The best new children's books, from villainous Mr Spicebag to an Irish picture book – The Irish Times

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A sumptuous illustration by Shona Shirley Macdonald from Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí, written by Bridget Bhreathnach
Safa, the eponymous “new girl” in Sinéad Moriarty’s first book for young readers, is a Syrian refugee, “from one of those mad countries that people have to run away from”, as her new Irish classmates put it.
Some of them are ignorant; they don’t know where Syria is, they don’t understand her religious rituals. Others are intolerant, using her difference as a tool to bolster their own faltering confidence. Safa’s new friend, Ruby, understands how hard Safa must find her new life in Ireland. She too is weighed down by difficult circumstances: her brother’s disability, her parents’ exhaustion, her sister’s defensive nastiness. As they get to know each other, their friendship becomes a boon to them both.
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