Friday, May 24, 2019

Review - Na Gàidheil: The Gaels

Na Gàidheil: The Gaels - An Illustrated Introduction to Scottish Gaelic for Children
by Catrìona Zappert
Date: 2019
Publisher: Matador
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 31
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Na Gàidheil is an illustrated introduction to Scottish Gaelic for children, parents, teachers and adults who want to learn basic Gaelic words in a simple and easy to understand way. It may sometimes seem overwhelming to the beginner so this simple introduction gently introduces the reader to some basic words that they can build on in later books.

The magical illustrations will take you on a journey through the Gaelic fairy realm of the mystical country of Scotland and introduces the Gaels, (a family of Scottish fairies), their family and some of the Gaelic place names in Scotland. You will find unicorns, magic, enchantment and by using simple phonetics can learn Gaelic words to use around the home.

Full of hand drawn and painted illustrations and beautiful Scottish scenery, Na Gàidheil has been created to capture the magic of the Gaelic language.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think this has been one of my biggest book disappointments so far this year. A picture book that teaches kids some basic Gaelic words that ties into a fairy story? Sign me up! I'm always interesting in learning more about my heritage. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst fiction/non-fiction picture books I've ever read.

The layout is all over the place. This is supposed to be a book for kids, and yet the first thing in it is an introduction for parents/teachers. That sort of material needs to be at the back of the book, or you run the risk of kids thinking it's not a book for them. There are also a lot of pages taken up by things like worksheets and a "This Book Belongs To" page. There are more notes for parents/teachers at the end. The unicorn is depicted (and the word translated) twice on one spread. The overall impression all of these things make is that the book was haphazardly thrown together.

The second major issue I have is with the pages that introduce the members of the family. I was confused as heck... because there's no English! It's just Gaelic words, and I had no idea if they were the fairies' names, or if they meant things like "son", "brother", or "boy", for example. (It wasn't until I went to write my review that I looked at the table of contents again. That's where the English is! Sorry, but that's going to confuse a lot of people.)

But the confusion doesn't stop there. Okay, so we've got nighean, which, according to the table of contents, means "girl". But in the glossary at the end, nighean means "daughter". Caileag means "girl". Bèibidh is "baby" according to the table of contents... but the glossary gives the word for "baby" as leanabh. Gaelic is difficult enough without confusing the issue!

I have to talk about the illustrations for a moment. You know those old Disney movies that used to combine hand-drawn animated characters with live-action settings? This book looks like it's trying to do that... but it isn't done well at all. The horribly drawn characters look like they were cut out and just slapped on a photograph. And I might have been more forgiving had the photos been beautiful. But they suffer variously from exposure problems, light leaks, and what looks like overprocessing in Photoshop.

I do like how the page numbers are written out in Gaelic along with the phonetic pronunciation. If looked at solely as a Gaelic counting book, then it probably has a little more value.

Gaelic is going to be a tricky subject for a beginner's picture book, anyway. If you're really interested in a Scottish language, I'd suggest having a look at Scots (a dialect of English) first. There are quite a few books that have been translated into Scots that are more accessible for beginners. I'd recommend taking a look at the wonderful A Wee Book o Fairy Tales in Scots by Matthew Fitt & James Robertson. Because it uses familiar stories, it's much easier to glean the meaning of the words from the context.

Thank you to NetGalley and Matador for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 1/5
Illustrations: 0/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 0.67 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment