Everyones’ Favourite Tortoise: Albert and the Wind by Ian Brown & Eoin Clarke

Welcome back to everyones’ new favourite tortoise, Albert! But sadly, Albert seems to be having a bad day. I wonder if his garden friends can give him a hand…

ALBERT AND THE WIND

author: Ian Brown

illustrator: Eoin Clarke

Graffeg Ltd (14 October 2021)

ISBN: 9781913733445

The sound of the wind harshly blowing across his patch shook Albert the tortoise awake…and then his tummy gurgled. Albert was very hungry. But just as he started to tuck into the yummy veg that had been left for him; just as he opened his mouth wide and took a big snapping bite…there was nothing there! The wind, swirling, twirling, flying past fiercely, had blown all of Alberts’ food away. Albert took of after it…but the wind and the food was too fast. Fortunately, the other garden creatures are on hand to help Albert retrieve his meal. With everyone rushing off before he gets a chance to say what he needs to say, how will Albert ever be able to thank them properly?

The second very funny and heart-warming adventure in the life of Albert the tortoise sees us lead down the garden path in a rather dramatic turn of events. Albert has a big problem when his food is scattered far and wide by the wind and it’s down to his friends to lend a hand…or a wing, or a web… (you get the picture.) But for every problem, there’s always a solution when you can work together. Those industrious garden creatures band together to spread out and retrieve Alberts’ veg, showing us the importance of helping others. But they zip off before Albert has a chance to express his gratitude, leaving him with another dilemma. Does Albert forget their kindness? Of course not! There is always room for different expressions of thanks, though it may not be what we expect. We each have our way.

Extraordinary, vivid illustrations depicted with a keen eye to the natural world and a huge dollop of humour catch very moment of the action in expressive detail, pulling the story along through the back garden. Text and image work hand-in-hand to tell a story that little ones will want to hear over and over. And there’s another page of facts about Albert (an actual, real-life tortoise who lives with the author) and his many cousins across the globe which adds interest and peaks curiosity about the world of these modern-day mini-dinosaurs. Quirky laugh-out-loud humour and the gift of warm-hearted friendship; an important lesson in working together and showing gratitude; a simply wonderful book in every way.

Many thanks to Graffeg, Ltd for sharing Albert and the Wind with me in return for an honest review. https://graffeg.com/collections/childrens-books

Make Way for: Puffling and the Egg by Erika McGann & Gerry Daly

Puffling and the Egg by Erika McGann, illustrated by Gerry Daly; O’Brien Press

Happy Book Birthday to Puffling and the Egg!

It’s been a couple of years since we joined little Puffling on her adventures on the Skellig Islands. Well, I’m delighted to say she’s back…and this time she’s on a bit of a mission! It seems Puffling isn’t lost, this time…she’s found something….

PUFFLING and the EGG

author: Erika McGann

illustrator: Gerry Daly

O’Brien Press (11 October 2021)

ISBN: 9781788492485

When Puffling popped her head out of her burrow one fine Skellig morning, she got a bit of a surprise. An egg was nestling in the grass right in front of her! A little lost egg. Helpful little Puffling must get it back where it belongs! But wherever could its’ nest be? It will be tricky, with the wind blowing egg down the hill; here, there and everywhere. Pufflings’ friends are always ready to help, but even tying a bit of seaweed around the egg, as Cormorant suggested doesn’t stop the egg for very long. And Puffling has to explain to everyone that its’ not a toy, or a wind blocker, or a stone…it’s a lost egg and Puffling needs all her friends to help her get it back to its’ parents.

This second lively adventure featuring helpful, cheerful little Puffling sends us on a merry chase over and along Skellig Michael. Full of the rich, diverse wildlife found on this tiny, rocky island, it is very informative, as well as an utter delight for young children. Puffling is a determined little puffin that won’t let anything stop her from doing what has to be done. The story and animated pictures are vivid, full of colour, life, expression and character, as they depict the (nearly) complete range of creatures from the area. They work hand-in-hand to create a tale that demands to be read over and over. You’ll laugh; you’ll gasp; you’ll fall in love with Puffling and her friends. A fantastic picturebook to while away those upcoming long winter nights, dreaming of spring and summer adventures with Puffling. And maybe plan a visit to see the Skelligs, yourself. You never know who you might meet. Inspiring curiosity and imagination about the natural world; it is completely charming, funny and simply wonderful. https://obrien.ie/schools/puffling-and-the-egg

Of Libraries, Reading & Books: Mooses’ Book Bus and more…

Reading, books and, especially libraries…these are magical things. Library Week is coming to a close in the UK. I believe it is upcoming here in Ireland (November?) And Childrens Books Ireland currently has a huge push to help reinstate funding for the school libraries, which lost their funding in 2008. Something desperately needs to be done.

One of the best ways to let little ones in on the secret of libraries, books and reading is to give them a picture book about books. Opening that door for will gift them with a lifetime of benefits in so many ways. Let me start with a new one, filled with charm and heart…(and then I’ll add a few more of my favourites.)

MOOSES’ BOOK BUS

author/illustrator: Inga Moore

Walker Books (16 September 2021)

ISBN: 9781406385694

One evening, Moose, that wonderful storyteller, can’t think of a single tale he hasn’t told his family before! What he needs is a book of stories. What he needs is a library. Coming home from the town library with a stack of books, they all settle down around the fire and the enchantment begins anew…but the other animal families want to listen in as well and before Moose realises, his living room is packed full, he barely has room to turn the pages, Mrs Moose is run off her feet providing snacks and hot chocolate…no one can move! But Moose has a clever idea. With help from the friendly librarian, Moose recycles an abandoned bus from the junkyard and makes a mobile library – a book bus! Now the library can come to all the other animals who lived in the woods!

If you want a book to awaken the love of books, reading and libraries in little ones, this is it! Inga Moores’ gentle storytelling slides through the book, giving a charming portrait of a librarys’ importance to family and community. Filled with her stunning, detailed classic-style illustrations, each page lends its’ own everyday-magic, capturing the character of each animal and their role in the story. There are so many different elements and side-stories here; the story-loving nature of the Moose family, the joy of reading, the distress of “running out of stories”, the literacy issues, finding a solution for problems as they arise; you would think it a story to complex to tell in 48 pages. But the threads of the tale weave together easily, giving the reader a book of quiet adventure, comfort, satisfaction and pure joy…and one that everyone will want to read again and again.

A celebration of reading, libraries and community; imaginative, sparkling, filled with a sense of togetherness and wonder…and of course, books. I just love it! (Also, please look for the first story of this wonderful woodland community…A House in the Woods.) https://www.walker.co.uk/Moose-s-Book-Bus-9781406385694.aspx

Now, I promised you a few more of my favourite picture books about books, reading and libraries. Let’s see what I can find in the stacks…

The Book No One Ever Read by Cornelia Funke (Breathing Books, May 2017) : Morry, a young book, is tired of standing still on a shelf amid dignified first editions, and yearns for the excitement of sharing his story with a child. A charming homage to books that yearn for an audience, and some of Funkes’ favourite authors, whose books are lining the shelves of this particular library…and probably your library as well.

Luna Loves Library Day by Joseph Coehlo & Fiona Lumbers (Andersen Press, September 2018): Every week Luna looks forward to one special day: the day when she discovers magic among the library shelves; the day she gets to spend with her dad. Exploring the books, Luna and her dad find magic, mystery and even start to mend their own history. Just wonderful!

I Love Tractors! by Davina Bell & Jenny Lovlie (Andersen Press, May 2021): Oh yes…it’s about libraries…and the joy of reading anything you want! When Frankie McGee insists on borrowing yet another book about tractors, his mum crumbles. She begs him to read a book about something else – anything! Will he be able to bring his mum around?

The Library Lion by Michelle Knudson & Kevin Hawkes (Walker Books, January 2008):Miss Merriweather, is very particular about rules in the library. But when the lion visits, she isn’t sure what to do – there aren’t any rules about lions in the library! As it turns out, this lion seems very well suited to library visiting. Beautiful & classic!

Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner & Michael Emberly (Dragonfly Books, reprint December 2018): With the help of Miss Brooks, Missy’s classmates all find books they love in the library–but Missy dismisses them all–“Too flowery, too furry, too clickety, too yippity.” Still, Miss Brooks remains determined. Book Week is here and Missy will find a book to love if they have to empty the entire library.

How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour & Rebecca Ashdown (Lincoln Childrens Books, August 2015): Rapunzel sits on the sixteenth floor of an inner city block, bored, dreaming and looking out at the rain.  No one can rouse her from her apathy, especially not the prince. At last a letter is delivered, containing news that has Rapunzel has a new job at the library! And suddenly her life is busy, sparkling, exciting and happy-ever-after.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston (Walker Books, October 2019): A little girl sails her raft “across a sea of words” to arrive at the house of a small boy. She invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic lies ahead… Not strictly about libraries, but…this book touched my heart and is one I read repeatedly. It is one for the whole world. Magical!

I had better stop there before this post becomes a book itself. (There are dozens more on my burgeoning shelf.) May your trips to the library and your journeys through books bring you as much pleasure, escape and wonder as they bring me. PLEASE, support your local library and your local schools’ libraries any way you can. Visiting them is a good start. And pick up a copy of Mooses’ Book Bus by Inga Moore! It’s wonderful!

Return to Ballyfrann: Precious Catastrophe by Deirdre Sullivan

In May 2019, Deirdre Sullivan took us to Ballyfrann, a small, completely ordinary town somewhere near Galway; and into the lives of twins Madeline and Catlin, two completely ordinary teenage girls. Except, nothing about this town or their lives is normal. Through the trauma of losing their father at a young age, their mothers’ recent remarriage and moving to a castle in a not-at-all normal town, Maddie developed some dramatic “witchy” abilities and Catlin found herself in the gravest supernatural danger imaginable. The utterly superb, beautifully written, engrossing and chilling Perfectly Preventable Deaths gave us all that and more. (*check my Teen & Young Adult page for my review.) Now, Deirdre invites us to return to Ballyfrann, and I highly recommend you take this journey…

PRECIOUS CATASTROPHE

author: Deirdre Sullivan

Hot Key Books (30 September 2021)

ISBN: 97814714100680

Since moving to Ballyfrann, nothing about life has been typical or straightforward for Catlin and Maddie. For centuries, it has housed dark, supernatural secrets, both sinister and sacred. The residents that have gathered there over time have always been…not quite human. And many young women have disappeared…their remains found much later. Catlin has already fallen foul of one such creature, Lon; a dark, vicious predator who through magical means almost killed her. And it took Maddie relinquishing part of her soul to pull Catlin back from the brink of death. As the girls try to adjust to their strange new lives, Madeline is learning the art of ancient magics from the local wise woman, Mamó. Catlin is understandably haunted by what happened to her. Feeling isolated and unearthly, she turns to the Church for comfort and protection. Maddie knows she must keep a close eye on her sister, whose nighttime wanderings are extremely odd and troubling. She needs to notice things before they start to happen; build the protective spells before they are needed. But before long, under the guise of Our Lady of Ballyfrann…events take a sinister turn; right inside her own home.

I have to say it again…no one, absolutely no one writes magical, ominous YA like Deirdre Sullivan. The lyrical, soothing prose powerfully expresses the hearts and minds of the protagonists is a way the makes the reader part of the thoughts, emotions and actions, as you melt into the eerie landscape and strange people. It is inescapable. The bond of sisterhood, the fault lines that have appeared between them given recent events, the sheer horror of previous circumstances and the constant longing and desire for reparation; for finding that closeness again is palpable; as is the determination to find their own footing. The magic; the witchcraft in this book is complex, woven naturally into life and demands that there be sacrifice, but also responsibility, respect. Your fate, and the fate of those around is profoundly effected by your actions. No simple wand-waving here. The demand is that the authority and burden must be owned. The darkness of the tale is broken by typical teenage banter and action, giving a welcome relief and enters the storyline with pitch-perfect placement; with just the right timing at just the right moment. But the stuff of nightmares is never too far behind. And it comes from some the most surprising places. In returning to the gothic, fictional Ballyfrann to be pulled into those paths and tunnels in and around brought all the eerie pleasure and fright back again. The power and possibilities of magic workings highlight the deep, intimate soul within the pages. Once again,I was lost in this book…and no doubt will be again. Expressive, bone-chilling, exquisite, revealing, compelling….utterly beautiful. (And also perfect reading for the spooky season!) Can we go again please, Deirdre?

And, FYI…they have created a new cover for Perfectly Preventable Deaths, keeping in line with Precious Catastrophes’ cover. Aren’t they gorgeous together?

Return to The Girl Who Drank the Moon (by Kelly Barnhill)

Welcome October; the loveliest of months! It is absolutely my favourite and always a very busy month for me. It’s also time to dive into those “witchy” books (as if I needed an excuse.) As the light balance tips back toward the dark, the veil between reality and the mystical thins and the cooler evenings draw in, there is nothing better than a good witch story. Recently, I revisited the world of one of the really moved me from the time I first picked it up four years ago and decided it was time to share it again. So, in my opening review for lovely, mysterious October….

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

author: Kelly Barnhill

Piccadilly Press (24 August 2017)

ISBN: 9781848126473

Each year, on The Day of Sacrifice, the people of the Protectorate must leave an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. The youngest born baby is given over from the arms of its’ grieving parents without protest, abandoning the child on the forest floor to an unknown fate. They hope this sacrifice will keep the witch from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle and has no idea why these foolish people would do such a thing. Xan rescues the abandoned children, delivering them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unpredictable power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. As Luna approaches her 13th birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away and losing her own magic…

With expert, carefully wrought character development and exquisite world-building, Barnhill crafts a fairytale that is both haunting and uplifting. It deals with the cost of secrets and lies, the importance of joy and belonging, and the lengths and depths to which someone will go for love. Magic is embedded in every page. It oozes out of the words and the rhythm of its’ telling. As the relationship between Luna and her new family grows, the tales’ revelations peel away the misunderstandings and illusions that have been built into the lives of the people of the Protectorate, one by one. The spark of enchantment; the inclusion of wonderful moments of humour (in large part due to perpetually young dragon, Fyrian), the mind-boggling philosophy of bog-monster, Glerk and the maddening lies of the Elders and the sheer wickedness of Head Sister Ignatius give us a perfect tableau for the story to come fully to life. Seamlessly weaving together several back-stories that are tied together in a ribbon of magic and power, it creates a poetic, exquisite fantasy that is moving, in fact heart-rending and completely unforgettable. The Girl Who Drank The Moon is the very essence of magic…and it is completely marvelous.

Suitable for ages 9 to 99; the age of the reader creates a the perspective. You will see different aspects, bring a different view and understanding to the story…which is exactly what any good fairytale should do. And it’s a perfect October read. (Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal.) https://www.piccadillypress.co.uk/books/the-girl-who-drank-the-moon/

Prepare Yourself for The Burglars’ Ball!

Jane Austen Investigates: The Burglars’ Ball by Julia Golding; Lion Fiction

In little over a month, it will be time to return to the world of young Jane Austen and all the drama, charm and insightful observations that would have made her the perfect detective! Yes, young Janes’ particular gifts; the very same gifts that caused her to become one of the worlds’ most-read and best-loved novelists; will lead her into another gripping tale of intrigue, lost fortune and a search for the truth before the wrongly accused faces a hefty sentencing…or worse.

JANE AUSTEN INVESTIGATES: THE BURGLARS’ BALL

author: Julia Golding

Lion Fiction (20 October 2021)

ISBN: 9781782643456

Cassandra Austen is invited to attend an end of term ball at her former school, Reading Abbey Girls’ School and brings along younger sister (and less celebrated former student) Jane. While Cassandra plunges into the feverish excitement of preparations for the biggest event of the season…the gorgeous dresses, the dances, the boys expected from their neighbouring school…Jane is frankly, rather bored and feeling excluded from the flurry of activity. She turns her attentions elsewhere for entertainment and it doesn’t take long before intrigue raises its’ head. Jane befriends the dancing masters’ assistant, Brandon; a former slave with a fascinating history, a great talent for music and keen observation. Sharp-witted Jane discovers all is not what it seems. A series of thefts is plaguing Reading and residents are cautioned to keep their eyes open, lest they fall victim to crime. The school is going bankrupt, the headteacher is desperate to impress a rich family returned from India and at the ball, a diamond necklace is stolen from a locked room. They are propelled into a race to uncover the culprit and save Brandon from gaol. And to top it all off, one of the girls has run off with the Dance Master! Scandalous! With the ever-present Austen spirit and notebook in hand, Jane will overcome the obstacles to finding the truth.

The reader is readily whisked back in time, with all the customs, social expectations and atmosphere as would only be expected in the late 18th century. The mystery winds itself effortlessly through the cityscape of old Reading, the school and surrounding locale, allowing the thinking, preconceptions and hidden agendas that dictated society at the time to peep out at us naturally; always present, but never quite in full view. It does this with a simplicity and economy of language that makes it utterly accessible. The descriptions are rich in detail, painting a vivid setting for a complex, action-packed tale to unfold, but with a fast, compelling pace that demands you pay attention.

Expressively written, carefully considered characters dance their way through the book, while trying to conceal the less socially palatable bits of their nature. There is bold, intelligent Jane with her strong observational skills, determined to shine a light on injustice and reveal all. She wants to fit in; she really does. But her passion for the truth and adventure always seems to hamper her efforts. Her adoring sister, Cassandra with her concern for keeping up appearances, all the while thrilling in the excitement her less conventional sister always brings in her wake. Brandon, the incredibly talented former slave becomes an easy scapegoat for criminal activity. Madame la Tournelle, proper school-mistress with a hidden past; the Warner sisters recently returned from India, but why?; the owner of a pawn shop that is really a front for stolen goods and the reappearance of some loyal friends from The Abbey Mystery…every character adds to the fiber to weave a richly textured story of intrigue and daring.

Golding has created a mystery that is pure genius! It is a story that touches on many issues; social standing, racism, sexist attitudes, poverty, corruption…yes, in the late 1700s, but still with us today. (I wonder what Jane Austen would think about that!) I think it is this aspect that makes the book vibrate with a contemporary, relatable feel…while still staying true to its’ 18th century setting. So clever, so intriguing, so exciting and hugely appealing to fans of Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine and ultimately will lead to Jane Austen, herself. I loved every page…charming, gripping, fascinating and fun….utterly delightful!

You’ll want to pre-order your copy of The Burglars’ Ball now! And if you haven’t already, you’ll want to read the first of the Jane Austen Investigates… books; The Abbey Mystery. And thank you so much to Lion Fiction (especially Fern) for bringing me along on yet another of young Jane Austens’ adventures. May there be many more! https://www.lionhudson.com/product/jane-austen-investigates-3

Some More Rambling Thoughts: Garden, the Season…and a couple of books….

First of all, let me begin by saying…these are NOT my pigeons. Don’t believe a thing they tell you. They are not. This is a collective of feral pigeons…a dropping of pigeons, if you will (I love collective nouns, and with pigeons, a dropping is most accurate.) They seem to have decided this is the place to be…I don’t know why. But, their rather annoying presence in my garden seems to echo my mood.

There is a lot of evidence of the seasons’ turning in the garden. It is looking quite sombre, though there are a few glittering gems that peep out amid the overgrowth. Days of rain that, of course, occur on my days off to prevent the type of garden work that is needed for me to put the whole thing to bed. It is frustrating…like the pigeons. But the sweet peas are still popping out to bring some joy; my daughers’ daisy plant has come into its’ own, the bees are still visiting the borage (which is everywhere), the calendula and the mostly trimmed back lavender. Even the roses are making one last attempt… It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

I continue to harvest chamomile, thyme, sage and rosemary. The tomatoes are finally turning and I must say, they are delicious. But my attention mostly turns to putting the garden “to bed” for the year. There’s a lot to do. Right now, I am focusing on seed collection. Want to have those plants popping up for spring. I always need reminding of the closing down activity. A great book was published a few years ago by G.I.Y. (Grow-It-Yourself) Ireland; GIYs’ Know-It-Allmanac. Yes, it is a “kids book” or a “family guide,” but it’s simple, through-the-year format with hints, seasonal and monthly information, recipes and tongue-in-cheek characters make it perfect for even the most experienced gardeners.

The sense of burgeoning autumn is hard for a lot of people, I know. But I have always approached it with a sense of anticipation. I love autumn. But before we fully arrive there, we pass through the autumnal equinox. For me, this is a time of balance. (We have 2 equinoxes in the year…both are about balance. It’s in the name.) Light and dark, outer and inner worlds…it’s the moment to find that and welcome it. I was reading Glennie Kindreds’ wonderful book, Earth Alchemy and she speaks about this quite eloquently….seeking the balance to sustain us through the darkening; understanding that point of equilibrium. It is a gift from the natural world. We are creatures of nature, too. We seem to forget that in the rush of our contemporary, technologically advanced lives. Maybe we need to stop in this upcoming moment of celestial balance and think about that. As I collect the seeds, prepare the garden beds, turn and empty the compost of the good rich soil it has created and give attention to the interior of my house (let’s not start on that, okay), I am wondering about my own balance and how this relates in the greater world. Also, I am getting old…so there’s that.

It’s also a great time of year to check the bookshelf (in addition to the list upon list of great books coming soon.) The darker nights are closing in; I mentioned the rain, didn’t I; and the cold…great for curling up and wandering across the pages. I tend to look at creative books more this time of year…projects, art, creation of all sorts take my attention. A few “oldies-but-goodies” and previously published are grabbing me right now. Celebrating Irish Festivals by Ruth Marshall was published in 2003 by Hawthorn Press. It takes us on a journey through the year by way of the festivals and ways to bring them home, things to make, games activities. It cheers me greatly.

“Nature crafts” always settle any stress or anxiety. Lonely Planet Kids published a fantastic book in 2019 that hits every sweet spot, as far as I am concerned. Wild Things: Over 100 Magical Outdoor Activities by Jo Schofield & Fiona Danks is an engaging guidebook through every season will help you hone your magical skills and create a world of wonder of your own. The amazing crafts that accompany a wealth of information about the natural world are clearly explained and easy to follow. And the photos are stunning. A fabulous book for kids, families and those of us that need reminding of seasonal wonder…and our creative abilities.

Let’s see….have I forgotten anything? Probably, but I must get on. Seeds to collect, plants to cut back, equinox balancing to prepare for….and the pigeons are back. I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings…and perhaps some of these books will offer some seasonal uplift and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí (The King with Horses’ Ears)

Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí by Bridget Bhreathnach, illustrations: Shona Shirley MacDonald

As you may have noticed, I am mad about fairytales and folktales. And Irish legends and folktales in particular. They have a resonance that always kicks the imagination into play and suddenly, you’re in the ancient past with all its’ atmosphere and a certain…reality that I seldom find elsewhere. Each time one of these ancient stories is told anew, it brings part of what it means to be fully human back into view.

And here’s a new version of an old favourite, The King With Horses’ Ears….

CLUASA CAPAILL AR AN RÍ

author: Bridget Bhreathnach

illustrator: Shona Shirley MacDonald

Futa Fata (3 August 2021)

ISBN: 9781910945605

Queen Áine and King Laoghaire waited many years for a child. Their joy of finally welcoming their son was immense, and was shared among all their loyal subjects. But there was one unsettling mark on their joy…the baby boy was born with horses’ ears. The King and Queen vow to do all they can to keep his secret from the world. Throughout his childhood, Labhri Loingseach wore a hood to cover his horses’ ears and never left the castle. Labhri lived a lonely life, with only Craiftine, a young harpist for company. Even at the kingdoms’ annual Harvest Festival, , Labhri would stand beside his parents, while he observed the annual tradition of all the men in the land getting their hair cut, peeping out from under his hood…too shy to speak to anyone. As the years went by and the old King died, Labhri knew he must keep his secret safe and had to take severe measure so that it never be revealed. But secrets have a way of coming to light. And what will they people think then?

Beautifully re-crafted, this story will move the reader, not just in terms of time and place, but in the heart as well. Written in the Irish language*, there is such eloquent expression and rhythm that the story becomes a timeless experience…you feel the joy, the uncertainty, the loneliness and relief as it waxes and wanes through the pages. Here is a book that captures the feel of a spoken story, as it surely should be, coming out of the storytelling tradition. And while in the telling, your imagination becomes alight with imagery taken from the words, the illustrations give us more than we can imagine. Day-to-day life of a castle in the old kingdom is wrapped with gorgeous dream-like, detailed images, moving from what is real and tangible to that which is other-worldly and evocative of pure feeling. As a whole, I simply don’t have enough words to describe this book.

Cluasa Capaill ar an Rí is the second book of mythological tales published by Futa Fata. Like its’ predecessor, An Féileacán agus an Rí, it seems to suspend time and belief with both its’ words and pictures. Rich, flowing, vibrant…I simply loved it!

*As I have mentioned before, my Irish language is practically non-existent, so I want to give huge thanks to Futa Fata, not only for sending this gorgeous book to its’ humble reviewer, but for providing me with an English translation, as well. And many, many thanks to the young man who lent his time, patience and voice…and read me a story. Go raibh milé maith agat. https://www.futafata.ie/cluasa-capaill-ar-an-ri-bridget-bhreathnach-shona-shirley-macdonald

Here’s Another One I Made Earlier (for LitVox)…

Yes…it’s another post for LitVox with my recommendation of some of the very best middle-grade books coming soon! These are some of the books I am particularly, excitedly looking forward to see hit the shelves…. a few mysteries, some history, tales of the unseen world, the dangers of wartime…all perfect for those middle-grade readers who go through books almost as fast as they are published. (And for the grown-ups in the room, as well. A great book is a great book…regardless of your age.) Get a head start by pre-ordering and don’t be left out. And here’s the link to LitVox so you can do exactly that! https://litvox.com/brilliant-new-childrens-fiction-to-pre-order/

I’m also going to add three more upcoming books that I am deliriously excited about…you cannot miss these!

PRECIOUS CATASTROPHE by Deirdre Sullivan is one I cannot wait to get my hands on! We return to Ballyfran; a perfectly ordinary small village that writhes with secrets, both sacred and sinister. Twins Catlin and Madeline are now trying to adjust to their utterly extraordinary lives in the village after their horrific encounters with one of the not-quite human creatures that nearly cost Catlin her life and robbed Madeline of part of her soul. Catlin is haunted by what happened to her, while Madeline learns ancient magics under the tutelage of local wise woman Mamó. And magic isn’t mindfulness and hats. It’s hard work. Madeline knows she has to keep watch. On her sister. On the things that happen. Notice things before they start to happen. And before long, they do … out 30 September from HotKey Books. (Definitely YA)

The Wanderer by Josie Williams Fifteen-year-old Maggie is in foster care following the death of her mother and her grandmother’s slip into dementia. When Ryder saves her life, she can’t help but fall in love with him. The only problem is that he has been dead for five years… This is a fresh, fascinating and quite spooky look at first love and growing up. Told in two voices, Maggie; a girl struggling to make her way after her life has been shattered. And Ryder, a boy who died, but didn’t want to leave. (I do love a dead narrator!) Out 7 October from Firefly Press.

I have already reviewed this one (see previous posts) , but The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street by Sarah Webb, illustrations by Rachel Corcoran is simply wonderful! A tale of family, friendship and finding a new home, with touch of magical bees! Eliza Kane and her brother Jonty move from the leafy suburbs of Rathmines to a tenement flat on Henrietta Street and discover pigs and ponies in the yard, rats in the hallways and cockroaches underfoot! When they meet their new neighbour, Annie and her brothers, and a travelling circus comes to town, offering them both jobs, things start to look up. But a tragedy happens in the tenements, calling Eliza, Jonty and their new friends to spring into action. Out 20 September from O’Brien Press.

#LitVox #upcomingbooks #yabooks #mgbooks

The Cat and the Devil….by James Joyce!

Isn’t it fabulous when a long out-of-print childrens’ book by a revered author suddenly reappears? That all too familiar voice returns to take us back to times and places that were hovering in the shadows and refreshing these old stories. And to offer them up to a new, younger audience.

We know James Joyce very well, by reputation even if we have not read his books (or haven’t read them in a while.) We know his craft and mastery as an author. Maybe we don’t know Joyce wrote a childrens’ story. Well, actually a letter to his grandson that was posthumously published in picturebook editions. It has been out of print for many years, due to some uncertainty over its’ copyright. With its’ copyright now clarified, Little Island has brought it back into circulation!

THE CAT and the DEVIL

author: James Joyce

illustrator: Lelis

Little Island Books (2 September 2021)

ISBN: 9781912417919

“My dear Stevie,

I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you don’t know the story about the cat of Beaugency….”

The Cat and the Devil is a retelling of a French folk tale, written in a letter from James Joyce to his grandson, Stephen. The Devil appears in the French town of Beaugency one day (a long time ago) with an offer to help them solve a particular problem. He had read in the newspaper; and the Devil was always reading the newspapers; the people had no bridge to cross the river and could not afford to build one themselves. But the Devil has the perfect solution for these poor folk. He visits the Lord Mayor and says that he can make a bridge for the people; a very fine bridge and in only one night. He wanted no money for this feat at all, but there would be a price to pay. All the Devil would ask making the bridge is that the first person to cross the bridge would belong to him. The Lord Mayor agrees (who wouldn’t agree to a free bridge to serve the people?) The next morning, the people of Beaugency awake to a beautiful bridge spanning the river and the Devil waiting gleefully on the other side to collect his price. But what the Devil doesn’t know is the Lord Mayor has a clever trick up his sleeve….

Respectful to the original letter and with a minuscule amount of editing, this is a marvelous gift! It is told with style and panache, a great deal of humour and an inbuilt love for the story and its’ audience, be they young or old. Time, place, conversation…it all brings a genuineness and generosity to the book, placing you in front of the storyteller and hearing him tell the tale. It has a way of drawing you in. And, it is very interesting to note that while this is an old French tale, Joyce has crafted it with an unmistakable Irish sensibility and voice; the flow of the phrasing, the observations and the slightly irreverent and subversive touches in making a deal with the Devil and triumphing through wit alone.

The illustrations shine as the real star of this picturebook. Lelis’ glowing watercolour work captures the atmosphere and intention of the story page after page, adding vibrancy and wondrous detail that bring the story to life. The texture of the town, the expression, the colour and depth…wonderful; simply wonderful. Lelis is the perfect illustrator for The Cat and the Devil…captures it with precision and joy.

Overall, this edition is a book to delight, enchant and revisit again and again. The old becomes new again. Classic, yet timeless, inventive, quirky, filled with humour, an utter delight!

“The Devil, who is always reading the newspapers….”

I should also let you all know that next year, 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Joyces’ most celebrated book, Ulysses. How apt that we should all be presented with The Cat and the Devil at this time. Many, many thanks to Little Island for sending this wonder (for purposes of review, of course.) It has made my day…week….year! http://littleisland.ie/books/the-cat-and-the-devil/