It’s getting to be the time of year when you have to start thinking about gifts. Bah. For others. Humbug. Or maybe you are just a bibliobibuli, c.f. someone who reads too much. Maybe Gregory’s extremely mature “joking” around about his curry yogurt lunch combo (err..yum?) in DUP-land this weekend and Gerry’s similarly enlightened response last night have inspired you to discover your own inner child, a more innocent time when you couldn’t vote for politicians and didn’t have to think about politics. Maybe you thought Maggie Taggart’s story last week about Cliftonville FC promoting Holy Cross Primary’s “10-4-LAD” reading project to encourage fathers, grandfathers and uncles to spend 10 minutes each day reading with their sons / grandsons / nephews was inspiring. I did. Or possibly you would like to let children growing up here see that it isn’t all sweeping public sector cuts, sectarianism and the same dreary stuff over and over and over again…it’s getting harder, kids, but, hey, use your imagination!
Either way, this seasonal Slugger book club is for you. So pull up an armchair while we discuss classic NI books, past and present.
This week…a selection of NI books for kids. More or less everyone with an under 5 knows the pretty wonderful Oliver Jeffers and there’s a good chance you may have bought one of Sheena Wilkinson’s books for the young pony lover in your life but there’s other great local kids books from worth a bedtime story or three.
First up…a true picture book classic: Man Mountain by Martin Waddell
Martin Waddell is probably better known for his lovely ‘Little Bear’ series, most notably ‘Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?’ and ‘Owl Babies‘, another children’s classic. Belfast born, Waddell has lived most of his life in the Mournes in Co. Down. He has written a series of mystery books for teens under the pen name Catherine Sefton and he received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2004 to honour his “lasting contribution”. He also briefly played for Fulham FC’s youth team. Man Mountain is inspired by the Napoleon’s Nose outcrop on Cave Hill, and is the story of Oscar, the last of the giants, who got so lonely he fell asleep, until he is woken up by young Rosie. Fun book nerd fact: there are two versions of Man Mountain out there, one illustrated by Claudio Munoz (who also illustrated Ivor Cutler’s Doris the Hen), the other by Jane Massey (One Little Baby).
Next, another picture book – Up Above, Down Below by Francis Morgan.
A beautifully illustrated picture book about dragons by self-described “strange, reclusive being who spends much of his time adventuring in a fantastic and dangerous place where creatures normally confined to the realm of imagination somehow manage to slip through into what we think is reality.” Bigger is better in this case – Francis Morgan is the man behind the Giant Puppets at Culture Night Belfast and Up Above Down Below is no slim pickings, weighing in at 250 pages and an inch thick. A weighty tome for all fantasy fans, young and old alike.
Next…Jasper and the Green Marvel by Deirdre Madden
Technically a sequel to ‘Snakes’ Elbows‘, this one can also be read as a standalone novel and is the story of a dastardly, villainous thief, his rat sidekicks and their ghost and bat friends. It’s totally mad and definitely worth a read, probably for about age 7 and up. Deirdre Madden is the Faber & Faber published, Orange Prize twice short-listed literary fiction author from Toomebridge, now Dublin resident and, not so coincidentally, assistant professor of Creative Writing at Trinity College. Her novels are pretty wonderful and I got so fed up waiting for the most recent one to come out I read Snakes’ Elbows and Jasper and The Green Marvel. Was. Not. Disappointed.
What do you think? Top of the gift list or would you rather get coal in your stocking? Back every week from now til Christmas…ho ho ho etc.