Meg Grehan wins Children’s Books Ireland Award for tender 'coming out' story of an 11 year-old girl

'The Deepest Breath', a tender coming-out story, has been celebrated by the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards.

Split screen of a young woman in glasses and the cover of a children's book

The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards, which recognise excellence in writing and illustration in Irish or English, have awarded the Judges’ Special Award this year to Meg Grehan for The Deepest Breath, a novel about emerging sexual identity, friendship and love.

The lyrical narrative of The Deepest Breath captures with great delicacy the fragile voice of an 11 year-old girl, Stevie, whose feelings for her friend Chloe both excite and confuse her. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum. The story is tender, courageous and ultimately uplifting.

The Deepest Breath is described as having “special relevance to young girls who are starting to realise that they are attracted to other girls”. Meg Grehan was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Award 2020.

Mary Esther Judy said: “As a ‘coming-out’ story, The Deepest Breath is so powerful and revealing, yet so nuanced … The characterisation is absolute perfection, with elegant detail given in just a few words … This book is gently amazing and utterly compassionate. Just beautiful.” It has also been described as “Gorgeously written, emotionally complex and endlessly kind” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, author of Spellbook of the Lost and Found and All the Bad Apples.

Meg Grehan is originally from County Louth and now lives in Donegal with her girlfriend. Speaking to the University Times last year, Grehan said she hoped the book would be “part of a wave of change”.

“I just wanted to write something kind that could maybe soften someone’s experience and help them feel seen,” she added.

Five women were today recognised in the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards 2020, including Máire Zepf for Nóinín, Ashling Lindsay for The Tide, Kim Sharkey for Mór agus Muilc and Sarah Crossan for Toffee.

The overall Book of the Year Award went to Máire Zepf. The ceremony was shared online for the first time in the Awards’ 30 year history and the awards were announced by book-loving broadcaster, Rick O’Shea. The Awards are the most prestigious prizes for children’s books in Ireland and celebrate the very best of Irish writing and illustration for younger people.

CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, Elaina Ryan, said, “In an unprecedented time for Irish artists, we are prouder than ever to celebrate these truly excellent books.”

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