Book reviews: Wild Child is another natural success for Dara McAnulty
Book of the week
Wild Child: A Journey Through Nature by Dara McAnulty, illustrated by Barry Falls
Macmillan Children's Books
Hardback £14.99, ebook £8.49
COUNTY Down teenager Dara McAnulty is making waves as a naturalist, hailed by Springwatch presenter Chris Packham and writer Robert Macfarlane for his conservation activism and engaging writing.
The 17-year-old's first book - Diary of a Young Naturalist - which was an endearing memoir-of-sorts, written in poetic prose, was published in May 2020. It was highly acclaimed, winning the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, and along the way making Dara the youngest ever winner of a major literary prize.
Wild Child is Diary of a Young Naturalist's oversized follow-up; in it McAnulty aims to share his love and enthusiasm for nature with primary school-aged children.
It is not really a story – more a prose poem blended with a spotter's guide to common wildlife.
Artist Barry Falls earns a lot of credit for his gorgeous, double-page illustrations of a child in a garden, woodland or hills, contrasted with lifelike depictions of birds and bugs.
Every page is beautiful but is packed with information too: anything from a brief history of species classification to the collective nouns for birds.
There are even instructions on how to make a terrarium and bird feeder - perfect for all children who long to be wild.
Wild Child is another tremendous book from Dara, and deserves to not only be on bookshelves across Ireland but in the hands of children everywhere.
How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie
The Borough Press
Hardback £14.99, ebook £7.99
IT could be difficult to make a novel relatable when the protagonist is a snobby, self-obsessed murderer – but while Grace Bernard is rather grating at times, you also can't help rooting for her.
The deliciously addictive How To Kill Your Family – Bella Mackie's fictional debut – depicts Grace's mission to avenge her mother, which sees her tracking down numerous relatives, including her famous billionaire father, and picking them off one by one.
The sharply dry, dark humour culminates in some laugh-out-loud lines, but the hilarity is balanced with genuinely shocking moments; Grace's crimes are detailed, clever, and unpredictable.
Add in Mackie's witty observations on society, plus a brilliantly executed twist, and this is one very entertaining read.
Dream Girl by Laura Lippman
Faber & Faber
Hardback £14.99, ebook £7.99
GERRY Andersen is living in a dream world: bedridden and unable to sleep, he drifts in and out of a pill-induced fug.
With ghosts of his past similarly seeping in and out of focus, he finds it hard to decipher what about his life is real and what is fiction. Laura Lippman's Dream Girl is a horror story for the #MeToo generation, a world in which fictional characters and real people battle for supremacy.
It takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, as Gerry battles to see a clear picture of what is actually going on. Lippman has brilliantly woven together truth and lies, with a series of twists and turns as the story builds to an unexpected conclusion.
Three Rooms by Jo Hamya
Hardback £12.99, ebook £7.99
A PICTURE of the confusing post-referendum landscape for young millennials, Three Rooms brings together themes of class, race and belonging in a time when the usual displacement and uncertainty of early adulthood is amplified by the bitter division caused by Brexit.
The protagonist's desires are so simple: a rented property in which to entertain friends, but Jo Hamya lays bare how out of reach this basic achievement is for those on the bottom rung of the ladder.
The interactions with the other characters are fascinating and insightful – although the cynicism is sometimes overplayed, this is still a profound, well-written and relatable novel that expertly captures the mood of a generation.
Sista Sister by Candice Brathwaite
Hardback £16.99, ebook £9.99
SISTA Sister's title speaks for itself – it's that older and wiser friend you always wish you'd had, or that sibling who's got your back.
Candice Brathwaite's second book is a compilation of essays unpicking life's big lessons: from family, friends and money to black hair, sex and social media – no topic is off limits.
The honest and profound words have been chosen carefully and speak volumes about society, making this a must-read.
Hugely emotive in parts, the author's warmth and humour radiates off the page. You can't help but feel she's talking directly to you over a cup of coffee.
Ace Of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide
Paperback £8.99, ebook £4.99
IT is the final year at private school Niveus Academy for head girl Chiamaka and talented musician Devon - but their dreams of graduating and attending a top college are threatened by anonymous texter Aces, who starts revealing their secrets to the school.
Joining forces to uncover the mysterious saboteur, they are in for a huge shock - but who can they trust? South London author and Gossip Girl fan Faridah Abike-Iyimide wanted to write a story about a private school with black characters as the stars.
As the chapters switch between Chiamaka and Devon's story, this gripping high-school thriller will open your eyes to what institutional racism looks like, and is hard to put down.