Today I want to share a different kind of book here on WBW. Today I want to share a children’s book, and spotlight it, as opposed to my usual review style. Written by Maire Zepf and illustrated by Tarsila Krüse, Na Gabh Ar Scoil is an Irish children’s book that I can genuinely say I laughed out loud as I was reading it. Laughing in a good way though, as this book was so damn cute, and written in the Irish language or Gaeilge as it is more commonly referred to as.
What really attracted me to this book, other than the fact that I could read/understand it because I’m completely fluent in the Irish language, having completed the majority of my education in an all-Irish-speaking school; was the illustrator Tarsila Krüse. I don’t know if I’d call Tarsila my claim to fame, but she did tend the same college as me–in fact, she did the exact same course as me, if I’m not mistaken, just a year ahead of me. It’s great when you see fello artist friends make it into print, so when I saw her beautiful illustrations covering this children’s book from front to back, I just *had* to sit down with it in my local bookstore and read it.
Na Gabh Ar Scoil (or “Don’t Go To School” as it translates if I’m not mistaken) tells the story of a mother and her son as he gets ready to attend his first day at school. In normal circumstances, you would expect the child to be nervous, and the mother trying to calm him, and tell him that school isn’t all that bad, but in this instance, it’s the other way around. I loved the concept. It starts with the mother breaking down and asking the child not to go to school, that she doesn’t want him to leave her, and he has to console her and tell her that he must go to school. He brings her to the school and she frets some more, saying she doesn’t know any of the teachers or any of the other parents, but son tells her she will get to know them in time. The story then goes on as the son shows her what activities he’ll be doing during the day, playing in the sandbox, painting etc, and eventually, when she sees how much fun it is, the son has to tell her to go home, because she is having so much fun herself. At the end of the day, the mother bear returns to collect the son and they go for ice cream, the mother bear fully consoled and happy that her son is happy with his day at school. And then it comes to the part where I really got a giggle: The story ends with the son telling her “at least it will be easier now for me to go to school tomorrow” (rough translation), to which the page turns to close up of mother bear’s face in shock as she realises that there’s going to be him going to school tomorrow, and presumably the next couple of years.
This book is a lovely and heartwarming tale of a mother having to see her son off to school for the first time, having to let go of her pride and joy for possibly the first time, and let him get on with his education *without her*. What I loved is we got mostly the perspective of the mother and how she coped through all this, as opposed to the usual perspective of it being through the child’s eye, which was really different for a children’s book.
As you can probably guess, I can’t recommend this book enough. I wish you get this book for your children to read, or even if you don’t have children, and see it in a bookshop, take five minutes to stop and read this beautiful tale, and I can guarantee you’ll but this book down with a grin on your face, and hopefully a chuckle or two to be had with it.