Friends For All Seasons: A Year In The Garden, by Donagh Hourihan (€8.99)
A BLACKBIRD singing as dawn breaks on a cold and frosty January morning heralds the start of a new year in the garden of Donagh Hourihan.
The garden, in Ballintemple, is home to finches, siskins, robins, and tits, all glad to avail of the seeds provided in the bird feeders, while the frozen ground offers slim pickings in terms of berries and worms.
Soon enough though, snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils begin to pop their heads up out of the cold ground, to be joined within weeks by the hum of bees.
Nesting birds take up residence in some of the boxes the author has erected, and as the weather warms up, surprise visitors to the garden include a family of fox cubs and a hedgehog hunting slugs and worms.
In rhyming verse, Hourihan entreats readers to encourage hedgehogs into their own gardens by taking direct action to remove obstacles to the insectivores.
“Like most gardens that we see, you’ll have a fence or wall; and this will stop them calling by [they are so very small]. So go and ask your neighbours if you can cut a hole; and hopefully a hedgehog will decide to take a stroll.”
He also advocates leaving twigs and branches or other hiding places in which bugs may take refuge as autumn comes around. However, this is far from a junior nature-lovers’ handbook, and fact meets fiction when the garden wildlife is depicted carrying baskets, reading maps, and even wearing Christmas hats and Hallowe’en disguises.
A gentle stroll through the seasons, the picture book, illustrated by Tubagus Dhika, is inspired by Hourihan’s own garden and is his second self-published title.
“I started writing and designing books in my spare in the autumn last year, my first being Elf Isolation which talked about how Santa and the elves managed to work at home during lockdown,” said Hourihan.
“Friends For All Seasons — A Year In The Garden brings the reader through all of the seasons and the common garden visitors that we typically see here in Ireland.
“I designed the book myself then worked with a freelance illustrator to draft the sketches, leaving the finished illustrations that you see in the book to him. I then worked with the team at Waterman Printers in Little Island on the final print spec’.”
The newly-published book, of appeal to ages three-plus, is available at independent bookshops throughout Co Cork or via donaghhourihan.com.
A lost cat strays into the garden of its new human companion in the first children’s book from The Echo’s Women on Wednesday columnist Sue Russell.
Based on the arrival of her own cat, Scrappy, who featured frequently in Sue’s Echo columns, Scrap the Cat Finds A Home (Choice Publishing, €10 plus P&P) tells the imaginary back story of her beloved pet’s mysterious appearance in her life.
“He arrived a little worse for wear practically on my doorstep about 13 years ago and was a great addition to the household — particularly for his hunting skills,” said Sue.
Scrappy became her inseparable companion until his death in 2018, at which time she wrote in The Echo: “He arrived in the garden as a stray and, despite my initial resistance, he stayed, moved into my house and into my life.
“He spent the first years of his time with me sleeping in the shed, but his persistence wore me down and I went from someone who freaked at the notion of a cat hair on a cushion to loving the sight of him curled up on my bed.”
Sue had no idea where he had come from or how he had wandered into her life, and in the inscrutable manner of cats, Scrappy never gave any clues, but through her new picture book, illustrated by Margaret McKenna, Sue has created a past for her feline friend, immortalising him in the process.
The fictional Scrap was born in the proverbial barn, his parentage of a marmalade father and pure white-haired mother explaining his mixed-up appearance — white, with a marmalade tail and a strip of the same colour over his eye.
His variegated colouring and small size sees Scrap shunned by the rest of the litter and eventually left alone when new owners arrive at the farm to select his siblings as pets.
Snoozing one day under the bonnet of Mr Farmer’s car, Scrap finds himself on the road to a new home of his own when he accidentally hitches a ride, hopping out of the car unnoticed at the first opportunity.
After wandering hungry and alone, Scrap can’t believe his good fortune when he finds a new farm where he is afforded a friendly welcome that includes a saucer of milk, a bed of blankets, and several bowls of tuna.
With a happy-ever-after ending, this warm, comforting tale makes for perfect bedtime story reading, with part of the proceeds benefiting Cavan’s Kitten Cottage Animal Sanctuary.
It is available from: http://www.choicepublishing.ie/index_ files/bookstore.htm or email Scrapthecat@yahoo.com