Books by John Kelly

John Kelly was born in Co Fermanagh. Well known as a journalist and broadcaster, his novels are The Little Hammer (London, Jonathan Cape, 2000); and Sophisticated Boom Boom (Jonathan Cape, 2003). He lives in Dublin.


FIXER THE ROBOT by John Kelly
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 2, 2019

"A simple paean to gratitude for the mechanized and fleshy alike. (Picture book. 3-6)"
No good deed goes unpunished. Or, in this case, unflattened in a rockslide. Read full book review >
SHHH! I'M READING! by John Kelly
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2019

"A fanciful celebration of the pleasures of reading. (Picture book. 4-6)"
On a rainy Sunday afternoon Bella is so engrossed in the ending of her book that she does not want to be interrupted by her usual imaginary playmates. Read full book review >
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR HOUSE IS A ZOO? by John Kelly
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2018

"A funny, lighthearted story sure to appease everyone, animal lovers or not. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A school-age boy wants to get a pet but can't decide what kind. Read full book review >
HIBERNATION HOTEL by John Kelly
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2017

"It won't break the mold of the big-bear-in-the-city trope, but sharp jokes and richness in the details make this book well worth an extended stay. (Picture book. 4-7)"
A fed-up bear takes a break from his annual cave-sleeping routine but finds that his companions and slumber aren't so easily left behind. Read full book review >
SKELETON ISLAND by Angie Sage
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 26, 2016

"Come for the ghost. Stay for the pirates. (Fantasy. 7-10)"
A class of school kids on a field trip gets an infusion of piratical machinations in this latest book in a series, following Gargoyle Hall (2015). Read full book review >
SAMMY FERAL'S DIARIES OF WEIRD by Eleanor Hawkin
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 3, 2013

"'Sammy Feral = dude supreme!' he crows at the end. Forcibly engineered as his ultimate triumph is, he merits a few howls of appreciation for staying so resolutely on task. (Adventure. 9-11)"
Readers afflicted only with pesky sibs should count their blessings: 12-year-old Sammy comes home one day to find his whole family (dog included) turned into a pack of ravening werewolves. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Aug. 21, 2012

"Roundly researched work with many poignant stories of misery and loss."
A fresh, fair look at the causes of the devastating Irish potato famine. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

In a hilarious caper from the creators of Mystery at Eatum Hall (2004), a nearsighted cub reporter fumbles his way through an investigation, oblivious to the shenanigans going down on every side. Squinting through thick eyeglasses at dreams of journalistic glory, Monty sees his editor and fellow reporters on the Daily Roar saunter into a private party. But all his efforts to crash the venue, from pole-vaulting through a suddenly-not-so-open window to digging a serpentine tunnel, come to naught. Fortunately, however, his camera has been triggering at strategic angles and moments, and his pictures of Bigfoot, Nessie, Elvis and like elusive passersby not only subsequently earn him a week of front-page scoops, but instant national fame, and even a movie deal. Printed in block letters on loose-leaf sheets, the text is nearly superfluous, as Kelly's elaborate, digitally created nighttime street scenes create an appropriately atmospheric setting for both Monty's pratfalls and the arrays of monsters, ghosts and dressed-up animals suddenly illuminated by the camera's flash. Children aren't the only ones who will "scoop" this up. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

"Occasionally unfocused, but redeems itself by putting a vivid, human face on an unimaginable nightmare. "
A ground-level illustration of how the plague ravaged Europe. Read full book review >
THE MYSTERY OF EATUM HALL by John Kelly
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

Digital art in an accomplished, painterly style adds both noir atmosphere and plenty of sight gags to this tale of two unsuspecting gourmands who accept an invitation to a weekend's feasting at the home of a mysterious new neighbor. Glenda and Horace Pork-Fowler, a goose and a pig, respectively, are initially put off when their host fails to appear, but that doesn't last long as—thanks to an elaborate set of robotic arms—full tables, a stuffed fridge, bountiful picnic hampers, and comfy beds await them. For readers who miss the clues provided by Eatum Hall's collection of art featuring wolves and prey, and shelves filled with wolfish bric-a-brac, Kelly provides glimpses of a snout withdrawing into the shadows, a furry silhouette watching a bank of closed-circuit TV screens, and a blueprint for an oversized pie-making appliance. When that device fails beneath the weight of its rotund intended victims, the Pork-Fowlers obliviously motor back to their own home, Dunfastin, leaving readers to admire their unwavering devotion to mealtime—and to laugh as their supposed nemesis is hoist by his own pie-tard. A confection, but a delicious one. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
THREE ON THE EDGE by John Kelly
NON-FICTION
Released: Jan. 12, 1999

The human side of research medicine is the focus of this account of three patients participating in clinical trials of new drugs for the treatment of AIDS and cancer. In 1995 and 1996 science writer Kelly (co-author with Thomas Verny of The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, not reviewed) spent some 200 hours with Edward Sandisfield, Romy Hochman, and Julie Conte as they faced life-threatening diseases. Sandisfield, a middle-age gay man knowledgeable about AIDS and its treatment, was so desperate to win a place in the clinical trial at Bellevue of a new protease inhibitor, indivir, in combination with AZT and 3TC, that he was prepared to lie his way into the program if necessary. The Hochmans put their 14-year-old daughter with osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer that frequently metastasizes to the lungs) into a clinical trial at NYU Medical Center to boost her chances of survival; however, Romy was randomized into the control group, receiving only standard treatment. Conte, a 34-year-old woman with breast cancer, was leery of joining a clinical trial testing a high-dose combination-drug therapy, but having already lost her mother and one sister to the disease, she entered the program at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Pennsylvania. Kelly stayed with his three subjects during exams, interviews, and treatment, observing them and talking to them about their experiences, their hopes, and their fears, and interviewing their families, friends, and doctors. Some conversations seem to be reported verbatim, at times giving the stories an up-close and personal feel. In each, Kelly inserts an essay on the disease and the treatment being tested. While the stories end with all three patients alive, an afterword reveals that by 1997 one had succumbed. Kelly's discussion of the medicine is thorough, but the portraits of his subjects are uneven. Sandisfield's story is the most complete and his character and his world the best delineated; by comparison, Conte's story seems sketchy, and the teenager Hochman remains opaque. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: June 24, 1998

A handbook for blended families that offers some substantive advice, based on a 10-year longitudinal study by Bray, presented with the help of Kelly (co-author, The Secret Life of an Unborn Child, not reviewed). As a clinical psychologist, Bray (Family Medicine/Baylor Coll. of Medicine) worked frequently with stepfamilies and knew that up to 60 percent of second marriages that include stepchildren do not succeed. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, he recruited 200 families—all Texas-based, generally white and middle or working class, with a biological mother and a stepfather as the family core—in a search for information about why this is so. He found each family unique in its struggle to create a close-knit and loving home but was able to identify three general categories and three stages that predict the degree of success. The categories are the Neotraditional family, where husbands and wives emphasize the relationship rather than themselves; the Romantic family, least likely to succeed because expectations are unrealistic; and the Matriarchal family, where the mother is highly competent and dominant. All stepfamilies, whatever their type, follow a pattern of ups and downs, according to Bray. As with a first marriage, the first two years, when children and adults are sorting out their relationships and coming to terms with shadows of the first marriages, are the hardest. The next three or four years are more tranquil as compromises have been made, but the third cycle can see stress and conflict again, as children and parents endure adolescence. One major obstacle to the emerging stepfamily: stepparents who move too quickly to take over the parental role. Detailed and evocative case histories illuminate discussions of these various landmarks in stepfamilies— lives, including the sometimes disruptive but vital role of former spouses. A step up for stepfamilies, who may not fit exactly into the pigeonholes described but can take comfort and guidance from Bray's findings. Read full book review >
SHOCKING SCIENCE by Steve Parker
HISTORY
Released: April 1, 1996

Quirky, humorous, frequently gross anecdotes about science, scientists, inventions, and discoveries fill this book, subtitled ``5,000 Years of Mishaps and Misunderstandings'' and profusely illustrated with busy, weird cartoons in a magazine-like layout. Readers who relished The Robot Zoo and Everyday Machines will enjoy this effort even if they are not familiar with the great names of science: Pliny, Ptolemy, Alhazen, Galen, Newton, Mendel, and Volta (women are all but invisible—Marie Curie gets a mention as do the sirens of Greek myth, but that's about it). The topics include theories about the age and origin of the world, information on plagues of pesky animals, the search for life on other planets, early medicine, a history of flight, experiments with electricity, accidental discoveries, failed constructions, etc. This is a browsing book: There are no sources given, no chronologies, and no biographical information on any of the people, whose ideas are not presented in the context of their times. Although both a table of contents and an index are provided, they are not always useful: Many of the pages do not include folios, making some flipping back and forth for information inevitable. (Nonfiction. 12-14) Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Penn State psychology professor Belsky and writer Kelly team up to produce a lively and realistic appraisal of the crucible of first-time parenthood. Studying 250 married couples in central Pennsylvania over a seven-year period, Belsky concludes that the first year of parenthood is the most stressful, as mothers and fathers grapple with everything from changing work schedules to going without sex and sleep. Belsky's findings—among them, that one out of every two marriages declines after an infant's arrival and that career women are particularly vulnerable to marital unrest after childbirth— will surprise some readers, particularly those who romanticize parenthood. Much of Belksy's study centers on interviews with three young couples—Ron and Sue Akers, Jennifer and Calvin Renselear, and Lem and Tina Carlson—as they move from the gladness of late pregnancy to the madness of caring for a new baby. All the couples are still together seven years later, but only the Akerses appear to have grown closer through parenthood. Although focusing more on parenthood's agony than its ecstasy, this should nevertheless provide food for thought for anyone who is expecting. Read full book review >