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Malachy Doyle (1954–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1954, in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland; Education: Bolton Institute of Technology, B.A. (with honors), 1975; Shenstone New College, postgraduate certificate in education, 1976. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, cycling, reading, theater and music.


Agent—Celia Catchpole Ltd., 56 Gilpin Ave., East Sheen, London SW14 8QY, England.


Rowntree Mackintosh, York, England, media controller, 1976–81; General Foods, Banbury, England, media controller, 1981–84; Highmead Special School, Llanybydder, Wales, care assistant, 1984–91; Aran Hall School, Dolgellau, Wales, deputy head, 1991–94; Coleg Powys, Newtown, Wales, lecturer in sociology and psychology, 1994–96; Coleg Ceredigion, Aberystwyth, Wales, lecturer in sociology, 1994–97; writer of children's books, 1994–.


Welsh Academy.

Honors Awards

Arts Council of Northern Ireland Literature Award, 1997; shortlisted, Children's Book Award, and shortlisted, Tir na n-Og Award, both 2001, both for Owen and the Mountin; Parents' Choice Gold Award, and Bisto Award shortlist, both 2001, and Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award, 2003, all for Tales from Old Ireland; shortlisted, Lancashire Children's Book Award, shortlisted, Angus Award, and Tir na n-Og Award, all 2002, all for Georgie; English Association Award for Nonfiction, 2002, for Cow; shortlisted, Bisto Award, and shortlisted, South Lanarkshire Book Award, both 2003, both for Who Is Jesse Flood?; shortlisted, Tir na n-Og Award, 2003, for Lake of Shadows; shortlisted, Nestlé Children's Book Award, 2005, for The Dancing Tiger.


The Children of Nuala, illustrated by Amanda Harvey, Faber (London, England), 1998.

Farewell to Ireland: A Tale of Emigration to America, illustrated by Greg Gormley, Franklin Watts (London, England), 1998.

The Great Hunger: A Tale of Famine in Ireland, illustrated by Greg Gormley, Franklin Watts (London, England), 1998.

Little People, Big People, illustrated by Jac Jones, Faber (London, England), 1998.

The Changeling, illustrated by Jac Jones, Pont Readalone (Llandysul, Wales), 1999.

The Great Castle of Marshmangle, illustrated by Paul Hess, Andersen Press (London, England), 1999.

Jody's Beans, illustrated by Judith Allibone, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

12,000 Miles from Home, illustrated by Greg Gormley, Franklin Watts (London, England), 1999.

Well, a Crocodile Can!, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 1999, Millbrook Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

Tales from Old Ireland, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey, Barefoot Books (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Hungry! Hungry! Hungry!, illustrated by Paul Hess, Andersen Press (London, England), 2000, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2001.

Owen and the Mountain, illustrated by Giles Greenfield, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2000.

Carrot Thompson, Record Breaker, illustrated by Leonard O'Grady, Poolbeg (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.

Just-the-Same Jamie, illustrated by Shane O'Meara, Poolbeg (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.

Hero, Toffer, and Wallaby, illustrated by Jan Nesbitt, Pont Books (Llandysul, Wales), 2000.

Tales from Old Ireland, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey, Barefoot Books (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Joe's Bike Race, illustrated by Michelle Conway, Poolbeg (Dublin, Ireland), 2001.

The Bold Boy, illustrated by Jane Ray, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Georgie, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2001.

Baby See, Baby Do!, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, Penguin Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

Billy and the Bees, illustrated by Sandra Elsweiler, Poolbeg (Dublin, Ireland), 2002.

Lake of Shadows, illustrated by Jac Jones, Pont Books (Llandysul, Wales), 2002.

Storm Cats, illustrated by Stuart Trotter, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 2002.

Sleepy Pendoodle, illustrated by Julie Vivas, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

Riley, Kylie, and Smiley, illustrated by Fran Evans, Pont Books (Llandysul, Wales), 2002.

Cow, illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 2002.

Who Is Jesse Flood?, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2002.

Antonio on the Other Side of the World, Getting Smaller, illustrated by Carll Cneut, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

The Ugly Great Giant, illustrated by David Lucas, Orchard (London, England), 2003.

Long Grey Norris, illustrated by Sholto Walker, Egmont (London, England), 2003.

Una and the Sea-Cloak, illustrated by Alison Jay, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2004.

One, Two, Three O'Leary, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 2004.

Splash, Joshua, Splash!, illustrated by Ken Wison-Max, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

Teddybear Blue, illustrated by Christina Bretschneider, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2004.

Amadans, Orchard (London, England), 2004.

Amadans Alert, Orchard (London, England), 2005.

The Dancing Tiger, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, Viking (New York, NY), 2005.

The Barefoot Book of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli, Barefoot Books (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Doyle's works have been translated into Scottish Gaelic, French, Italian, Greek, German, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Korean, Spanish, Catalan, Japanese, Swedish, Portuguese, and Welsh.


Since launching his career as a children's author in the 1990s, Malachy Doyle has enjoyed success in both the United Kingdom and the United States. His early works included some instructive, entertaining presentations of Irish and British colonial history, while many of his more recent books adapt Irish legends in a fresh retelling. Doyle once recounted to SATA his path to becoming a writer: "I was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, in 1954. My parents had recently moved up from Dublin and named me, their seventh child, after a local saint. We lived in Whitehead, a small town at the mouth of Belfast Lough, all my childhood. I went to secondary school (St. Malachy's College) in Belfast, and then to Bolton, Lancashire, to take a degree in psychology.

"I taught in Leeds for a year, followed by six months packing Polo Mints. I then worked for seven long years in advertising, firstly for Rowntree Mackintosh in York and later for General Foods in Banbury, before buying a smallholding in West Wales. To feed my wife, Liz, our three young children, Naomi, Hannah, and Liam, and numerous goats, pigs and chickens, I took a job as a care assistant in a local residential special school. For the next seven years I darned socks, patched jeans and generally looked after the children there, before being offered the post of deputy head at another special school. We moved to Machynlleth, a small town on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, and three years later I began to write for children.

"It took me forty years to become a writer. Forty years of growing up, selling coffee, teaching, raising children, goats and pigs. From Ireland, through England, to Wales. I'm finally doing it—writing.

"I didn't know I was a writer. I knew I loved words, loved books. I knew I could tell stories, write the occasional soppy love poem, ramble on in long letters to my Dad back home in Ireland.

"But then, back in 1994, for want of a better way to while away the long Welsh winter, I enrolled in a creative writing evening class. 'Write about your childhood,' said Anna. 'Remember how it felt, how it smelt …' So I wrote a piece about my mother's button box. I brought it in the next week and read it out loud. Anna seemed to like it.

"'Okay,' I thought. 'That's what I'll do. I'll pack in this teaching lark and become a writer, a writer for children.' And here I am.

"I write about things that matter to me. About relationships—children, parents, grandparents. About animals. I try to recapture some of the joy, the freedom, the curiosity, imagination, and humour of my early childhood. I often draw on folk tale because it's part of me—I was brought up on it."

Doyle spends a lot of time editing his work, sometimes rewriting a piece more than a hundred times. When his first book was bought by a publisher, he was incredibly excited. As he recalled on his home page, "When I sold Owen and the Mountain, my first picture book story, to Bloomsbury, I was delighted. I ran up to the top of the hill behind my house and did a little dance. Then I came back down and counted the number of times I'd rewritten the story—I'd kept all the print-outs off the computer. It's only 800 words long and I'd written it 187 times! It's become a habit now—every time I sell a new story, I always have to run up the nearest hill and do a little dance."

In 1998, Doyle's retelling of a classic Irish folk tale appeared. Titled The Children of Nuala, the story is one of misfortune: a stepfather finds a way to make his wife's children disappear, but then feels remorseful. His wife still loves him, however, and in the end the children return. "Although this is a melancholy tale it is well-written and contains a strong message without preaching," wrote Annette Dale-Meiklejohn in Magpies.

Doyle has authored other tales inspired by Welsh and Irish folklore, including Sleepy Pendoodle, Antonio on the Other Side of the World, Getting Smaller, and One, Two Three O'Leary. In Sleepy Pendoodle a little girl is frustrated when her puppy will not open his eyes. Her grandfather gives her a rhyme to repeat to help the puppy wake up, but she manages to get it wrong in increasingly silly attempts. The book is "chock full of warm sentiment and playful language," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "The straightforward story line is leavened by playful language and silly endearments," making it "pure pleasure to read aloud," wrote Carol Ann Wilson in School Library Journal, while Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher dubbed Sleepy Pendoodle "a laugh-inducing tale."

Young Antonio is the star of Antonio on the Other Side of the World, Getting Smaller. Though he loves visiting his grandmother, during his visit he begins to shrink. She explains that this is happening because he misses his mother and sends him home—but he continues to get smaller along the way, causing several adventures until his mother sees him and feeds him back up to normal size. "With a straight face and even tone, Doyle … unspools an outlandishly picaresque plot," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Abby Nolan, writing for Booklist, complimented Doyle's "bright, silly storytelling" while School Library Journal reviewer Catherine Threadgill noted that, "in the end, the story is all about perspective, and how the world can look pretty big through the eyes of a small child."

One, Two, Three O'Leary is a bedtime story told entirely in nonsense words drawn from traditional Irish rhymes. After each rhyme, one of the ten O'Leary children spills out of bed and onto the floor, until their parents finally come up, join the fun, and then put them all to bed. "In spite of the high energy, this has a comfortable feel," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, while a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "dandy collection of ditties." Noting that it makes for a "boisterous bedtime story," Wanda Meyers-Hines of School Library Journal advised parents that "the tongue-twisting text will have kids laughing out loud." Doyle has also collected folktales into collections, such as Tales from Old Ireland and the Barefoot Book of Fairy Tales. Tales from Old Ireland features seven folk tales retold by Doyle and combined into an "excellent and enthusiastically recommended" collection, according to a reviewer for Children's Bookwatch.

Among Doyle's books that are not based on legend, Jody's Beans has a universal appeal. The story begins when Jody's grandfather visits, and together the two plant scarlet runner beans in the garden. Over the summer growing season, the two meet regularly, or speak on the phone about their project. To answer Jody's sometimes anxious inquiries, the grandfather likes to remind her, "Wait and see." Doyle manages to provide basic gardening lessons through this format, and when the beans are harvested, some cooking tips are provided as well. A Publishers Weekly review commended "Doyle's winningly spare narration," and other reviewers remarked upon the nice parallel plot concerning Jody's mother, who is expecting a baby. "The cozy tale of everyday events … is very satisfying," remarked Horn Book reviewer Margaret A. Bush. Another original offering, Cow, is less a story book than a description of what life is like for a cow. Though the cow thinks its existence is hard, one will be in on the joke of how little the cow has to do. "Doyle is plainly envious, as will be readers when they meander through these pages," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Gillian Engberg, calling the text "poetic," noted in Booklist that Doyle uses "just a few words per spread" to capture the life of the cow. According to School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Janssen, "this is a book not to be missed."

Storm Cats is a tale of two cats, and their owners, neighbors who never meet until a storm frightens the cats. The two children who care for the cats go out after the storm has ended, looking for their lost pets. They eventually find their cats sheltering together in a storm drain, having been trapped inside by a fallen tree. The result of the adventure is a new friendship—and surprise several months later. Doyle "reflects a genius in offering a simply rhythmic, rhyming text," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Jody McCoy of School Library Journal called the book "a reassuring tale of budding friendship with a four-kitten conclusion." A Publishers Weekly critic summed up the moral to the story: "When it comes to community-building, proximity sometimes needs a nudge from serendipity."

In 2001 Doyle expanded his writing beyond picture books by publishing his first novel for teens, Georgie. A mentally ill teenager who was orphaned by his mother's murder, Georgie is transferred to a residence home in Wales. Shannon, another mentally ill teen, and Georgie's kind teacher seem to understand the boy, and eventually their friendships help bring him out of his anger and help him begin to speak again. Told mostly from Georgie's perspective, Georgie is a tale about mental illness, but also about the power of friendship. Doyle's "uplifting story demonstrates what a few people who genuinely care can do for another human being," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. "The novel brilliantly takes readers inside a damaged psyche," described Faith Brautigam in her School Library Journal review, the critic added that, "on the whole this book is exceptionally well crafted, from its gripping opening to its hopeful conclusion." Booklist reviewer Jean Franklin praised Doyle's portrayal of mental illness, writing that "Georgie's voice is utterly real, and his recovery is realistically gradual."

Doyle's second novel, Who Is Jesse Flood?, tells the story of a very different teen: a boy who labels himself "different" by choice. Bored with his town and frustrated with the constant arguing of his parents, Jesse looks to stories and folktales to provide some meaning in his life. Full of humorous and sometimes embarrassing stories of Jesse's exploits, Who Is Jesse Flood? is a coming-of-age story about a boy looking for a purpose in his life. While a Publishers Weekly reviewer warned that the slow pacing of the novel may not suit all readers, other reviewers found much to commend in the book. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that while the story covers territory mined in other teen books, "its delivery and the originality of Jesse's voice will resonate with readers." Crystal Faris, writing for School Library Journal, felt that "Jesse's voice comes through with poignant tellings of embarrassing situations and with a wonderful sense of humor." The book is "a very episodic but occasionally stunningly crafted first-person glimpse of an anxious, insecure adolescent," noted Booklist contributor Anne O'Malley.

As Doyle once told SATA: "I'm passionate about books, about stories. I love going into schools, meeting children, encouraging them to read, encouraging them to write. Don't wait till you're forty, I say. Do it. Do it now!" On his home page, Doyle told readers that he and his wife "now live in Aberdyfl, with our cats Bracken and Milo, in a big old house overlooking the sea. And on days when I'm not visiting schools or walking in the mountains, that's where you'll find me, sitting in my study, looking at the view, and, hopefully, writing."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, April 15, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of Sleepy Pendoodle, p. 1407; June 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Cow, p. 1734; September 1, 2002, Jean Franklin, review of Georgie, p. 114; October 1, 2002, Anne O'Malley, review of Who Is Jesse Flood?, p. 312; October 15, 2003, Abby Nolan, review of Antonio on the Other Side of the World, Getting Smaller, p. 417; August, 2004, Karin Snelson, review of Splash, Joshua, Splash!, p. 1941.

Bookseller, June 16, 2000, review of Tales from Old Ireland.

Books for Keeps, May, 1999, George Hunt, review of The Great Castle of Marshmangle; September, 1999, Roy Blatchford, review of Jody's Beans, and Elizabeth Schlenther, review of The Changeling.

Books Ireland, September, 2000, review of Carrot Thompson, Record Breaker.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2002, review of Georgie, p. 103; December, 2002, review of Who Is Jesse Flood?, p. 152; November, 2004, Karen Coates, review of Splash, Joshua, Splash!, p. 119.

Cambrian News, July 2, 1998, reviews of The Great Hunger and Farewell to Ireland; November 12, 1998, reviews of The Children of Nuala and Little People, Big People; May 20, 1999, review of The Changeling.

Cambriensis, December, 1999, Lynne Walsh, review of The Changeling.

Carousel, September, 1999, Michael Thorn, reviews of The Great Castle of Marshmangle and Jody's Beans, and Jan Mark, review of The Changeling.

Children's Books in Ireland, June, 1999, Bronagh Naughton, review of Little People, Big People.

Children's Bookseller, March 19, 1999, reviews of The Great Castle of Marshmangle and Jody's Beans; September 8, 2000, review of Tales from Old Ireland.

Children's Bookwatch, August, 2004, review of Tales from Old Ireland, p. 4.

Early Years Educator, November, 1999, review of Well, A Crocodile Can!

Guardian (London, England), May 25, 1999, Vivian French, review of Jody's Beans.

Horn Book, March, 1999, Margaret A. Bush, review of Jody's Beans, p. 187; January-February, 2005, Susan Dove Lempke, review of One, Two, Three O'Leary, p. 76.

Irish Examiner, June 10, 2000, Brendan Malone, review of Carrot Thompson, Record Breaker.

Irish Times, May 22, 1999, Geraldine Whelan, reviews of The Great Castle of Marshmangle and Jody's Beans.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1999, review of Jody's Beans; January 1, 2002, reviews of Owen and the Mountain and Sleepy Pendoodle, p. 44; January 15, 2002, review of Baby See, Baby Do!, p. 103; June 1, 2002, review of Cow, p. 804; August 1, 2002, review of Who Is Jesse Flood? p. 126; October 1, 2002, review of Storm Cats, p. 1467; June 1, 2004, review of Splash, Joshua, Splash!, p. 535; August 1, 2004, review of One, Two, Three O'Leary, p. 740; October 15, 2004, review of The Great Castle of Marshmangle, p. 1004; April 15, 2005, review of The Dancing Tiger, p. 472.

Kliatt, November, 2004, Stephanie Squicciarini, review of Who Is Jesse Flood?, p. 15.

London Parent's Guide (England), November, 1999, review of Jody's Beans.

Magpies, February, 1999, John Zahnleiter, review of Jody's Beans; March, 1999, Annette Dale-Meiklejohn, review of Little People, Big People and The Children of Nuala, p. 32.

Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1999, review of Jody's Beans, p. 74; April 29, 2002, review of Georgie, p. 71; May 27, 2002, review of Cow, p. 59; July 29, 2002, review of Who Is Jesse Flood?, p. 73; October 21, 2002, review of Storm Cats, p. 74; September 29, 2003, review of Antonio on the Other Side of the World, Getting Smaller, p. 64; October 4, 2004, review of One, Two, Three O'Leary, p. 86.

School Librarian, June, 1999, Teresa Scragg, review of The Children of Nuala; September, 1999, Carolyn Boyd, review of Jody's Beans; December, 1999, Ann Jenkin, review of The Changeling.

School Library Journal, June, 1999, Carolyn Jenks, review of Jody's Beans, pp. 92-93; March, 2000, Christine A. Moesch, review of Well, a Crocodile Can!; January, 2002, Debbie Stewart, review of The Bold Boy, p. 97; March, 2002, Carol Ann Wilson, review of Sleepy Pendoodle, p. 176; July, 2002, Carolyn Janssen, review of Cow, p. 88, and Faith Brautigam, review of Georgie, p. 119; October, 2002, Jody McCoy, review of Storm Cats, p. 103, and Crystal Faris, review of Who Is Jesse Flood?, p. 162; December, 2003, Catherine Threadgill, review of Antonio on the Other Side of the World, Getting Smaller, p. 112; September, 2004, Maryann H. Owen, review of Splash, Joshua, Splash!, p. 158; November, 2004, Wanda Meyers-Hines, review of One, Two, Three O'Leary, p. 97.

South China Morning Post, September 25, 1999, Katherine Forestier, review of Jody's Beans.

Sunday Tribune (Dublin, Ireland), March 28, 1999, Mary Arrigan, review of The Great Castle of Marshmangle; May 2, 1999, Mary Arrigan, review of Jody's Beans; August 1, 1999, Mary Arrigan, review of Well, a Crocodile Can!


Malachy Doyle Home Page, http://www.malachydoyle.co.uk (November 4, 2005).

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