The publicity material which accompanies this new release hails the author as ‘Ireland’s favourite children’s poet’. He might just as well be called ‘Ireland’s only children’s poet’, or at least the only one whose titles issue forth regularly from a big publisher. For this reason alone Gabriel Fitzmaurice qualifies as a minor legend.
He is probably most notable for the potty humour and other gross-out moments in his books, of which there is a sizable splattering in this new collection, called, appropriately enough, Splat. These outrageous and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny pieces are counterbalanced by many gentler poems on a variety of subjects, usually related to school or family life. Thus in the same book that deals with bereavement (‘An Answer To My Prayer’, ‘My Best Friend’) we have the likes of ‘Number Two’ or ‘Do Teachers Fart?’.(The fact that the author is a retired school principal makes this all the more amusing.) There is the odd poem that doesn't amount to much or doesn't live up to its billing, and the basic regularity of much of the verse can grate at times, though this will no doubt make it easier for younger children to enjoy the book. Another quibble is that though some of the individual illustrations by Stella MacDonald and Nicky Phelan are very good, the book, a ‘Best of’ selection, appears to have been assembled from several others. For this reason the images don’t quite gel as a whole. Ultimately the book’s sense of mischief commends it to the reader however. Or to put it another way, kids are sure to love the rude bits.