Friday, January 10, 2014

Ré Nua (1990)


Ré Nua (meaning New Era) was a series of Irish language books for kids from Junior Infants to Sixth Class, that were published by Folens in 1990. If you attended primary school in Ireland between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s it is possible you used these books in school. It's probably self-evident why I've posted these scans from the books. I think they're gorgeous, beautifully illustrated, and were perhaps the best schoolbooks I ever used. If I can string a sentence together in Irish nowadays it is in no small part thanks to them.


The books were illustrated by Emil Schinkel, who I am happy to say is still working today and has a site containing other beautiful work. Schinkel did a lot of illustration for Folens including on the Siamsa and Spraoi magazines that you may recall, which were sent out to primary school classes periodically. The illustrations have a colourfulness, busyness, and humour I find very endearing and which remind me of the Richard Scarry books that were another fixture of my childhood.


I am not sure how widely studied these books were in Irish schools and it seems that even those only a few years older than me never encountered them. The series has never attained a standing in the popular memory comparable with the likes of say Ann and Barry and the rest of the Rainbow series. Nor do I imagine they'll ever be reprinted for the Christmas nostalgia market like Soundings and other secondary schoolbooks have been in recent years. However, there is at least one Irish band named for one of the books (Dioscó na mBó) which is perhaps some indicator that these books are fondly remembered by people other than me.





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