Many of us know The Children of Lir as a haunting tale of the Irish folklore tradition. Stepmothers fervently stash old copies from their newly conferred brood. Laura Ruth Maher’s re-telling of the famous legend, illustrated in watercolour by Conor Busuttil, however, is a gentle edition of the tale that cushions some of the story’s harder edges.
Maher has a keen interest, and has completed research, in the importance of rhyme for early literacy development. Her use of rhyme in this book is simple but effective and imparts a meditative quality to its reading. The intoning rhythmic pattern takes hold and allows the child opportunity to anticipate rhyme. This meditative mood is complemented by Busuttil’s naturalistic watercolour illustrations. The illustrations are given ample space – often full pages – to narrate the tale with emotion. Busuttil’s palette, like Maher’s prose, is soft – blues, greens and yellows – which makes cruel Aoife’s flaming red hair all the more shocking.
This charming re-telling is a wonderful introduction to Irish legendry for young people. The high-quality production – that is both hardback and of substantial size – lends itself ideally to group-reading scenarios (though can equally be enjoyed between parent and child). The Children of Lir would make a wonderful gift or addition to the learning environment!