Melanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is a leaderwriter for the Evening Standard and Spectator contributor. Irish, living in London.

‘... and of course I can’t leave clever Bill Davis and my purse.’
From William Nicholson’s Clever Bill

Children’s books for Christmas

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Maurice Sendak, no mean judge, observed that William Nicholson’s Clever Bill was ‘among the few perfect picture books for children’.…

‘Shelter Scenes, Tilbury’ by Edward Ardizzone

Edward Ardizzone – the English Daumier

19 November 2016 9:00 am

It’s funny, isn’t it, how a dust jacket on a book can draw you to it from the other end…

Jack-o '- lantern in a red Santa hat

Once the English didn’t do Halloween — now it takes up all of October

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Let’s stop celebrating everything too soon, starting with Halloween

Part of a horse trapper probably made for Edward III’s court. Photo: RMN-Grand Palais (Musée de Cluny — Musée National du Moyen Âge)/Franck Raux

Embroidery: the great British art form

8 October 2016 9:00 am

For much of the Middle Ages, especially from 1250–1350, ‘English work’ was enormously prized around Europe from Spain to Iceland.…

Francesca Simon’s dark novel The Monstrous Child tells the story of Hel, Queen of the Underworld — like Proserpina, only monstrous

Sinister summer reading for children

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Martin Stewart’s Riverkeep (Penguin, £7.99) has a list of books and writers on the cover: Moby-Dick, The Wizard of Oz,…

Illustration by Jane Ray for Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Heartsong

The best children’s authors of 2015 — after David Walliams

28 November 2015 9:00 am

The easy way round buying books for children at Christmas is just to get them the latest David Walliams and…

Marlene Dietrich

We’re not more genderfluid now. We’re just duller about it

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Sex has always been less binary than it looks – but we’ve never been this boring about it

This year Alice in Wonderland celebrates its 150th anniversary (Photo: Getty

Green djinns and a green boy: the best summer reading for children

1 August 2015 9:00 am

It’s the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland — cue an explosion of editions of the book, a new biography…

Kate Middleton sits alongside Professor Louise Richardson (Photo: Getty)

How come our cash-strapped universities can afford so many administrators?

6 June 2015 9:00 am

At Oxford and elsewhere, university administration is out of control

Matthew Crawford's 'World Beyond Your Head' looks at how we pay attention in a world of escalating distractions. (Photo: Toronto Star via Getty)

Virtual reality versus real reality: wisdom (and motorcycle maintenance) from Matthew Crawford

9 May 2015 9:00 am

Bit of Kant, bit of Kierkegaard, bit of motorcycle maintenance. That’s one take on The World Beyond Your Head, Matthew…

The importance of illustration: Babar et le Professeur Grifaton by Laurent de Brunhoff

Under Harry Potter’s spell: most children’s books have become shamelessly derivative, says Melanie McDonagh

11 April 2015 9:00 am

Go to any bookshop — always supposing you’re fortunate enough to have any left in your neck of the woods…

The Babies Castle, a branch of Dr Barnardo’s at Hawkhurst, Kent in 1934

Love child or bastard: the lottery of being born on the wrong side of the blanket

21 March 2015 9:00 am

My father was handed over a shop counter when he was a day old. His aunt had tried to pass…

Illustration by Arthur Rackham from Grimm's Fairy Tale, Fitcher's Bird. Published late 19th Century Photo: Getty

Grimms’ fairy tales: the hardcore version

13 December 2014 9:00 am

Child murder, domestic slavery, abusive families, cannibalism and intergenerational hatred — what could be better for the festive fireside than…

The Parent Trap, familiar from various film versions, is a story by Eric Kastner, now republished with Walter Trier’s illustrations by Pushkin Books

The best children’s books of 2014

29 November 2014 9:00 am

If it’s all right with you, I’d like to launch a campaign please. Right here. You may be wanting me…

Mindfulness

The cult of 'mindfulness'

1 November 2014 9:00 am

Separating meditation from faith might not be as harmless as it seems

Shami Chakrabarti Photo: David Levenson/Getty

What Shami regards as right isn’t necessarily what is right

1 November 2014 9:00 am

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty and omnipresent media personality, is on the cover of her book.…

The theatrical Constance Markewicz founded the military boy scouts, who would later staff the IRA

When Irish nationalism meant sexual adventure

18 October 2014 9:00 am

One of the easiest mistakes to make about history is to assume that the past is like the recent past,…

Ottolenghi’s tomato and pomegranate salad

Yotam Ottolenghi: the Saatchi brothers of vegetable PR

27 September 2014 8:00 am

It would be a mistake to treat Plenty More, the new cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, merely as a collection of…

Grape preparation: the preferred method in north London

Politically correct wines worth drinking

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Melanie McDonagh picks out bottles with a delicious hint of middle-class virtue

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Churchgoing is good for you (even if you don’t believe in God)

21 June 2014 8:00 am

And that’s true whether or not you believe in God

‘Religieuses’ (from William and Suzue Curley’s Patisserie)

Recipe for a modern baker: first, move to Hoxton

21 June 2014 8:00 am

If I were the kind of person who invited people to come and have a bite to eat that very…

Children's

The best new children's books

7 June 2014 9:00 am

A children’s author and illustrator, Jonathan Emmet, created a stir recently by saying that women are effectively gatekeepers of children’s…

antisuffrage-poster

Did most women want the vote?

10 May 2014 9:00 am

The suffragettes’ opponents deserve to be remembered sympathetically

Paris in the springtime: the Jardin des Plantes

Paris

15 March 2014 9:00 am

No city really multitasks like Paris, shorthand for romance, culture, fashion, gastronomy and the kind of street life you find…

Flora-Thompson

Secrets of Candleford: the real Flora Thompson

1 March 2014 9:00 am

Melanie McDonagh on Flora Thompson, whose revealing account of rural Oxfordshire life at the turn of the 19th century became a literary classic