Well, I recently read a brilliant little book, published by Derry writer, Sam Burnside, on December 1. Entitled Mrs NettleBed’s Year, the book is a collection of 20 short stories, which take us through the year with the magical and mysterious Mrs NettleBed of the title.
Where did she come from?
‘One day she was not there; the next day she was there. Brother Owl was the first to see her. He said she was tall and thin. Her dress was, he said, “decorated with nettle leaves.”‘
Deep in The Woods, Mrs NettleBed lives in her ‘tall and wobbly looking’ house, where she does her best to help her neighbours – be it rabbit, fox or otherwise – and tries not to lose her temper when things don’t always go quite right.
She may break her leg in Spring and have a Spoiled Summer Day, but then again, Mrs NettleBed also bags a bargain in Summer, enjoys a birthday party in the Autumn and tells a story about The Making of the Stars and the Moon in Winter.
What I love about this collection is that the chapters are snappy – usually no more than two pages long – so are perfect for reading to children of any age as a bedtime story. Inspired by the Brer Rabbit-style of stories from the past (which I also remember reading and loving!), they’re timeless, they tell a story and they also carry with them, little snippets of wisdom.
As Sam himself says: “These stories are meant to be read by children, but also to children. Sharing with an audience, especially across the generations, has always been important in the realm of storytelling. So has the sense of theatre – of being there in the moment, together with others, communing and growing and exploring in the world of the imagination.”
Mrs NettleBed’s Year is a delightful book written by an acclaimed poet and long-time renowned writer from Northern Ireland. A writer who, incidentally, founded the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry-Londonderry because he wanted everyone to have the chance to engage with literature and enjoy the magic of words…