Not having enough time to enjoy the
things that matter in life is a common complaint in
Kinvara, in County Galway on the west coast of
Ireland. People are late for breakfast, late for
school, late all the time. There's barely enough
time for music and dancing - the specialty of the
Liddy family who are renowned for holding the best
céilís (dances with traditional Irish music,
pronounced cay-lees). In fact, people all over
Ireland are short of time. Some adults think that
it's because the children are so over-programmed
that they can "scarcely even find time for making
mischief" anymore, others blame it on Ireland
joining the European Community - but there is
something more sinister afoot.
When J.J's mother jokingly says that all she wants for her birthday is a little more time, J.J. sets himself on a quest to find some for her. His journey takes him through a souterrain (see sidebar) into the land of the faeries (except that they don't like being called faeries) who are suffering a problem even more dire than the humans - their time is leaking away, and if the sun sets on the perpetual day of "Tir na n'Og (The Land of Eternal Youth) the faeries will be no more.
If there was ever a book that deserved to be listened to rather than read, The New Policeman is it. Not only because the writing has a distinct Irish lilt but because each short chapter ends with a musical score for an Irish jig, so unless one happens to be a dab hand on the keyboard, or better still, the fiddle, there is an element of the book that one misses out on (in fact it's a little frustrating that this otherwise wonderful book, winner of the Guardian and Whitbread children's book awards, doesn't come with an attached CD for the musically-challenged amongst us). An audiobook version is available in the UK, but apparently not yet in the USA.
Having said that, even without being able to fully appreciate the musical elements, we very much enjoyed reading The New Policeman aloud in our best Irish accents, and we did find a few samples of the music at Kate Thompson's website.
If your children enjoy classic fairy tales and series such as the Artemis Fowl adventures by fellow Irishman, Eoin Colfer, or books by the ubiquitous J.K. Rowling, you might well want to take a close look at The New Policeman, and the many other award-winning books by Kate Thompson which you'll find at her website.
This review was originally published in March 2007, and has been updated for the April 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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