‘The book doctor will see you now.’

That’s what they said, seriously, and Small Girl got such a kick out of it. Let me explain.

We traveled, on excellent advice from Welovelittlethings, to the Towers and Tales Story Festival at Lismore Castle.

Traditional shop front. Lismore. Ireland.

Lismore is a quiet, picture book quaint, Irish village smack bang in the middle of exactly nowhere. Apparently, the townsfolk were ecstatic in 2015 when they got a bus shelter.

Defunct shop window. Lismore, Ireland.

You do, however, get the impression that it was a much busier place in a long bygone era.

Mc Grath's butcher shop, Lismore, Ireland.

In actual fact, Lismore has a cathedral, which makes it a city, albeit a remarkably tiny one.

Lismore Castle. Co. Waterford, Ireland.

Lismore Castle is a real, proper castle, built in 1170 as a bishop’s palace before becoming home to Sir Walter Raleigh (yes, he of the potatoes, the tobacco, and the cloak on the puddle story). On Raleigh’s demise the castle was taken by Elizabethan colonist, Richard Boyle. Boyle’s son Robert was THE Robert Boyle, as in ‘father of modern day chemistry‘ and Boyle’s Law Boyle.  Since 1775, the castle has been owned by the Duke of Devonshire (not the exact same duke, well, let’s hope not). The Astaires, The Mitford sisters, Cecil Beaton and JFK are just a few of the names in the guest book. No matter what age you are, this place is built from the stuff of fantasy. I just checked out the website; you have to apply for a secret code to access an inner, concealed website where the rental prices are. I didn’t go that far for fear my credit card would have shriveled up in horror.

Lismore Castle, Waterford, Ireland.

The castle is not usually open to the public so it was a real treat to get a peek inside. It was, mind you, a well-guarded peek. While the guest writers (Michael Morpurgo, Lauren Child, Ryan Tubridy and more) were staying in the castle we lesser mortals were confined to the courtyard.

To keep us from peering though keyholes, we were encouraged to add a final flourish to some wall art by Children’s Laureate P.J. Lynch. Small Girl felt that P.J.s palate was very limited and that the vital element was, without doubt, a big pink flower.Adding a final flourish to PJ Lynch's art at Lismore Castle.

The highlight for me was the poet Tony Curtis who told stories, recited poems and sang songs to a small guitar, all inside the shelter of a tent while rain kept time on the canvas. A proper troubadour.

Tony Curtis at Lismore Festival.

From Tony, we raced to our appointment with the Book Doctor. The girls waited nervously in the waiting room while the doctor’s assistant filled in their Reading Passports and made a note of their particular bookish likes and dislikes.

Dr. Juliette then sat down with each of the girls in turn, assessed their reading temperature and prescribed the appropriate treatment. Absolutely brilliant. I so wish they had a grown-up department.

CBI passport and book prescription.

The Book Doctor is run by Children’s Books Ireland, keep an eye open for them at festivals around the country and don’t miss an opportunity to get their specialist opinion. Irish, Munster, and especially Cork readers might be interested to read their interview with Jessica O’Gara (wife of rugby legend, Ronan) about reading with their bi-lingual children in France.

Small Girl’s most memorable moment, other than a gigantic icecream cone, was an encounter with the waffleword-spouting BFG. He might not have been quite 24 feet tall in real life but he had me convinced.

IMG_6539I found out about this festival a month ago and by then all the ‘big name’ events were already booked out. Thankfully, the only event with tickets remaining was with Sarah Crossan who is Middle Daughter’s new favourite author. It feels like all of five minutes since she was obsessed with Jacqueline Wilson but, God help me, she has made the leap to Young Adult.

IMG_6549 (2)

It’s a bit scary when your child moves from reading children’s books  that you can consider safe to reading YA fiction which, it seems to me, goes out of its way to deliver all the horror the world has to offer. What’s more, the higher the quality of YA literature, the more depressing it seems to be. I must admit that I’m struggling with this at the moment.

Sarah Crossan YA books.

I’m shadowing my twelve year old’s reading but not censoring it. I have to believe that they will hear about all the shite, racism, sexism, bullying, parental abuse, you name it, one way or another and, at least, these books offer some degree of guidance on how to deal with it. Also, I want to keep her reading.

Brian Conaghan (also pictured above) remarked that one of his books, about a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome, has been banned in several regions due to excessive swearing. Clearly, I’m not alone in my confusion about what is and is not appropriate reading for this age group.

How do other parents of young teenagers feel about their reading habits? Help me out here!

I’ve about thirty pages left to read in We Come Apart which Sarah Crossan co-wrote with Brian Conaghan. So far, I’ve been by turns appalled by the gritty nature of the content and impressed by the extremely impressive writing and pure genius of the collaboration. I’ll let you know more when I’ve finished.

Sweet Pizza by G.R. Gemin.

My Cooking The Books article for Bookwitty.com this month features a wonderful book called Sweet Pizza by Italian-Welshman G.R. Gemin. I was hugely honoured that Giancarlo emailed me to compliment my minor variations on the theme of his excellent recipe. Interestingly, he mentioned that the book is sometimes pushed into the category of YA fiction simply because it contains some (minimal, I promise you) swear words. I can’t say I even noticed any swear words. It’s a truly lovely book. For the review, and the recipe, Click here.

Grow your own lunch.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, I also wrote up an article last week which has been, quite literally, growing on my windowsill for the last two months. As we all know, I am of the most haphazard and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants variety of gardeners so, if I can grow my lunch on a windowsill, anybody can. Read more here.

I’m off to plant more radishes. Have a great weekend.

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21 thoughts on “‘The book doctor will see you now.’

  1. What a heavenly excursion and how I wish I had had the opportunity for something like that aeons ago when my girlies were of the right age. Never mind, I silently plague the whoever is up there that one day, if I behave myself terribly well that I might have a smattering of Grandies to do all the ‘modern’ things with children. YA literature is quite beyond me. It seemed to suddenly appear as a genre and though I think it a marvellous thing that authors are understanding that there was a wasteland between the child and the adult in terms of literature, I worry about things being too prescribed. I am sure the good examples are worthy but it does seem to me that it is rather a bandwagon that people or leaping on with the wrong intentions. Just my batty observations, not worthy of much thought for I am not in that arena and so I am not immersed enough to really be a sound commentator. Toodlepip and enjoy your weekend. We have Russians for three days including (and unexpectedly) their 2 1/2 year old little boy. Small pleasure, I hope!

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  2. A lovely read. Sounds like an enchanting day. And watching our kids grow and learn more about the world around us is scary. But you set a good foundation and you are there for them. Just keep at it. 👍😉

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  3. There’s so much to comment on here; I wish we could meet up for a coffee and a chat! Lismore – I wonder whether the residents like living there… The Festival – sounds brilliant, especially the Book Doctor; what a great idea. YA fiction – I’ll email you! Sweet pizza – sorry, can’t cope with bananas on a pizza (but I’ll read your review of the book). Microfarming post – super-duper, well done, really good (gorgeous viola pic). Home-grown radishes are amazing. Have a lovely weekend x

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  4. My NINE (nearly 10) yr old precocious reader daughter is deep down a rabbit hole which started with Harry Potter, then the Northern Lights Trilogy, rapidly progressed to Lord of the Rings (we thought all this delightful) and now is immersed in Michelle Paver, William Nicholson and an otherworld of dark arts, creatures from the beyond, fantasy, slavery and dastardly deeds (this I get from the book covers I nervously read). Zero interest in Laura, Anne or Jo March – my childhood companions at this age. I do what I can in terms of online research – Goodreads reviews and http://www.commonsensemedia.org etc – but I struggle to keep up and have to trust in her sense of wonder at the world, sensibleness and that she’ll talk to me if anything is truly puzzling or disturbing?
    I know from my own obsessive reading at that age that you take stories on according to the level you’re familiar with, with a couple of jolts out of your comfort zone (it was only after many readings of Gone with the Wind that the true horror of slavery and narcissism of Scarlett became apparent to me) – so I hope that holds true.
    But as you said, I just love love love that she’s reading so much – I wouldn’t want to do anything to hinder that!

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    1. Thanks, Molly. It’s a relief to hear I’m not alone in my concerns. I do wonder if I’m being silly. I think its particularly difficult when very precocious readers move up the genres at a young age. Alice enjoyed The Mother Daughter Book Club, you could take a look at that. Also, the Book Doctor recommended ‘Lydia’, a new spin-off on Pride and Prejudice about the wild child Bennet! Alice took her prescription so seriously that she has started P&P. I’m beside myself with joy but trying hard to act cool about it!

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    1. They were both wonderful. I must be honest and admit that I am extremely proud of my avid readers. I am never more content than when the house is quiet and everyone has there head stuck in a book. Of course the Small Girl reads aloud but that’s quite a sweet background noise!

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  5. Wow, the festival looks absolutely brilliant, and what a fantastic place it’s in. YA fiction does indeed seem to be quite grim. Mine aren’t into it yet, although no doubt it won’t be too long. It’s a shame it ALL has to be depressing, where’s the variety?! Loved the salad growing article. I have that Michelle Obama book, love that she dug up the White House lawn to make a vegetable garden. Let’s hope it’s permanent fixture. Hope you have a good weekend. CJ xx

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  6. Oh my….just added this sweet little town with a big beautiful castle on my bucket list…don’t think I will be staying at the elite castle….I too was a little leery about filling out the form to get the prices….if its that secretive then I am sure I can’t afford it….LOL…looks like you had a wonderful time….and what a special day for your girls….I understand your fear about your little one growing up….why don’t you read the book and then have a discussion about its content with your daughter…make it like a book club…just the two of you, heck tell her you need some new input on your blog/bookwitty and you would really respect what she has to say about the books….make her feel part of it….and in the process you are getting what you need out of it, how she is interrupting the book and what’s she getting from it…just a thought from my wee brain….LOL that’s what I would do…I raised a bookworm, who has her masters in literature…LOL and she is know a writer…LOL they always think they are so smart…LOL just down loaded Sweet Pizza onto my Kindle…looks like its a fun read …love the pizzas…I am going to make them all…LOL hope your having a great weekend….xxxkat

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    1. You are a rock of good sense, Kat. I wish I had half your wisdom. You won’t believe this but my wise girl actually threw aside the most recent of her YA reads and has announced that she wants to read Pride and Prejudice! I can’t believe it! Lismore is definitely worth a visit.

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  7. As a fellow parent of young teens, I do agree with you. YA fiction often seems to present a bleak world view. Even more so than adult fiction in some cases, and it’s sad to see. I guess they think they’re presenting teens with real life, but it’s still just one side of real life. A bit of a concern.
    What a brilliant day you had, just the sort of bookish festival we love.

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    1. Thanks, Paula. Bleak is exactly the word. I know that teenagers like to think the world is an awful place but just a little lightness and optimism would be good. I wish there were more funny books in the YA category. Really funny, Adrian Mole kinda funny!

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