Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get Your Irish Up!

e-Books We Love: Tales from the Glades of Ballymore by Bob Brooks with Illustrations by Karen Ross Ohlinger
The great thing about blogging is you can run across a wonderful little self-published book and give it the “shout out” it deserves. Tales From The Glades Of Ballymore by Bob Brooks is a joyous, heart-warming, completely lovable e-book. Set in a fictional Ballymore (as opposed to the many actual places called Ballymore), this book is part Wind in the Willows and part Tales of Beatrix Potter with a modern sensibility. As a first-generation American and the child of Irish immigrants, this book conjures up the “old country.” I can’t wait to share this with my own little girl so she can better understand her roots.

The tales are ostensibly set in1891, but the sensibility feels very today, as all of the animals are equals, each with their own marvelous talents. And it focuses on the types of issues kids will find fun, like kite making and playing Halloween pranks. I personally love the characters of Wilde and Wilder Weasel, two brothers who love playing practical jokes and yelling, “You’ve been weaseled!” In fact, I hope this becomes a new catch phrase. Note to Ashton Kutcher: how about a kid’s version of Punk’d?

The book opens with a poem by the nineteenth century poet Sara Coleridge (daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge) called The Months that sets the tone for the book:

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

And so on, through the months. Bob Brooks follows with a list of his characters, like Bartholomew Owl, or Brigit Badger who specializes in herbal medicine (even in the glades, it pays to specialize!) and Petunia Porcupine who grows fruit and vegetables. Everyone has a job to do, everyone is kind and helpful, and even a weather predicting Groundhog with few friends is still a valued member of the community. He flies weather-predicting flags for the residents of Ballymore, so a day may be described as blue-red-black, or in Ballymore-ese, a nice day that changes to rain, developing into heavy rain.

There are puzzles and mysteries, even a secret cipher to translate a coded message from Ballymore’s past. It’s an entirely engaging read and Brooks’ powers of description mixed with whimsy are extraordinary. For example, the doctor, Badger Briget asks her patient, “Have you been losing any fur recently?” As for Branna Bluebird, “Before speaking, she smoothed her feathers and stood straight up. She was very professional.” I like that in a bluebird.

One of the characters finds a letter dated 1801 to the residents of Ballymore. In it is the philosophy of the book, as the letter reads, “There is an ancient Biblical Law that, if followed, ensures a more worthwhile life for each of us. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ That is the essence of Ballymore.” And not a bad essence at that.

And I like the way this book is structured. The book has twelve chapters, each broken down into three or four short sections, so even the youngest readers can have the satisfaction of tackling a chapter book. Kids won’t burn through this book any time soon.

Want another reason to download this book? On Friday, February 17, the book is FREE on Amazon. And let’s face it, free’s a good price. So pounce.


  1. Congratulations, Bob! And thanks for your review, Maggie.

    I've been reading Bob's stories on his website and they are terrific so I expected the book would be just as wonderful. I'm downloading it to my Kindle today!