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It is all about big bangs and cosmic cruises!


Perfect pressy for Christmas stockings whether you are 8 or 80

Áine Ryan

WITH Santa about to slide down chimneys all over County Mayo, the timing is perfect for children (and their parents) to read a wonderfully colourful story about the Big Bang. ‘I was There! The Universe Story for Children from 8 to 80’ is perfect for any Christmas stocking – even if it is Grandad’s or great aunt Arabella’s.
Written, researched and reimagined by Michael Casey and illustrated  by Olivia Golden, this cosmic kaleidoscope takes readers on a cross-millennial journey back 14 billion years before ‘the first dinosaur was out of nappies’. Its fascinating story explains that when ‘the Big Bang exploded like a balloon full of energy, you [that means this Mayo News writer too] were there’.
“A tiny piece of everything was there: a tiny piece of rock, of water, of soil, of air and a tiny piece of animals, of people, of stars, and of you.”
Each chapter of this 30-page odyssey through time transports the reader on a step-by-step journey on how the cosmos was cooked-up; how atoms keep us together as well as the moon and the stars in the sky. Indeed, it tells us how the stars are huge nuclear ovens ‘that could melt gold or iron, rocks or diamonds’.
No need for unanswered questions anymore when you sing: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are.”
The amazing answers are all here – spelt out in simple language that even adults will understand. Next in this thrilling tale is a giant leap from the stars to Planet Earth – ‘a tiny blue-green marble swirling around the sun at about 100,000 kilometres per hour with seven billion people on it’.
But where is the sky? Turns out it is key to how the Earth sustains life. “The sky … is the blanket that keeps us all warm, like a thermal blanket or a big greenhouse.”  
Really, the whole 14 billion-year process was all a crazy ride, ‘like a giant wheel at the Carnival, swirling around’. And it hurls up the Star Story, the Earth Story, the Life Story and, finally, the Human Story. Guess what? “If the whole 14 billion year story was 24 hours, humans came at 23 hours 59 minutes.”
Wow! That puts us in perspective. But the real twist – ah ha –  is that because the Big Bang story is the epic story of Creation, we were actually there at the beginning.  

Telling the tale
“Fadó, Fadó, Fadó, 14 billion years ago there was a mighty Big Bang and it would have shaken the Earth like a bowl of jelly, but there was no earth to shake. It would have spun the Sun like a yo-yo but there was no sun to spin. It would have made all the animals and birds and people in the world deaf, but there was no one yet to hear. There was  nobody and nothing and yet you were there.”

Mayo connections
These days Kerry native and author Michael Casey watches the stars from his home in Newport. It has been a circuitous journey from the Sliabh Luachra mountains during which time he worked as a priest in the Dublin Archdiocese for 32 year,s was a committed social activist and a Senior Research Fellow at UCD’s Social Science Research Centre. His first book was launched by then Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald in 1992.  ‘What are we at?’ was based on ‘a search for more meaningful and engaged ministry and a more just social order’. The research for ‘I Was There!’ has brought Casey on ‘a magical, mesmeric journey’ over the last decade. He says: “For me to know my Cosmic Family Tree is to know me.”
Illustrator, Olivia Golden is a native of County Mayo who now lives with her husband and two small children in Cork city. She graduated from DIT in 1997 with a First Class Honours degree in Visual Communication (Design) and has already  illustrated 19 books. These vary from novels for the teenage market to picture books for the very young. Unsurprisingly, the universe story told here is the oldest she has ever illustrated.  

‘I Was There’ by Michael Casey and illustrated by Olivia Golden is published by Danann, and is on sale in local shops with an rrp of €10.