Fantasy, fact and historical fiction

Staying In

Three new releases from Irish publishers

Bríd Conroy

‘Take delight in what is around you’. This has been a virtual lockdown mantra and a comfort to us, this last year. We’ve had time to assess what is really important to us on a personal and a collective level. And while we certainly have appreciated the interconnectedness of us all, we also see how important it is to appreciate what is actually around us.
In the world of books, we enjoy excellent literature from the traditional publishing houses of Britain and the US. However, we have on our doorstep here in Ireland many independent publishers who provide vital opportunities for budding writers and continue to exist and compete successfully for publishing rights. O’Brien Press, Little Island Books and Lilliput Press are three of my favourites, and here are some of their latest releases.
On May 6, Irish publisher for children and young adults, Little Island, is publishing ‘Wolfstongue’, by Booker-longlisted author Sam Thompson – a stunning fantasy adventure for middle-grade readers aged eight to 12 years old. Silas is the main character, a young boy who, while walking home from school on his own as he does every day, comes up against a wolf in his path. What does he do? Run and be chased or stay and hold his ground?
He stays, and upon realising that the wolf is injured, helps the wolf. He had no idea then that this encounter would lead him to walk with the wolves deep into the forest where they had been enslaved by foxes in an underground city. He would become their voice, and in so doing, he would free both himself and the wolves from the power that speech holds over them.
‘Our Wild World: From the birds and the bees to our boglands and ice caps’, by Éanna Ní Lamhna, has just been released by O’Brien Press. It is part of Ní Lamhna’s mission to open our hearts and minds to our wonderful wild world, and to help us balance our needs and the needs of the planet we inhabit.
The book is full of amazing facts, pieced together in an easy-to-read, accessible style for all, from young adults upwards. Like, why do swallows come all this way in the summer? We learn that the longer daylight hours mean they can raise two or three broods, fed on the variety of insects from their ‘aerial sorties’. Why do swifts nest in roofs? Their legs are too weak from feeding, mating and sleeping on the wing. They use the roofs as a runway to take off again. How many robins could possibly be in your garden? Well if you were to start with two robins and they have four chicks twice annually, at the end of year one you would have ten robins; by year two, 50, by year three 250 and by year ten (robins live for ten years) there would be just short of four million… or would there?
‘The Ballad of Lord Edward and Citizen Small’, by Neil Jordan, was recently published by Lilliput Press. It tells the story of a long-forgotten chapter in Ireland’s history, that of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a leading figure in the 1798 rebellion, who was rescued by a slave, Tony Small, from the battlefields of North Carolina.
Small went on to be the manservant of Lord Edward, and it is his voice we hear in this telling and reflection on empire, slavery and freedom… “It would begin with the burning mail coaches, my Citizen told me. And end with the citadel of freedom set up inside the castle gates. And I had a ticket for the playhouse for once. No more rapping at the stage door or hiding in the flies. So I took my time dressing that night while Julie attended to the lady and her child.”
Lilliput, Little Island and O’Brien Press are just three of the many Irish publishing houses that greatly appreciate our support. And with the calibre of publications on their books, why wouldn’t we?

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.