It’s Irish Book Week from the 17th – 24th October. We’ll be reviewing illustrated Irish children’s books for the next few days. A beautiful tribute to Ireland’s native language and capital, the dynamic city depicted My Little Album of Dublin is the perfect place to begin! My eldest has just started learning Irish in school and has really taken to it, while my own Irish is more than a little rusty. This looked like something we could enjoy reading and learning from together, and it has not disappointed. The three-year-old turned out to be just as interested in it as the five-year-old, and I’ve certainly learned a lot myself.
My Little Album of Dublin takes readers on a tour of the city, improving their Irish vocabulary along the way. It's gloriously interactive, with stunning illustrations. We visit a variety of exciting, familiar and memorable locations throughout the city. This is a brilliant way to build a child's Irish vocabulary. I learned a few focail (words) that I didn't know existed in our native language, including lasairéan (flamingo), cipíneach (stick insect) and cosa croise (stilts).
Each page is alive with activity and teeming with people, offering ample opportunities to adlib and make up little stories of your own. There’s a little girl and boy, their dog, and his bone to find in every scene. The dog is very entertaining and so is seeing the surprising locations where his bone materialises.
This is a diverse and inclusive, modern Dublin. There are characters from all ethnicities on every page. A same-sex couple hold hands at the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. A tattooed lady carries groceries down O’Connell Street, and there are pedestrians with dreadlocks and colourful streaks in their hair. Children in wheelchairs and with hearing aids are also represented.
I love how traditional gender stereotypes are not reinforced. A girl clutches a football at the DART station, both genders play football together at the school, and there’s a female zookeeper. At Croke Park, a large crowd of spectators attends a game of camogie, with a female referee. The graffiti artist at the quays is a woman, there’s a male Irish dancer and baby-carrying and pram-pushing men. The clothes aren’t gendered either; the little girl who appears on every page is dressed in blue jeans and a blue and white striped t-shirt.
The illustrations are as playful as they are colourful, giving the impression that everyone in the book is having enormous fun. Illustrator Tarsila Krüse describes her work as, “cute, warm and welcoming, helping children and grownups connect with their inner happy feeling.” The images in My Little Album of Dublin exude a cheerfulness that is as contagious as it is conspicuous.
Even the endpapers are fabulous; I love the map of Dublin at the front which includes the Irish names for all the buildings featured. There’s more vocabulary at the back, as well as different characters, animals and objects to find throughout the book.
Author Juliette Saumande is a French writer and translator of children’s books living in Dublin, with over 30 titles to her name, in French and English. She is a regular contributor to Children's Books Ireland’s Book Clinics and an editor of Inis magazine. Here is Juliette's blog if you'd like to learn more about her and her thoughts.
A self-taught artist and award-winning children's book illustrator, Tarsila Krüse moved to Ireland from Brazil in 2007. Tarsila contributes regularly to Inis magazine and created the striking artwork for Children's Books Ireland's mental health and well-being reading guide and campaign, Mind Yourself. She has a website where you can see more of her work and access resources and activities for children.
Although neither Juliette nor Tarsila is originally from Ireland, their love for Dublin and passion for the Irish language radiates from every page. There’s a strong sense that the author and illustrator derived as much pleasure from this project as the characters they created. I’m pretty sure I spotted a cameo of Juliette at the zoo, another of Tarsila at the beach, and both of them in the map at the beginning of the book!
Delightfully action-packed, fun-filled AND educational, this is a rare book that not only appeals to tourists, but to people from and living in Ireland too. A gorgeous hardback edition, it would make a fantastic souvenir for a visitor, as well as a wonderful gift for any Irish child. My Little Album of Dublin would also be ideal for Irish parents raising families abroad.
Like Have You Seen the Dublin Vampire? by Úna Woods, this is another book that I would have loved when I was a child myself. I’m delighted my own children can see their capital city depicted so beautifully, and engage with the Irish language in such an attractive and entertaining way. My Little Album of Dublin is a book the whole family will cherish for many years to come.
Title: My Little Album of Dublin
Author: Juliette Saumande
Illustrator: Tarsila Krüse
Publisher: O'Brien Press
Publication Date: September 2019 ISBN: 9781847179982