This book was a chance find. Browsing the web looking for content to enhance an "ad hoc" discrete Interdisciplinary Learning program for S2 pupils in a Clackmannanshire school based around the unifying theme of Blackmuir Wood as a context for curiosity, exploration, woodcraft and associated learning, I came across the author's Amazon-based e-commerce site. The book promises a lot, yet delivers much, much more.
Each story focuses on a single native tree species and a Highlander with a strong affinity for the woods in general and the tree in particular. Proper names of people and place have been carefully chosen with respect to Gaelic roots. As a fluent speaker of Irish Gaelic, I cannot fault the author's research or evident joy in his subject matter. The healing effects of woodland are to the fore, whether through frequent mention of folk remedies or, more often, the spiritual positivity and mental healing experienced by people in woodland.
There are frequent appearances of the Sidhe and other woodland spirits. The Anglo-Celtic prose is shot through with a shimmering shamanism and, in its use of repetitive phrases, so soothingly reminiscent of Gaelic folklore that it demands to be read out loud to a small group. A comprehensive glossary explains the allusions as well as offering some guidance in pronunciation (Scots Gaelic) for the uninitiated.
At a time when fantasy and fairy-tale are reconquering the cinema and visual arts, and in the wake of the Harry Potter phenomenon, this book will appeal to children of all ages between 8 and 80. Ahead of 18th September 2014, it may help some Caledonians to reconnect with their nearly-forgotten culture. Its appeal is much wider, though, than the lands depicted in its pastel illustrations. I heartily recommend this book. If you go down to the woods today .....