is no escape. They soon find that living on bats is not a very tasty meal for the spiders and once they smell human blood they will do anything for it....

Once I got onto the duel between Lady Withers and Finn I couldn’t stop reading, but I soon found out that the best was still to come. I closed the book stunned and curious because of the jaw-dropping ending! It would be really good if Susan Crates writes a story continuing from this one. It would create a whole new adventure! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, thrilling adventure.

Out of 10, I would give this book a 7, for never-ending humour, hair-rising events and also thrilling action. This book is full of action-packed adventure. So think twice before you actually walk away from it!

The Children of the Dust

By Louise Lawrence

Red Fox ISBN 0-09-943342-7

Reviewed by Francesca Beschizza Age 10

Photo of Franscesca with book

The Children of the Dust is a good book in many ways but it introduced me to characters in a very strange way. It does that by just jumping in. I liked the book but it was really sad and I almost cried when the mum and two children died but at some points it was rally happy. Like when the third child and her dad were reunited after ten or twenty years. The good thing about this book is the way it’s chapters work and how they do three different peoples life during the war, straight after the war and years after the war. The main event is the very saddest bit when the nuclear bomb happens and the dog Buster has to get shot. I think the book could be improved by the author going in to more description about why the bomb hits London, who was responsible for the bomb. This book can be boring when the author doesn’t explain who the character and why they are there, that is the time when I put the book down and did my own thing.

I would recommend this book to people who like to read and like war stories.

Sir Rupert and Rosie Gusset in Deadly Danger

Puffin Books ISBN 0141304901

Reviewed by Conor Duffy Age 10

This book is an action packed comedy revolving around the love of the Queen of England for the King of Sicily. However that love is not meant to be as from the start the truth of their real identities is hidden.

The King of Sicily is a very tall ugly man, with tufts of hair shooting out of his nose and ears. Obviously he doesn’t appeal to all the ladies, except the Queen of England who, with her scrawny face and messy hair, is no oil painting herself.

She sends her trusty Sea Captain Sir Rupert, and his daughter Rosie Gusset, on a secret mission to deliver 20,000 gold bullions together with a rather suspect painting of herself to secure a wedding settlement with her intended. However all does not go to plan when the villain Murk Malpractice and his accomplice Sir Sidney receive a tip-off and try to steal the gold. Luckily Sir Rupert and his men manage to deliver the goods to His Ugliness, who is most unimpressed with Her Ugliness. This concerns Sir Rupert who is worried for his life at The Queen has promised to chop hiss head off if the marriage does not take place. And if this isn’t bad enough, the King wants to keep the money!

Suddenly everyone wants the money, Sir Rupert and Rosie, Murk Malpractice and his accomplice. After many plans are hatched Rosie and Sir Rupert succeed only to have it stolen off them by the nasty Murk Malpractice. When the King of Sicily realises his dowry is gone he sends his army to retrieve it. After many cat and mouse games and with the help of the King’s army the money ends up in the right hands, Sir Rupert’s. Back in England, and after being told a few truths, namely how ugly the King is, the Queen denies ever wanting to marry him. All ends happily when the trusty Sir Rupert receives his just rewards - 20,000 gold bullion. I think the book is an excellent and worthwhile read and is great for anyone who likes action comedy.

Next week we review a new book of short stories for children all set in Ireland.

If you want your school to join our reviewing panel, email