Melanie McDonagh

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

A new exhibition gives us the real Tolkien – not his awful legacy

7 July 2018 9:00 am

To no one’s surprise, the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition at the Bodleian in Oxford, where J.R.R. spent so much…

Girl power – or groupthink in written form?

Who really wants to read feminist children’s books?

30 June 2018 9:00 am

A friend of mine who commissions book reviews has added a sub-category to the list of titles coming up: ‘femtrend’,…

Panel from the bedroom of Louis Henri I, Prince de Condé, by Christophe Huet

The greatest French museum you’ve never heard of

19 May 2018 9:00 am

Imagine a French museum that’s second only to the Louvre when it comes to paintings, with an eye-watering collection of…

The Catholic Church is absent in Ireland’s abortion referendum

5 May 2018 9:00 am

The Irish referendum on abortion takes place in just under three weeks’ time, and while the polls suggest a hefty…

From left to right: embroidered linen jacket, 1620s; pine marten fur hat, Caroline Reboux, 1895; man’s silk waistcoat embroidered in silk with a pattern of macaque monkeys, 1780–89

This V&A show, about fashion’s fascination with the natural world, will seduce and appal

21 April 2018 9:00 am

One of the prettiest pieces in the V&A exhibition Fashioned from Nature is a man’s cream waistcoat, silk and linen,…

Girls in the hood: traditional hairdresser in Nottingham, 1996

The captivating art, science and politics of hair: Beehives, Bobs and Blow-dries reviewed

24 February 2018 9:00 am

One of the best things about Beehives, Bobs and Blow-dries — yep, an exhibition about hairdressing — is the reaction…

Fairy tales for feisty girls

27 January 2018 9:00 am

This being the centenary of women’s suffrage, there’s an unmissable feminist aspect to children’s books right now. Stories about strong…

Bear necessities: line block print, 1970, hand coloured by E.H. Shepard

The star of the Winnie-the-Pooh show at V&A is E.H. Shepard

9 December 2017 9:00 am

The thing about Winnie-the-Pooh, 91 years old this year, is that he’s the creature of E.H. Shepard, who drew him,…

Is a Princess Meghan really such good news?

2 December 2017 9:00 am

‘The thing is,’ said my friend, after the broadcast of the engagement interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, ‘you…

Jauntily naive: illustration from Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)

A survey of this year’s children’s books sets the cat among the pigeons

2 December 2017 9:00 am

Back in 1990, Roald Dahl wrote a book called The Minpins, which was illustrated by Patrick Benson, a very good…

Cover illustration for the magazine Garm 1944, by Tove Jansson

A chance to see the Moomins’ creator for the genius she really was: Tove Janssons reviewed

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Tove Jansson, according to her niece’s husband, was a squirt in size and could rarely be persuaded to eat, preferring…

Stitches in time: detail of ‘Embroidery Design’ by May Morris, worked by May Morris and Theodosia Middlemore, c.1900

Is May Morris a feminist cause – a woman of genius unfairly overlooked?

11 November 2017 9:00 am

You may think you don’t know May Morris, daughter of William, but you’ll probably have come across her wallpaper. Her…

Abortion Demo (image: Getty)

Pregnant silence

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Brian Sewell once wrote an article about abortion headlined: ‘Women, the killers in our midst.’ He got an awful lot…

Philip Pullman (image: Getty)

Three daemons in a boat

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Philip Pullman’s new k, the prequel to his Northern Lights series — the one north Oxford academics very much prefer…

Hope, the blue whale, replaces Dippy, the diplodocus, in the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall

Cathedral of creation

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Sometimes, it pays to rediscover what’s already under your nose. I’ve been umpteen times to the Natural History Museum but…

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…

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

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…

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

6 June 2015 9:00 am

It took Oxford 40 years to catch up with Cambridge in appointing a woman vice-chancellor, but Louise Richardson — ex-St…

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…

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…