Author Photo Eilís Dillon
Books for readers aged 8 - 12

Eilís Dillon wrote a number of exciting books for young readers aged between 8 and 12 years. The settings range from Ireland to Spain to Italy. Below you will find a list of these books, and what the reviewers said about them. There is also a link to special pages about one of the books, "A Family of Foxes".

Midsummer Magic
illustrated by Stuart Tresilian
London, Macmillan, 1950
Her first book in English, Midsummer Magic tells the story of how Brian, a little Irish boy, is given a magic soda cake that will make animals talk. From Malachi, a mouse , Mogue, a donkey, and Finaun, an otter, he learns of a secret treasure, buried by his friends in a nearby castle.

"One of the best stories for small children I read for a long time has been written by Eilís Dillon, of Galway..." (Irish Press)
"It is not easy to write a child's book which avoids the common sin of condescension, and for this reason, among others, Eilís Dillon has earned high praise."
"A nonchalantly whimsical story for younger readers." (Manchester Guardian)
"A delightful story." (Sunday Independent)
"An excellent tale, witty and wise, and altogether enchanting." (Country Life)
"This charming little work by a new Irish author has a delightful freshness of appeal." (Dublin Evening Mail)


Plover Hill
London, Hamish Hamilton, 1957
How John helps his grandfather to save Plover Island, and the animals that live on it, from a greedy developer. This story was written long before the ecological movement became fashionable.
"An enthralling story which in its own small way is very nearly perfect, admirably reflecting the quiet virtues of the true countryman and illustrating the particularly close kinship which often exists between the very young and the very old." (Times Literary Supplement)


Aunt Bedelia's Cats
London, Hamish Hamilton, 1958
In which it is proved that cats are better than rats.
"An unusual and charming story." (Times Literary Supplement)


A Pony and Trap
London, Hamish Hamilton, 1962
First they had to find a pony. Then a trap. Michael knew this, and so did all the other members of the choir. But how were they to find them?


A Family of Foxes
London, Faber, 1964;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1965

"Beautifully written as always, mature, exciting and utterly real, Eilís Dillon's new book takes us once more to the Galway Coast, to an island where a group of boys work out a problem. Two silver foxes are washed up after a storm. Since the islanders have vowed never to allow this feared species on the island, they must be hidden, and the difficulty of caring for them is increased four-fold when the female has cubs ... round the central plot the whole life of the island goes on, in talk that mingles gossip, mysterious prediction and goodwill, and in the author's superb descriptions of sea-washed, sun-dried beaches and hillsides." (Margery Fisher in Growing Point)

More about this book on a separate page


The Sea Wall
London, Faber, 1965;
New York, Farrar Straus, 1965
Now in Poolbeg paperback (1994) IR£2.99. ISBN 1-85371-304-X
How the islanders ward off the threat of a tidal wave.
"A beautifully written, evocative book" (Cork Examiner)
"One never gets tired of Eilís Dillon's west coast."
(Chichester Observer)
"This is a novel for children ... but it has a dignity that appeals to all ages." (The Irish Democrat)
"This is an absorbing story which will be appreciated by imaginative young readers of 11 and upwards." (Children's Book News)
"A gripping tale." (Children's Books 1965, Library of Congress)
"The author's particular and near magical skill in evoking the atmosphere of Ireland and the attitudes and way of life of its people are nowhere more in evidence than in this superb story." (The School Librarian)
"Here is richness of character and a world remote from ours, imperfect but able to teach us about mutual help, human dignity and simple enjoyments" (Alice M Douglas, Children's Librarian of Glasgow, writing in the Quaker publication, The Friend)


The Lion Cub
London, Hamish Hamilton, 1966;
New York, Duell, 1967
Now in Poolbeg paperback (1992) IR£3.99. ISBN 1-85371-215-9
When Mark Ward and his sister Catherine visit the zoo, Mark smuggles one of the lion cubs out in a picnic bag, and takes it home to the family farm.

"The idea and the engaging matter-of-factness of the narration will capture and hold the attention of the wishful." (ALA Booklist)


The Road to Dunmore
London, Faber, 1966
Playing the violin while hitching a lift to the seaside, John gets some strange surprises.


The Key
London, Faber, 1967
Set in the Basque country, The Key tells how Aunt Maria helps Paco to solve an unusual problem. The village women have been forbidden to use the landlord's well, but Paco holds the key to the situation.


The Road to Dunmore and The Key were also published under the title "Two Stories" by the New York publisher, Meredith Press, in 1968.


Under the Orange Grove
London, Faber, 1968;
New York, Meredith Press, 1969
Nino and his family live in Italy, near Pompeii. They have farmed an orange grove for generations, but then the ruins of an ancient house are found underneath. Peppino, their neighbour, wants to sell the land. What is to be done?

"The conflict is well conveyed, and the Italian background is delightful." (Margaret Drabble, New Statesman)
"A story of real distinction." (The Guardian)
"The author has a gift for bringing her scene and characters to life. One can almost feel the sun on the hillside, smell the oranges, and share Nino's pleasure in the view from his roof." (Times Literary Supplement)
"All the more attractive for its originality." (Church of England Newspaper)
"Humorous but never whimsical." (the Scotsman)


The Voyage of Mael Dúin
Illustrated by Alan Howard
London, Faber, 1969
Mael Dúin is a young man who sets out to avenge his murdered father. But the adventurous voyage leads to unexpected places. A powerful retelling of an medieval Irish legend.

"An effect of noble simplicity" (Times Educational Supplement)
"A delightful book." (Cork Examiner
"All the problems and dangers of life ... are vividly and graphically answered for us by Eilís Dillon and Alan Howard (whose magnificent illustrations form perfect counterpoint with the text) in The Voyage of Mael Dúin. .... A tale on two levels, as all myth: outward adventure of the physical world, inward transformation of the human personality." (Hugh McKinley, Athens Daily Post).


The King's Room
London, Hamish Hamilton, 1970
A mystery story set in a big house in Italy.


The Five Hundred
London, Hamish Hamilton, 1972;
Dublin, O'Brien Press, 1991
An exciting tale of crime and detection, starting when a Fiat 500 car is stolen in a Roman market.

"A delightful adventure." (Connaught Telegraph)


Down in the World
London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1983
Mr Cullen, the bank manager, wants to sell their house over the heads of the Burke family. Patrick, Laura, Clara and especially six-year-old Daniel set themselves to find ways of frightening him off. A ghost perhaps - or ants in his bed?

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