Top authors and illustrators make KPMG Children's Book Ireland shortlist

A shortlist capturing some of most exciting children's authors and illustrators from throughout the island of Ireland has been announced at the KPMG Children's Books Ireland awards launch. Jenny Lee finds out more and speaks to former Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland Myra Zepf, whose young adult fiction book Nóinín is amongst the 10 shortlisted titles

Young readers along with Johnny Hanna of KPMG Northern Ireland and Jenny Murray from Children’s Books Ireland attend the shortlist announcement for the KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards in Belfast

THE dangers of social media, dementia, sexual identity, transgenerational friendships and the power of a hug are among the Themes explored in the children's groups shortlisted for this year's KPMG Children's Books Ireland Awards.

Celebrating their 30th year, the awards recognise excellence in writing and illustration in Irish or English and are open to books by authors and illustrators who were born in Ireland, are permanently resident in Ireland or are citizens of Ireland.

A shortlist capturing some of most exciting children’s authors and illustrators from throughout the island of Ireland has been announced at the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland awards launch in Belfast's MAC last week.

Among the 10 nominees are Holywood author Máire (Myra) Zepf, the former Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland.

Her book Nóinín (Nonsense), is a gripping verse novel that depicts the online grooming of a shy teenage girl and the slow build-up to a shocking crime, with rich imagery, poetic language and references to Irish myth lending resonance to a very modern tale of the dangers of social media.

“Living in a house full of teenagers, this book was my attempt to unpick some of the thorniest issues facing their world. Online safety versus freedom, the protective power of scepticism, the question of who to trust and our culture of victim-blaming,” explains Zepf.

Nóinín is written entirely in freeverse; a style which has been a hit among young people.

“The unpatronising style seems to sit well. It's a more difficult read for parents, and triggers their fears a lot, I think. The Siopa Leabhar Bookshop in Dublin told me that it's the first young adult book they've stocked that teens have been coming in to buy with their own money and no parents. I'll take that.”

Last October an extract from Nóinín was chosen as Northern Ireland's contribution to the European Transpoesie project.

"It appeared on the trains, trams and underground in Brussels in Irish, French and Dutch. That was amazing."

This is the second Children's Book Ireland nomination for mum-of-three, Zepf.

“I was nominated in 2016 for my picture book Ná Gabh ar Scoil! (Don't Go to School!). So much has happened since then – it feels wonderful to be back on the list, and in such good company too.”


Also shortlisted is Belfast illustrator Ashling Lindsay, for the book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. A poignant portrayal of a young girl coming to an understanding of her grandfather’s memory loss, Tide is uplifting and enlightening for child and adult readers alike.

It is one of two books in the shortlist with deals with the the subject of dementia. The other, Toffee, a verse novel for older readers by Laureate na nÓg Sarah Crossan is a masterful, lyrical and moving portrayal of the relationship between a teenage girl who has run away from her abusive father, and an elderly woman with dementia, who mistakes her for a close childhood friend.

For the youngest readers, The Hug is a story of two creatures in need of a hug, a tortoise with a hard shell and a hedgehog with prickly pins. Scúnc agus Smúirín tells the story of a young skunk’s distress when his favourite teddy loses its special smell after a spell in the washing machine.

The awards offer a total prize fund of €16,000 across six awards, including Book of the Year Award, The Honour Awards for Fiction and Illustration, the Judges’ Special Award, and the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book.

Children’s Books Ireland, with the help of junior juries of young readers will judge the shortlisted titles, ahead of the winners being announced on May 19.

"This has been a bumper year for Irish children’s books both in terms of quantity and quality," Dr Ciara Ní Bhroin, chair of the judging panel, said.

"The shortlist presented here showcases excellence in writing and illustration for young people and highlights the essential role that authors and illustrators play in offering young people intellectual, emotional, aesthetic and imaginative experiences that illuminate and enhance their lives, while contributing to a rich literary and cultural heritage that we can proudly share with the wider world."

The shortlisted titles are:

:: All The Bad Apples written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

:: Madame Badobedah written by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Lauren O’Hara

:: Mór agus Muilc based on a traditional tale told by John Óg Hiúdaí Neidí Ó Colla and illustrated by Kim Sharkey

:: Nóinín written by Máire Zepf

:: The Deepest Breath written by Meg Grehan

:: The Hug written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

:: The Tide written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

:: The Star-Spun Web written by Sinéad O’Hart

:: Toffee by Sarah Crossan

:: Scúnc agus Smúirín written by Muireann Ní Chíobháin and illustrated by Paddy Donnelly

:: For more details visit

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access