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Y Gragen - Casia Wiliam

♥︎Rhestr Fer Tir na n-Og 2024 Shortlisted♥︎

(suggested) reading age: 6+

(suggested) interest age: 5+


At the end of a three-year stint on the Tir na n-Og Judges panel, it's an interesting year for me, because I've been able to sit back ‘on the outside’ and enjoy trying to guess who was going to make it onto the shortlist, and who would scoop the top prize. (I didn't guess very well by the way!)

It didn't surprise me at all when I heard that Y Gragen had been shortlisted. One only has to look at it to see it’s an incredibly beautiful book. And while I'm disappointed it didn't come out on top in the primary category, it's still a book worth buying or borrowing.

The book is basically a poem by Casia Wiliam, and was part of an excellent competition in the Urdd Eisteddfod, where entrants are asked to create original artwork to accompany words. The winner of the competition was Naomi Bennet, who has made quite an impression with her first work —not everyone is a TNNO finalist, after all. I really hope to see more of her work in original children's books. Here's a press release for the competition:

The competition aims to discover new talent in the world of book illustration, and the end result is a good example of words and pictures coming together to create a beautiful thing. Don’t get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with modern computer animated illustration, but for me, there's nothing that can beat traditional artwork using real watercolour paint. I love how the colours blend into each other. Just look at this spread, even the pesky gulls that annoy us so much look absolutely majestic.

Many times over the years, visitors have said to me, "oh you're so lucky to live where you do" or "it's so beautiful, wish we lived here." And whilst their words can sound a bit cliché, I genuinely do think we tend to take things for granted sometimes. It's easy to complain and forget how lucky we are here in Wales.

Basically, the story follows a family who come from the city to visit the seaside, so not too dissimilar to us here in Llandudno, which welcomes a number of tourists from across the border and beyond. The wonder and excitement the boy felt was palpable, as he experienced things for the first time. Just feeling sand under his feet and hearing the crashing waves made such an impression on him. These memories will be with him for a long time, even when he returns to his high rise flat in the big city.

I've just been in London myself, seeing my sister, and although walking through the hustel and bustle of Camden town was an experience in itself, there was no better feeling than stepping off the train back in Conwy to a backdrop of sea and mountains. If nothing else, Y Gragen makes one realise what a privilege it is to live where we do, and I'm very grateful for that.

I’m likely to use this book as a resource in school, (foundation and CC2 especially) and the QR code with a link to the resources is handy for teachers.


Publisher: Barddas

Released: Mai 2023

Price: £7.99

Format: Hardback


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