Sharing the joy of children’s books

Cáca don Rí

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This week we welcome a new reviewer to the Gobblefunked fold, Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh. For her first review, Jenifer tackles Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde’s ‘delicious’ Cáca don Rí, which has just been released in paperback. 

Cáca don RíSeo pictiúr leabhar gleoite, mar is iondúil le leabhair Futa Fata, scéal spreagúil lán spraoi ann, agus an leabhar féin breá téagartha do lámha beaga. Aithneofar stíl soiléir, ildaite Steve Simpson ón dtús, a lonnaíonn an scéal féin i ré agus i gceanntar nach linne iad, ach a chuirfear le spéis páistí óga ann, agus a thugann seans do gach páiste é féin nó í féin a shamhlú ann. Ar an gclúdach féin feiceann muid príomhshráid na cathrach le teach báicéara an phríomhcharactair, Rúbaí Rua, ina lár, agus caisleán an rí ar chnoc mór ard taobh thiar dó, ainmhithe éagsúla ag bodaireacht ar an gcosán, seanrothar pingin feorlainge agus carráiste ar an mbóthar, agus leis sin tugtar cuireadh dúinn teacht isteach sa domhan draíochta ach réalaíoch taobh istigh.

Isteach linn, mar sin, agus ar oscailt an clúdaigh tá muid díreach tríd an doras agus i lár an tsiopa! Is coinín báicéara í Rúbaí Rua, agus sna léiréadaí feictear gach aon mionsonra: tá an iliomad cácaí le feiceáil sna leathanaigh amach romhainn – ach na cácaí is galánta agus is blasta a bhfuil ann ná na cacaí lá breithe – ní dhéanann Rúbaí ach ceann amháin chuile lá toisc go bhfuil said chomh speisialta sin. Le Rúbaí sa siopa tá scata luchóg ina gcónaí, iad ar bís i gcónaí ag iarraidh deis a fháil lámh cúnta (nó lapa cúnta?!) a thabhairt di (spúnóg adhmaid a thairiscint … paicéad ime a oscailt … ubh a bhriseadh), ach níl sise sásta cabhair ar bith a fháil ó éinne. Ar ndóigh, tá ceacht le foghlaim ag Rúbaí, agus nuair a tharlaíonn timpiste le cáca lá breithe an rí – an cáca is casta a ndearna sí riamh – tuigeann sí nach neart go cur le chéile, agus lena meitheal luchóg, éiríonn léi cáca níos íontaí fós a dhéanamh.

B’fhéidir go bhfuil an chuma ar an scéal ón achoimre seo nach bhfuil greann ar bith ann, ach a mhalairt atá fíor. Tá casadh deas ag an deireadh nuair a baineann méid an cháca siar as teachtaire an rí a thagann chun é a bhailiú, ach le réiteach na faidhbe, tuigeann muid gur mó an spóirt a bhíonn ann i gcónaí le chéile ná scartha.

Foghlaimíonn páistí i ngan fhios dóibh féin agus na pictiúr leabhar is fearr á léamh acu, agus ní haon eisceacht é Cáca don Rí. Léiríonn an t-údar, Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde, cé chomh tábhachtach is atá sé rudaí a roinnt, agus gan duine ar bith a fhágáil ar lár. Spreagfar na páistí freisin chun lámh cúnta a thabhairt sa chistin, agus tá foclóir breá saibhir sa scéal, gur féidir le tuismitheoirí cur leis agus na léaráidí á scrúdú ag gasúir beaga fiosracha. Cloistear go minic sna laethanta seo gur chúis amháin le drochnósanna itheacháin ná easpa tuisceana ar chonas an bia a ullmhú. Tugann an leabhar seo seans do thuistí báicéar beag a spreagadh, agus é nó í a chur ag meascadh uibheacha agus siúcra; cosúil leis na luchóga sa leabhar seo, beidh sé deacair ina dhiaidh iad a dhíbirt as an gcistin, fiú tar éis dóibh praiseach uafásach a dhéanamh!

Molaim go hard é.

We have come to expect that any Futa Fata picture book will be both beautiful and robust, well capable of withstanding little hands, while telling a colourful and exciting story – and this book is no exception. Steve Simpson’s illustrations will be immediately recognisable to those familiar with his work, and they serve to set the tale in sufficiently unfamiliar surroundings to ensure that every child will be able to imagine him or herself within this setting. On the cover itself we see a bustling street, with a mother and two children gazing (longingly, it must be said, even though all we can see are their backs) into the window of a glamorous bakery – the establishment of Rúbaí Rua, the main character in the story. Other animals promenade – in a carriage, on a penny-farthing bicycle and with an old-fashioned pram – and entice us to open the book and enter the magical but in some ways highly recognisable world within the pages.

And once inside, oh boy, we are right inside Rúbaí Rua’s shop where all the magic happens! Rúbaí Rua is a rabbit baker, and with what a talent! The cakes that abound within the following pages are a feast for the eyes, all iced in multi-coloured layers of magnificence, with cherries, with candles; detail upon detail spring to life from the full-page illustrations. We are told that Rúbaí makes one special cake each day, more fabulous than all the rest – a birthday cake! But Rúbaí is not alone in her shop (and here adult readers will be amused at the playful poke at health-and-safety regulations), the shop is also home to quite a horde of mice. Of course, they want to help Rúbaí, but she just finds they get under her feet, and she stubbornly insists that she needs no help at all. Of course, Rúbaí has a lesson to learn, and when a dreadful accident befalls her finest creation yet, a birthday cake for the king, she realises that she cannot make another one in time all on her own. In step the mice, and the resulting cake is even more wondrous than the one before.

This summary sounds rather more straight-laced than is the book itself, which has some lovely and humorous touches in both story and pictures. In particular, when the king’s messenger comes to collect the birthday cake at the end, there’s an unexpected and ludicrous problem, and with its solution we really see how much more fun there is to be had in sharing experiences than in maintaining differences.

The best picture books contain a kernel of wisdom which children will take onboard unconsciously as they read, and Cáca don Rí has a strong moral message – as the author Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde makes clear, it’s important to share pleasures and not to leave anyone out. But the setting of the story should also encourage little ones in to help in the kitchen, as well as strengthening their baking and cooking vocabulary, which parents will be able to expand further based on the strikingly detailed pictures. These days, bad eating habits are an increasing bane for parents and the state alike, and while it may seem counterintuitive to praise this book in such a context, there’s no doubt that it should inspire children (with a little encouragement) to develop a better understanding of food preparation, which helps counter such habits. Once children get started on the messy fun of mixing eggs and sugar, parents may wish to banish them again from the kitchen, but like Rúbaí’s mice, it’s probable they’ll be incorrigible!

Highly recommended.

  • Author: Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde
  • Illustrator: Steve Simpson
  • ISBN: 9781906907310
  • Publisher: Futa Fata
  • Age range: 2+ for children fluent in Irish.

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About the author

Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh

Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh is a passionate book enthusiast who works in the publishing industry. An art-historian by training, when she can tear herself away from golden-age crime and Victorian fiction, she loves to bury her nose in a picture book. Although traumatised by hearing her mother reading 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' to her elder brother at an unconscionably early age, she is now capable of appreciating fiction for older children too!

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