As our regular readers know, we love talking about books around here, so today we’re sharing a little bit with you about Kathleen Forbes, an Irish-Canadian author who writes poetry, children’s, and young adult books that reflect both her love for her birthplace and for her adopted homeland.
Kathleen grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during World War II and immigrated to Canada when she was 18. She’s been a storyteller, singer, and poet her entire life, but it wasn’t until her 80s that Kathleen turned her hand to publishing children’s and young adult books. Now at 88 years of age, this mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of nine has nine books (so far) under her belt!
And what a life she’s had! From prospecting for gold to chuckwagon racing, from teaching ballroom dancing to performing as a movie extra and in community theatre, Kathleen has always lived life to the fullest. She’s lived and travelled all through Canada and currently calls Irricana, Alberta home.
Every story she writes contains tiny snippets of her rich life history. For example, Kathleen’s family reunions on a Saskatchewan farm were the inspiration to write Penelope Henry: Country Jamboree, and the spunky protagonist in Kathleen’s Holly Brannigan series is named after her own daughter, Holly.
In the real Holly’s words:
When asked to write about my mother, the lyrics for a song by Shania Twain come to mind:
She’s, not, just a pretty face
She’s, got, everything it takes
She has a fashion line
A journalist for “Time”
My mother used to feel so tall to me, and she still seems so today even at her stature of 5’2″. She was an outrider in a chuckwagon race in her first year of marriage. She used to make our dresses with matching coats. She hosted an exercise program on TV when I was 5, and she taught ballroom dancing for the Arthur Murray Dance Studio. She’s a novelist, a poet, a songwriter and singer, and at 88 years old she’s still writing with 9 books published, one in her head and one more ready to be picked up by the next willing publisher.
Her motto is, “You’re not done till you’re done,” and Kathleen Forbes is still teaching me to this day.
Kathleen’s published books include the Penelope Henry series, Holly Brannigan Mysteries, and a book of poetry, All Roads Lead to Home.
Country Jamboree is the third and latest installment in Kathleen’s series of middle school books featuring nine-year-old Penelope Henry, her brother Zinger, and Dinty Finnigan, a leprechaun who serves as the children’s friend and protector. It’s not necessary to have read the previous books, but the characters do make several references to their past adventures together.
When Penelope and her family and friends are invited to their cousins’ country farm for a giant family reunion, they find all the fun activities you would expect like horse racing, trick riding, and lariat twirling, plus a few other things you wouldn’t! Alongside the country fun, the kids and Dinty find an injured boy and help a family find a new home.
Country Jamboree reminds me of the stories my father would tell me as a kid. There’s a old-timey feel, similar to the Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome books I read as a child. Kathleen’s conversational style of storytelling is warm and unhurried, good for reading aloud together before bed.
The Penelope Henry series includes these books:
Donnymead Castle is the first book in the Holly Brannigan Mysteries series. Named after Kathleen’s own daughter, Holly is a plucky 15-year-old from Vancouver, Canada with a nose for trouble.
When Holly and her mother visit Holly’s grandmother in the small Irish village of Donnymead, Holly is immediately drawn to majestic Donnymead Castle up on the hill. After meeting a mysterious fortune teller who seems to know more than she’s telling, Holly finds herself swept up in an adventure involving sinister strangers, secret passageways, and an international crime ring. When Holly and her friend Tim are captured by a trio of ruthless gunrunners, they are rescued by a wanderer with unexpected ties to Donnymead Castle’s tragic past.
Holly is a kind, intrepid, and likable heroine, and this young adult short novel is well-paced and packed full of history, mystery, and danger. Note that the author uses the term “gypsy” throughout the book to refer to a group of Travellers camping in the nearby woods so a discussion would be warranted with your teenager around the historical and perjorative use of this word.
The Holly Brannigan Mysteries includes these books:
Win a Kathleen W. Forbes Book!
One of my readers will win their choice of either of the books we reviewed here. Enter in the giveaway widget below. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, 18+. All the winner’s entries will be verified.
Click here to check out my other open giveaways and be sure to follow me on Facebook!
Disclosure: I received sample items to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you.