by Bláithín Breathnach
"There are lots of reasons why you might have to stay home sometimes. Maybe you spend your summer holidays at home, maybe it's when you're feeling under the weather. Maybe it's snowing outside, and you can't even open the front door! Or maybe it's because you've baked the world's most enormous cake, and you now HAVE to say home to eat it all! In this book, Leila and Raphaël have to stay at home because of a nasty virus that is making lots of people sick. They aren't even allowed to visit one another, so they have to be creative and find ways to have fun at home. Whatever your reason for staying home, this book is full of fun things you can do to pass each day."
- Bláithín Breathnach
Everyone Must Stay at Home is an Irish book set during the pandemic for children with striking illustrations. It includes an explanation of conditions and restrictions during Covid-19 and guidance on handwashing and safe sneezing. There's also lots of clever and original ideas for how young people can connect with their friends and banish boredom.
Bláithín's style of illustration is stunning. Her work features photos of tiny cut-out figures on microscopic sets. Some scenes are shot outdoors and are showcase the splendour of the natural world. The indoor sets resemble doll's houses and include miniature furniture, tiny ornaments and fabulous decor, much of which looks handmade. Bláithín's characters are drawn, painted and cut by hand too. Bláithín has an exceptional attention to detail and has built an intricate and an extremely attractive world for her readers as well as her characters.
My girls love looking at the pictures in this book. Their favourite toys are their Playmobil and Sylvanian Families and Bláithín's artwork reminds them of these. They always comment on how "real" the images look (which seems to amaze them) and the book comes alive for them because of the strength of the illustrations. My eldest (almost 6) often sits for ages flicking back and forth through the book and focusing on the images alone.
Bláithín was just 18 years old and studying for her Leaving Cert. exams when she wrote, illustrated, designed and independently published Everyone Must Stay at Home during lockdown in 2020. Not only is it beautiful, €1 from the sale of each copy goes to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, an amazing Irish charity which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. This isn't even Bláithín's first book - she is also the author But I Do Not Want to Go and I Want to Speak French, which features Leila and Raphaël too.
This book is an excellent memento of the strange times in which we have found ourselves - there's even a Leo Varadkar cameo as he can be spotted on Leila's television. It includes lots of activities (some educational) and an enormous checklist of suggestions for how to have fun while stuck at home. Everyone Must Stay at Home is ideal for keeping children busy through lockdowns and beyond, and an absolutely exquisite visual treat. It's clear that Bláithín is incredibly talented. She plans to study illustration in Italy after completing her degree in NUI Galway, where she is studying languages. I can't wait to see what this remarkable artist and rising star creates next!