Review of Izzy’s Magical Christmas Adventure, by Emma Larkin (€13)
CHRISTMAS is the most exciting time of the year for most children, but for sports-mad Izzy, it also means a lengthy and unwelcome break in which she longs for camogie and Gaelic football to resume.
She misses the matches and training sessions during the winter, and to make matters worse, her special bracelet, with its connection to her great-grandmother’s All-Ireland triumphs, appears to have lost its magic.
The bracelet, crafted from her great-grandmother’s medals, has been Izzy’s passport to two previous escapades, Izzy’s Magical Football Adventure and its camogie sequel.
Two days before Christmas, Izzy’s boredom leads her to make a terrible mistake, but as she and her new puppy, the aptly-named Boots, find themselves heading for the North Pole, the bracelet may yet save the day again.
Gaelic football comes to the North Pole, complete with a GAA crest for ‘An Pol Thuaidh’ and team kit for Santa, the big question being whether Mrs Claus can really master the hop and solo.
Illustrated by Paul Nugent, the third book from Emma Larkin, a Cork woman exiled in Kerry, adds a festive twist to the tales of eight-year-old Izzy, whose original inspiration came from Emma’s own grandmother.
Maureen Hennebry, born Maureen Cashman to the famed Blackrock GAA family, was a member of the Cork team that won the All-Ireland Camogie Championship three times in a row between 1939 and 1941.
“I am in awe of the fact that my grandmother and her team-mates played camogie at such a high level at a time in Ireland where a woman’s role was predominantly to be a wife and homemaker,” says Emma.
Her grandmother, who passed away in 2008, had still enjoyed being “out with the hurley with her great-grandchildren” as she approached her 80s.
“I’m so sorry we didn’t ask her more about playing back then,” adds Emma.
Emma, who attended Scoil Bhríde and Coláiste Muire in Crosshaven, had enjoyed writing as a child and, though her work is now as financial controller of a Tralee hotel, her creative skills came to the fore again after she realised there was a dearth of books featuring girls in GAA for her own daughter, Isabelle, to read.
“I did love writing in primary school and it was my favourite part of school,” she says.
“If we were doing essays, I didn’t see that as work at all, I absolutely loved it. I always wanted to write but my son was born when I was quite young and everything was put on the back burner.
“Then, as the kids were getting a bit older, I was thinking I’d love to write. I wanted to write something about Nana and then I had this light-bulb moment when I was looking for books for my daughter and I realised there was nothing out there for girls that was GAA-related and I put the two things together and came up with the idea for Izzy.”
Emma, who coaches the Finuge/St Senan’s Ladies’ Football Club under 10s team near Listowel, plays football herself with the club’s Gaelic4Mothers&Others initiative and says she hopes her books will help girls to see themselves in sporting roles.
“We need to make it as normal for girls to play sport as it is for boys,” she says.
“I hope that my book can in some way help to normalise girls playing football and that both boys and girls will enjoy reading about Izzy’s adventures.”
Her first book, whose cover featured Izzy playing at Croke Park, sent an important message about the ability of girls to succeed in sport. As a self-published author, Emma is currently touring the country’s independent bookshops with her Izzy titles, and the response has been very positive.
“I’ve been way up the West coast and in every bookshop it’s commented on,” she says.
“One in particular said ‘even if a girl isn’t into sport, just to see a girl on the cover in Croke Park is really important, to see that that can happen’.”
The importance of the “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it” message for girls in sport was not lost on Dublin’s O’Brien Press, who recently featured Sonia O’Sullivan and Cora Staunton in their ‘Great Irish Sports Stars’ series.
Emma, who also has ideas in mind for future books on girls in athletics and soccer, has now signed a deal with the O’Brien Press to write her first sports adventure for older readers.
Twin Power, which features twins Aoife and Aidan Power and their friends, who all love playing Gaelic football, is at the final editing stage and is due to be published next March.
Emma hopes that readers who have enjoyed the Izzy series, targeted at ages six to eight, may enjoy moving up to her new chapter book, with its equally positive message about girls in sport.
In the meantime, Izzy’s Magical Christmas Adventure is ready for the festive market, along with Izzy book gift boxes, including branded football gloves and sliotars, available from independent bookshops and at