Cork writer pens a waggly dog story...

In her weekly column, Pet O’Connell encounters all creatures great and small in children’s books
Cork writer pens a waggly dog story...

Murphy's Law penned by Muireann Ní Chíobháin

Murphy’s Law, by Muireann Ní Chíobháin and Paul Nugent (O’Brien Press €12.99)

MURPHY’S Law dictates that what can go wrong will go wrong, and in the case of Irish wolfhound Murphy, pretty much everything goes wrong when he starts wagging his oversized tail.

“Beach walkies? Woof-yay!” barks Murphy, who acts as narrator of this shaggy dog story.

Murphy and his human, Mary, take a stroll along the seashore, but soon there are complaints as Murphy’s waggly tail covers everyone and everything in the vicinity with sand - and after all, nobody likes sand in their sandwiches.

Walkies on the farm seems like a better plan, until Murphy’s tail gets him into trouble again, and it’s the same story at the supermarket. A trail of muddy paw-prints and devastation in the food aisles, with tins and packets sent tumbling from shelves, see Murphy and Mary getting their marching orders.

A birthday party isn’t a good place for a dog with a waggly tail either, and Mary starts to believe that bad luck must be following them, but how to change their fortunes?

Would a lucky horseshoe do the trick? Finding shamrock, or the end of a rainbow?

Perhaps, though, people (and dogs) make their own luck, and what’s important is a positive outlook on life. “I’m a very lucky pup,” Murphy concludes. 

“My Mary loves me and my waggly tail, just the waggly way I am!

“And don’t worry about bad luck or Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong, won’t go wrong as long as you watch out for my waggles.”

A dog-lover’s delight, this picture book from Cork city native Muireann Ní Chíobháin, broadcaster and author of Irish language picture books Scúnc agus Smúirín and Eoinín is a celebration of friendship and being happy in your own skin/fur coat.

If the World were 100 Animals.
If the World were 100 Animals.

Dogs take a leading role too in the pets section of Miranda Smith and Aaron Cushley’s intriguingly-titled If The World Were 100 Animals (Red Shed €9.80).

The idea here is that with more than 20 billion billion, or 20 quintillion known animals worldwide, the numbers are too vast to be conceptualised. By imagining 100 at a time, the book seeks to illustrate the diversity of animals, while highlighting the challenges for survival faced by many species.

Out of the representative 100, for instance, just six animals would be vertebrates and the other 94 invertebrates, some so small that they can only be seen through a microscope.

Of the world’s vertebrates, 43 would be fish, 23 birds, and only nine of them mammals, which rather puts humans in their place in relative terms.

Mammals are further subdivided into 94 placental species, five marsupial, and one monotreme - these being the only mammals to lay eggs but also feed their babies (puggles) with their milk, and comprising the duck-billed platypus and four species of echidna.

As to where mammals live, based on the 100 concept, only five of them inhabit Europe and nine North America, with 53 in Asia.

Enriching the stats throughout this brightly-illustrated book are nuggets of information for junior fact-finders. Did you know, for example, that the pangolin is the only mammal covered head to toe in sharp scales, or that an estimated 95% of the world’s oceans have never been explored by humans?

Returning to pet animals, apparently Russia is the most cat-loving nation and Brazilians are the biggest bird-owners, but in China, crickets housed in elaborate cages make popular pets.

Here’s where the statistics get serious though: Of a representative 100 species that have ever lived, 90 are already extinct. And in real, scarily-big numbers, it is feared that by 2050, more than a million more species that inhabit the planet today will become extinct, including the polar bear, rhinoceros, and gorilla.

There’s thought-provoking stuff here for young readers and another wake-up call for action on the pollution, climate change, deforestation, and over-fishing that are endangering the world’s animals.

For a different sense of perspective in the natural world, there’s Brendan Wenzel’s elegant picture book A Stone Sat Still (Chronicle €8.40).

Though its passivity may not immediately draw children to this book, the permanence and infinite possibilities presented by looking at something as simple as a stone in a new light make it a stand-out title.

The stone is just doing what stones do: “A stone sat still with the water, grass and dirt… and it was as it was where it was in the world.”

Depending on their perspective though, for creatures big and small, the stone becomes a hill or a pebble, an island, a haven, or a home.

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