Rí Rá #4

Writer/Artists: Alma Ryan, Alan Nolan, Bob Byrne, Philip Barrett, Elida Maiques, Fintan Taite, Davy Francis, Maeve Clancy, Stephen Downey
Publisher: Coimicí Gael
Cost: €2.95 (buy it online here
Reviewed by: Colin O’Mahoney
I am not an Irish speaker. The lrish that is left to me is the remnants of my school education, and so is both limited and rusty., and a struggle to find the fada on the keyboard of my Toshiba laptop were both notable features of my writing this review.
Despite my almost mono-linguism (French was similarly wasted on me), reviewing Rí-Rá was far from a chore. Bright, colourful and fun, the book is immediately appealing. It’s a slightly undersized book (compared to standard American format), but makes up for its diminutive stature with a gorgeous and colourful cover by Alma Ryan. Being aimed at 8-14 year olds, the level of Irish is not taxing, and it even provides a vocabulary on the back page. While this vocab was aimed at the 8-14 year olds, I was nonetheless thankful it was there.
As soon as I’d opened the book I was taken aback at the level of Irish talent on show. This really is the cream of the Irish comics scene –Bob Byrne, Stephen M. Downey, Alan Nolan, Philip Barrett are all amongst the contributors to the books nine stories. Each story is one to five pages long, and clocks in at a total of twenty-five pages of content. As you would expect from a children’s comic, while there are recurring characters, they are all standalone strips. The stories feature a wild mix, from Alan Nolan’s ‘an Leipreachán agus Liam’ (a personal favourite), to Bob Byrne’s equally bizarre ‘Finkle and Crumpet’ with altogether more grounded stories of youth in-between. Stories set on Mars, a Jedward caricature and one brilliant silent strip pack Rí Rá with colourful entertainment, cemented by top notch print and production values. A book of this kind should serve to not only improve the fluency of Irish amongst its readers, but also to introduce them to Irish-produced comics at a young age.
While perfect for a younger audience, I am not sure how impressed the older-end of the recommended 8-14 would be with the comic. I would imagine interest might wane after the age of 10 or 11. On the flip-side, as long as their level of Irish is sufficient, I can really see children younger than 8 enjoying this.
If this kind of entertaining, accessible material was available to me during my school years, instead of just having the modh-coinniolach shoved down my throat, my Irish might now be a lot more fluent, and a lot less rusty.