Saturday, 3 March 2018

Review of THE CLOAK OF FEATHERS by Nigel Quinlan

What a joyful read this was. A celebration of all things Irish, steeped in the traditions of Irish myth

and legend, and written in the lyrical style that these stories were told (both in Irish and English). Like the action of the plot, the sentences tumble over each other, ramble and race, and only stop to take a breath at the end of each chapter. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and the page detailing the arrival of the Fair-- Oops, I nearly said the word. Ahem. The page detailing the arrival of the GOOD FOLK is one of the best I've read anywhere. 

But most of all, this was fun - hilarious fun. From ghost pigs, banshees on bicycles and an epic hurling match between the residents of Knockmealldown and creatures from the Otherworld, every page will have you laughing out loud. LOLLING, isn't that what the youngsters say? But there are no LOLs here - just old-fashioned sniggers, smiles and belly-laughs. Though it's set in modern times, the story harks back to a more innocent Ireland, the one we all grew up in, the one before smartphones and internet and LOLs. And for this reader, at least, I welcomed this with open arms.

Quinlan is carving out a unique brand in modern Irish children's literature by resurrecting the Ireland of myth and magic, and lacing it with his own quirky sense of humour. He is a modern seanchaĆ­, and is doing, as far as I can tell, something nobody else is doing. Eddie Lenihan would be proud!

I liked THE MALONEY'S MAGICAL WEATHERBOX but I loved this. It felt like a more structured piece with tighter plotting.

5 stars! And I don't give them out often.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Inspector Robin

In order to control my unruly class, I waved about the annual Christmas carrot-stick.
‘Santa Claus might be watching,’ I said. ‘This is the time of year when he sends his elves and robin redbreasts out to check who is being naughty and who is being nice.’

The class settled down in time for their basketball coach to take them outside to practice. All the children filed out, with the exception of three unwell students who were staying inside with me. The class had no sooner left when a robin hopped in the open door. Myself and my three students watched in disbelief as the bird, feathers fluffed up against the cold, hopped calmly around the classroom. Up and down the rows of desks the little bird skipped, as if inspecting the room. Over spilled pencils it skipped, between strewn schoolbags and fallen books.

Mouths open, my three students watched the bird perform its inspection, visiting each desk in the room, before returning to the open door. It looked back once at the three girls, before disappearing outside.

When my class returned from their basketball practice I had a story to tell, and three witnesses to back me up. Needless to say, the children were very well behaved for the rest of the afternoon. Happy Christmas! 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A Bird Lies Down to Die on its Own Funeral Pyre.

A bird fell down my chimney while I was away for the weekend. How unfair that this creature of the sky should have to spend its last hours, and perhaps days, in a frantic fluttering attempt to vertical take-off up a soot-caked flue, until finally, weary and broken it lay down its head to die upon a heat-warped fire-plate. And just as it was about to give up its bird-shaped ghost, it spotted the narrow gap into the stove. With renewed vigor and hope, it pushed its already spent body through a gap designed for smoke but not for birds, until it emerged joy-filled into an open space stacked with newspaper, kindling and a single firelighter. Through glass blackened round the edges, it peered into my sitting room at my wooden floor and armchair piled high with books and cushions, at my TV, and at my window, through which the grey November sky called the bird home. But there was no way past the metal stove walls, no way past the blackened glass, no way through the grate beneath. It tapped on the glass with its tiny beak, but there were no ears to hear the knocking, no hands to open the door. After one final look at the sky outside, it lay down to die on its own funeral pyre. Returning on Sunday night, I opened the stove door to strike a match, and faltered at the sight of this tiny bird perfectly placed on top of my unlit fire. A single lifeless eye, black and glassy, stared out at me, and on the feathers beneath it, the silvery trail of a liquid which leaked from it. I don't know if birds can cry. Google says they can't. But I believe that was a teardrop, and this is mine for the bird.

Friday, 15 September 2017


When her father gets kidnapped, young Mup, with her mam, baby brother and dog, travels into a fantasy land ruled by an evil queen (who is also her grandmother). It is a land of dark forests and magic, where people turn into animals and live in fear of the Queen's enforcers - the raggedy witches. They are a terrifying spectacle, as is their queen, who towers over the narrative like a dark shadow, much like the White Witch in Narnia or Lord Voldemort in the JK Rowling books.

Mup herself is a courageous quirky little thing, full of spirit and her own blend of magic. The action hurtles along from one fairytale event to another, culminating in a high drama, cinematic denouement at the Queen's castle. The writing, as you would expect from Kiernan is flawless and beautiful. She is a most welcome addition to the middle-grade scene and if this is anything to go by, kids from 8-12 are gonna hear a lot more about Celine Kiernan.

An impressive debut for this age range - made all the more appealing by a stunning cover. I also love the title, and the names of the characters. The book is a cross between Narnia, Abi Elphinstone's The Dreamsnatcher with a sprinkling of Tolkien and Grimm.

Sunday, 9 October 2016


I'm giving away some flash drives loaded with THE BLACK LOTUS audio-book. If you'd like to win one get in touch via the CONTACT page. Closing date for entries: Oct 31st 2016