Conor Kelly and The Fenian King…
Welcome to aliisaacstoryteller!
So you like book reviews? Here’s another one for you. This book would make an excellent Christmas present for someone you know, be they a young person, or simply young at heart. Happy Reading!
I bought this book for my ten-year old son, then read it myself. I was first attracted to it by the powerful illustrations (Jim Kay)which are truly captivating whilst never revealing too much; I like to retain the ability to use my own imagination to picture a scene from a book, and Jim Kay still allowed me to do this.
I was then lured by the layout and style of the book; fold out matt covers, text punctuated by double page illustrations, all in moody black and white, and many border image; short chapters often broken into smaller chunks; and thought processes written in italics. Easy for a child to read. And me. I read it in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down.
The story, however, is anything but easy. It centres on Conor, at a most traumatic time in his young life. His mother is terminally ill, he has a difficult relationship with his estranged father, his grandmother doesn’t want him, and he is being bullied at school.
Conor’s best friend is the monster. But the monster makes him do bad things. And the monster wants something from him, something Conor is not prepared to give…
It is clear from the beginning that this story is not going to have a happy ending, although that doesn’t stop one hoping. The conclusion is written so beautifully, and so simply, that it’s impossible not to shed a tear.
This book highlights many issues for children without lecturing or moralising; the horror of bullying, the pain of loss, the power of communication, and the importance of friendship and helping one another.
It’s not just a good read; it’s an atmospheric and compelling literary experience. Don’t buy it on Kindle, it’s far too good for that. You need to hold it in your hands, see it and feel it. Enjoy!
Find it HERE at Amazon.
It is four months today since my daughter, Carys, stopped taking thickeners in her fluids. I think it’s time to warn you what thickeners can do to your child, as we have experienced for ourselves first hand over the last eighteen months or so. No-one will tell you any of this when they prescribe thickeners for your child. Everything you will read in medical and industry literature will tell you how safe these products are. BUT THEY’RE NOT. Just google ‘thickeners and constipation’ for yourself; you’ll be blown away.
This is our story.
Carys did not drink fluids, at all, for three years. Speech therapists introduced thickeners as away to get her drinking again. Faced with a wall of eight superficially smiling speech therapists, three radiographers, a strange high-chair, and a huge x-ray machine, Carys commenced screaming, and therefore choking, all the way through her barium swallow test. The results were inconclusive, I was told. best start her on thickeners, just to be on the safe side. I had misgivings; I didn’t believe she had any swallowing issues, but they were the experts, and I was intimidated.
I tried various feeding cups until I found one Carys liked. About three months after she started drinking, the periods of screaming started. They would last for about four days, often did not stop at night, and recurred in a cycle of every ten to fourteen days. I was at my wits end; she seemed in such agony, yet doctors could find nothing wrong with her. Finally, one morning I took her out of her cot, and her nappy was bone dry. She was drinking about a litre of fluid a day, more than she had in years, and yet her nappy was completely dry, something which had never happened during all her years of not drinking anything at all. We went to A&E.
Carys was diagnosed with Chronic Constipation and Impaction. Her bowel had swollen so much, it was pressing against her bladder and preventing the escape of urine. How could this have happened? If anything, I thought she was suffering from diarrhoea; apparently, liquid stool is a sign of constipation, but who knew that? She was started on a high does of Movicol to liquefy the impaction and keep it all moving, and was warned that it could take up to a year for the bowel to recover and begin to function normally.
A few days later, the Movicol took effect. The less said about that, the better! But finally, Carys had some relief. I consulted a nutritionist, began counting her daily fibre intake, and that was the end of that…or so I thought.
A week later, Carys was screaming again. And so the cycle continued. Even with all that Movicol (up to ten sachets a day) and her daily requirement of fibre, and regular enemas. I investigated the causes of constipation; lack of fibre – definitely not; not drinking enough – no, it only started after she increased her fluid intake; lack of exercise – difficult one to address in a non-mobile child; lots of medication – yes, but I couldn’t stop those, and anyway, her prescription had not changed in years, so why would it be causing a problem now? I was convinced that Carys must have some other underlying condition. Her older brother had been born with Hischsprungs Disease; could she have it too? Unlikely, doctors told me. What about her Thyroid? Tests proved it normal. Diabetes? No. Ok, so maybe it’s something else, like a twisted bowel, or a blockage? Xray and ultrasound could find nothing wrong. Finally, a doctor said there was nothing more he could do. Let me just say, that’s the wrong thing to say to a stressed and weeping mother at the end of her tether, carrying a child screaming and writhing with unexplained agony!
There had to be a reason. This was not normal behaviour for Carys. But it seemed only I believed that. It was now a year later. Carys had missed a lot of school. Her development had not moved forward at all during this time, in fact, she had regressed. She was no longer the happy, loving child she always used to be.It was impossible to take her anywhere, she would scream the whole time. All she wanted to do was rock on her belly on the floor of her bedroom, where she felt most safe and comfortable, I suppose. If anyone out there believes constipation to be only a mild, temporary condition, I say to you, think again. Carys’s pain and unhappiness was affecting the whole family. Do you know how it feels to watch your child in agony, and not be able to do anything to help her? And let me just add, I’m no selfless hero; there were times when Carys’s screaming got to me so much, I just wanted to close her bedroom door or leave the house, so I didn’t have to listen.
After months and months of racking my brains, I began investigating the side effects of all Carys’s medicines. None of them especially listed constipation as an issue. Then I investigated her thickener. It was made from maize starch. In this country, maize starch is called cornflour. Everything I read said how safe it is. But then, it’s big business; any negative effects would be kept hidden, wouldn’t they? But when I googled thickeners and constipation, there was a flood of concern. When I read a speech therapists report on a nursing home in the UK, where there was a high incidence of dehydration and constipation linked with a high mortality rate, I was convinced. I discontinued the thickener immediately, and guess what? Carys could drink all her fluids fine, no choking or aspiration whatsoever, even when taking water. I couldn’t wait for the summer holidays to start, to trial my theory more fully; the school had to cover themselves by following speech therapist recommendations. I could do what I wanted.
On July 21st this summer, Carys had her first day completely free from thickeners. SINCE THEN, CARYS HAS NOT BEEN CONSTIPATED ONCE! We have decreased her Movicol to three sachets daily. She has not had a single enema since July. And she is having a bowel movement every day. Oh, and she has never choked on her fluids, or inhaled any, either.
Before Carys went back to school, I went to see her doctor and explained my theory, prepared for a battle. “Ok,” he said, looking at the report from the swallow test. ” I don’t know why she was put on thickeners anyway; there’s no evidence of aspiration in the report. I’ll write a letter to her school.”
Four months later, Carys is well and happy again, just like she used to be. She can hold her own cup now, and drink the whole lot by herself. She is stronger, and participating well in her physio again; her walking (in her walker) is better.
It’s not coincidence. I believe thickeners in large quantities are not safe. If your child is suffering from constipation, but doesn’t take thickeners, look again at her diet. Corn flour/ maize starch is added to lots of foods that you wouldn’t think needed it. It’s usually GM modified, too. Be wary of ‘hungry baby’ milk formulas, check their ingredients carefully. Hospitals and care homes use thickeners in everything. A couple of spoonfuls used to thicken a sauce or gravy won’t do any harm, but more than that might, depending on your child’s sensitivity. I don’t want to scare anyone, but it took me a year and a half of stress and suffering for Carys to find this out for myself. I’m sharing our story, in the hope that it might help someone else.
Of course, there are many conditions which can cause constipation, so always get checked out by a doctor.
On my first ever trip to Ireland, I remember strolling along the banks of the River Liffey with my now husband, when we encountered a group of skateboarders harassing an old man sitting on a bench. At least, I thought they were harassing him, but as we drew closer, I realised that he was talking, and they were listening. His voice rose and fell in melodic, hypnotic waves, and the teenagers milled about, their growing bodies restless, but their faces rapt. We passed by, on a mission of places to be and things to see, but to this day, I have always wondered about the story he was telling them.
As the recently departed Seamus Heaney could arguably be called Ireland’s most famous and best loved poet, so his equal in terms of storytelling must be Eddie Lennihan, an Irishman famous for his tales of Ireland’s folklore and mythology.
You can see him in action here.
The Seanchai ( pronounced ‘shawnshee’) was a traditional Irish storyteller. They memorised and recited epic stories and poems from Irish mythology for the enjoyment of their audiences. You have to remember, in those days, there were no movies, tv, radio, computer games. Few had access to books, or could read.
In pre-Christian Ireland, there were two types of poet; the elite class of the Fili, and the lesser caste of the Bard. They normally served a clan chieftain, keeping all their clan’s lore and history, and were highly respected. Some belonged to a community, and served at community ceremonies and events, while others belonged to no particular area or lord, but travelled, offering their skills in return for board and lodging.
Fili meant ‘seer’, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that part of their role revolved around the foretelling of the future. In fact, originally the Fili may have served many functions, such as sorcerer, judge, keeper of law, chieftain’s advisor as well as poet and storyteller. At some point, these responsibilities seem to have been divided, with the Brehons specialising in the legal aspects, the Druids taking on the religion and ritual, and the Fili concentrating on history and poetry.
The chief Fili in each province was known as the Ollamh (pronounced Ollav), which means ‘most great’, and would have been equal in status to the provincial King. Over all, presided the Ollamh Eirean, who was ranked equal to the Ard Ri, or High King of Ireland, so there was plenty of scope for promotion.
The advent of Christianity, however, put quite a strain on the Kings’ resources, as not only did they have to provide lands, titles and funding to the Fili, but also to the bishops. In the 6th century, the decision was taken to limit the number of Fili purely to those families where the position of the poet was seen as a birth right. This was the beginning of the end for this role in Irish society, and much lore was lost. Fortunately, however, the Christian monks did their best to conserve as much as they could, and so what was left of the ancient Irish oral tradition was finally put into writing.
I would like to think I am contributing to this effort in my own small way, by bringing Irelands fascinating mythology to life for a whole new audience out there.
Long live Irish Mythology!
Although I review books fairly regularly, and post them on Amazon or Goodreads, I don’t often post them here, on aliisaacstoryteller. The reason for that is that there are some fantastic book review blogs out there who do it far better than I can. However, Skallagrig is unlike any other book I have ever experienced, and I find my thoughts returning to it often, so I would like to share it with you.
NOTE: This book is no longer in print, or available in e-book format, a great shame in my opinion. I obtained my paperback copy second-hand through Amazon.
An Amazing, Emotional Read. May 14, 2013
By Ali Isaac
This book was recommended to me by a friend, as it deals with the subject of disability. This is close to my heart, as I have a daughter with a rare syndrome. I have to say, this story quite blew me away, for many, many reasons.
Although the book was written and published in the 80′s, I was surprised to find that it is not available as an E-book on Kindle. William, if you ever see this, I hope you will consider doing just that. However, I was lucky enough to get a paperback copy second-hand.
Even before you begin to read, there is something haunting, and powerful about the title, and the front cover image.This is not an easy read. The story is, at times, rambling. It is often brutal, and bleak in its descriptions of life for the disabled in years gone by, to the point where it is quite hard to take.
Part One starts in 1927 with the heart-rending story of a young boy named Arthur, who is torn from his family and institutionalised, because he has cerebral palsy. There he is mistreated and abused, but the belief that the Skallagrigg will one day come and save him sustains him as the years pass by. We then move to 1982, when we meet the main protagonist of the story, Esther, who also has CP. Understanding has come a long way since 1927, and Esther’s circumstances are very different to Arthur’s, although difficult in their own way. Finally, the narrator introduces himself, a systems analyst and computer programmer from Birmingham. How are they all linked, we begin to wonder.
Well, it’s complicated. The narrator comes across a computer game called Skallagrigg. This floors him; Skallagrigg is a word he has heard before. It is the only piece of information his father passed onto him about his ancestors. Desperate to find out what it means, he becomes obsessed with the game, and so he begins his quest to find the Skallagrigg.
Part Two is where the story really began for me, with the intriguing story of Esther’s life. The depiction of a vast intelligence locked within a body which cannot be controlled to speak or walk is touching, and compelling. Regardless of her disability, Esther manages to make friends, go to school, and excel at her studies. She is not always likeable, but she is real, convincing in her flaws, and in her incredible strength and determination. With the introduction of computer technology, Esther suddenly finds she has a voice at last, and now her spirit is soaring free, her mind unencumbered by the limits of her unwieldy body.
In Esther’s world, the legends of the Skallagrigg are never far away. Always, they centre around a boy named Arthur. As she collects these stories, she comes to realise that they must be true, and sets out to find him, for where he is, so must the Skallagrigg surely be.
Does she find Arthur? Yes, she does. Is the meaning of the Skallagrigg revealed? Yes, it is. Do we discover the connection between these three characters? Yes, we do, yet the story does not have the satisfactory, cosy, comfortable conclusion one might expect.
I will tell you no more about the plot; this is a book you need to read for yourself. It will open your eyes to the plight those with special needs face every day, and the difficulties their families must overcome. It explores relationships, not just among the disabled. It examines people’s attitudes towards special needs through the years. It debates society’s responsibilities to care for these people, and protect their rights. It’s a fictional story, but based on fact, and the writer’s own experiences with his daughter, Rachel.
There were times when I wept as I read; for all those children like Arthur who were so cruelly abused and shunned by the rest of humankind; but also because I had been through so many similar situations with my daughter, as Esther did with her father. I felt I learned a lot; this is not mindless entertainment, it is a story you have to work at, and all the more rewarding for it.
It is a story which I know will stay with me for a very long time.
You can get your copy here.
A Library of Literary Interestingness
finding prehistory in unlikely places
Exploring Time Travel of Place
One more blog on the intrawebs.
Where writing is a performance art and every post is a show.
(9 out of 10 Vets recommend it, the 10th is seriously reconsidering his first response, while he recuperates from his unfortunate 'accident')
Journey with me as I research, rediscover and explore the Goddess in Her many aspects, forms and guises...
Late Roman & 'Arthurian' Britain
Gaelic legend, lore and more...
For Love of Writing
(destined for greatness, but i'm pacing myself)
The gentle art of balancing marriage, parenting, and triathlon
Éire Ghaelach - Éire Shaor
Who Says Beauty Is Only Skin Deep?
Creating art on the big canvas and the small ones too
Just another WordPress.com weblog
This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas