Each month, Sally Vince reviews a book about Clare or a newly published book by a Clare-based author. This month, Sally reviews “Nature’s Secret Adventures” by Shane Casey and illustrated by Vincent Killowry.
This is a captivating book for children aged 6+. The stories are charming and the illustrations are gorgeous. I don’t know any six year olds to read this to, but I read it myself and absolutely loved it.
On the cover: In Nature’s Secret Adventures you’ll find local Irish wildlife as they really are in nature. There are no exotic animals in tuxedos here! Our aim is to open up children’s eyes to the world of wildlife on their doorsteps. The characters and settings (pygmy shrews, otters, tadpoles, mayflies, riverbanks and back gardens) are creatures and habitats you’ll find right across the country.
About the book: This is a great book for young children (6+) to read, or have read to them (younger children, too), with charming stories, lovely illustrations and plenty of understated learning experiences. It is suitable for dyslexic readers as it is set in a specially designed blue font on a creamy-yellow background.
There are three stories. The first is “The Amazing Tale of Sheridan”: Sheridan is a young pygmy shrew who falls in love with a lady pygmy shrew called Cheryl. Cheryl, sadly, hardly knows Sheridan exists … until the day he rescues her from being eaten by Terry the tom cat. Along the way, we learn about how shrews live and what they eat for tea.
The second story is “Orla’s Big Day”, about Orla the otter’s first day at school. In this story we learn about animals and insects that live in or by a river. Orla is very nervous about her first day, and has the same worries that any child starting in a new class would have. But she soon makes friends with the other children.
The third story is “The Fairy’s Foxtrot” – the “oldest legend in the world”. It is about Mervin and Maria – two mayflies that fall in love, get separated, then find each other again. We learn how mayflies transform from nymphs into “duns” and then into “spinners” and live for just one day.
At the back of the book are short factual sections on pygmy shrews, otters and mayflies.
The stories are charming, and beautifully illustrated. Although simple, they use quite advanced language (“exaggerated”, “capture the imagination”, “heroics”), but this is a great way to introduce children to new words and phrases. The concept of death is introduced in a gentle, natural way. There are short quotations at the beginning of each story (from Shakespeare, David Everett and Roald Dahl), which I think is brilliant and a device not often used in children’s books. And, of course, the tales are teaching children (and adults) about animals and nature.
This is a really lovely book that I would recommend to adults as well as children. I hope there is a follow-up book from Shane and Vincent.
Mail order direct from the author in Ireland, €9.80 with Irish shipping; €11.60 with international shipping: http://www.iol.ie/~treadstone/book.html
Mail order from O’Mahony’s in Ennis, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland at €7.99 (+ €2.50 delivery within Ireland): http://www.omahonys.ie/catalog/natures-secret-adventures-p-403079.html
Also available in some bookshops around County Clare.