My daughter Niamh is 11 and absolutely loves reading.

From an early age we made sure she was shown picture books and was read to every night before bed and I am so glad this passion stayed with her and… still does, even when things are tough!

At the age of 7 we had her investigated for Dyslexia and it was thought that she might also be on the Autism spectrum.

Fast forward to last year and, in the middle of lockdown, we received the diagnosis we had expected – yes Niamh is on the Autism spectrum and had high functioning autism with social development issues. 

However, far from being dyslexic, she absolutely devours books and has no problem with reading books at an adult level. 

At the moment, she is reading the Warrior Cats series by Erin Hunter. 

Here is a list of Niamh’s top 5 books from when she was a little one… in no particular order!


Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

By Lynley Dodd

First published in 1983 and still as good today. Written by Lynley Dodd, who is a New Zealander, this is the first in a series of books about the adventures of a scruffy dog ‘Hairy McClary’. Rhyming, catchy and comical with brilliant characters and plots. And just so you know a ‘dairy’ in New Zealand is a corner shop.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

By Michael Rosen 

We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. Will you come too? For a quarter of a century, readers have been swishy-swashying and splash-sploshing through this award-winning favourite. Follow and join in the family’s excitement as they wade through the grass, splash through the river and squelch through the mud in search of a bear. What a surprise awaits them in the cave on the other side of the dark forest! N 

Niamh actually knew all the words to this book and would recite it with us word for word.

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet

By Anna Kemp

Biff is not like ordinary dogs. He doesn’t do dog stuff like peeing on lampposts, scratching his fleas or drinking out of toilets. If you throw him a stick, he’ll just look at you like you’re crazy. No, Biff is no ordinary dog. Biff likes music and moonlight and walking on his tiptoes. You see, Biff doesn’t think he’s a dog, Biff thinks he’s a ballerina, which is all very well …but dogs don’t do ballet – do they? The hilarious story of a small dog with a big personality and even bigger dreams!


The Gruffalo

By Julia Donaldson

An old favourite but still a good one.

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood. A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good. Walk further into the deep dark wood, and discover what happens when a quick-witted mouse comes face to face with a fox, an owl, a snake . . . and a hungry Gruffalo!

The last is the best….

A Dragon in a Wagon

By Lynley Dodd

From the same writer as Hairy Maclary, this book was an immediate family hit 

Susie Fogg loves her dog, Sam. He never barks or bites, and the holes that he digs are not too big. But she wishes that he was a more exciting pet – like ‘a dragon in a wagon’, ‘a snake eating cake’ or even ‘a giraffe with a scarf’. As she is walking along, imagining a multitude of magnificent creatures, Susie trips over a log. It is not a dragon or a snake or a giraffe that comforts her – just the friendly doggy face of Sam.

We have home videos of Niamh sitting in her bed with a sparkly cowboy hat on reading the book and repeating word for word the whole book especially “the Gnu with the Flu”

Meet Niamh! 

Niamhs autism means she isn’t a fan of having a photograph taken, but we have instilled in her that photographs are memories to look back on with pride… and she loves this one!

A recent portrait of her in my studio… armed with her book!

It’s a beautiful simple portrait of my very clever, funny and amazing little person armed with a book her escape into different worlds.  

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