Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

“There’s a moment during every trick. Circus people call it the crowd-pleaser. Or the ticket-seller. Or sometimes, among ourselves, the widow-maker.”

Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazzard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school.

Friendship, first love, freaking out … that’s a lot for two confused clowns to juggle. Can Finch finally face up to his feelings and take the most daring leap of all?

Also available as an audiobook narrated by Joseph O’Hagan.

Available from all major book chains. Please support your local independent bookstores if possible!

“This novel really does sparkle.  It is witty and clever, and packs a very well-aimed punch.”Roddy Doyle

“This book made me want to run away and join the circus. A delightful read about accepting and embracing the qualities that make us unique; Kelly McCaughrain is one to watch.”Susin Nielsen

“A tender, hilarious romance…filled with fantastical yet real-feeling joy.” – Imogen Russell Williams for The Guardian

“A quirky and complex story, told with an elegant simplicity that hooks you from the first few pages… Vibrant, funny, moving and thought-provoking.”The Bookbag


  • The Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Award 2019
  • The Children’s Books Ireland Children’s Choice Award 2019
  • The Children’s Books Ireland Eilís Dillon Award 2019
  • The Northern Ireland Book Award 2019
  • Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019
  • Shortlisted for the Great Reads Awards
  • Shortlisted for the Essex School Library Book Awards
  • Shortlisted for the Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year
  • Longlisted for the Bristol Teen Book Award
  • Longlisted for the Southern Schools Book Awards
  • Featured in the Guardian’s Best New Children’s Books 2018
  • Featured in the Irish Independent Top 50 Children’s Books 2018

Why I wrote the book

I’ve loved circuses since my mum gave me a set of juggling balls when I was 16. I still can’t juggle very well but I like watching other people do it. Talent impresses me, but the characters I enjoy writing are those who aren’t naturally talented, but find their own way to succeed.

I’m drawn towards novels based in reality, but I believe realism should have its own magic and lots of comedy, and the circus was the perfect environment for that; its atmosphere of mayhem and oddball characters made a revealing contrast to Finch’s school life, which has had the colour drained out of it by bullying and loneliness.

I think the best stories are a search for identity. Finch is trying to prevent his family’s long history of circus performing from coming to an end, but in the process of learning about his past, he discovers his own place in that history and who he might become in the future.

Finch and Hector are quirky, non-conforming outsiders searching for somewhere to belong and the reason I wrote this novel was quite simply for them; both boys leapt into my head fully formed, drove the story at breakneck speed and made it a pleasure just trying to keep up.

Check out the Flying Tips Pinterest board! These are images I used for inspiration when writing the book.