Not too long ago, I was able to actually attend an Irish dance class. I still remember the joy I felt as I spun and leaped and gave way to the euphoria that only Irish step dance brings me. Yes, I’ll admit it; we’re a full-fledged Irish dance family. All three of my daughters take Irish step, and I used to take it with them until my son entered the world. To be honest, I stopped attending before he saw the light of day, since the pounding, leaping, and spinning wasn’t feeling so wonderful on my pregnant belly, not to mention my bladder (which baby thought was his personal trampoline).
We have much to look forward to in February in the way of Irish dance, including a River Dance performance at Pope Joy Hall, the annual New Mexico feis, and the latest installment of the Liffey Rivers Irish dance mystery series. And, ugh, my daughter’s just turned on the Chieftains, which pushes the level of my Irish-loving abilities. It’s not that I don’t like the Chieftains; I’m just tired of Irish music and the general gaelophile atmosphere in my house. My eldest daughter is studying the Irish language, for heaven’s sake!
I’m back to Liffey Rivers, though. I want to tell you about these lovely gem of books by Brenna Briggs. There are three books out, and the fourth will be out in mid-February (according to the author). Although they are Irish dance mystery books, I believe that they could and should have a larger audience, and I’ll tell you why.
If you are an Irish dancer, you will like them because . . . Liffey Rivers, the heroine, is a young teenager who is stuck in the novice level of Irish dance. Most dancers know what this is like. Novice is the third level of competition, and it can be very difficult to dance your way out of it. Two of my daughters are stuck at this level. For Liffey, this means that she is also stuck wearing a school dress for competition, rather than a solo dress. Liffey desperately wants to wear a solo dress. My daughters are McTeggart dancers, which is a different school from Liffey’s. McTeggarts can wear solo dresses at the novice level, but my daughters are unable to do so because of the extreme cost of the dresses. This is a frustration for them–let it also be known that their mother has little to no sewing skills, especially for the kind of embroidery that’s required on traditional dresses. Irish dancers will also appreciate the vocabulary of dance and feeling in the know (glossaries are provided in books 1&3 for those not in the know).
If you are child, you will like them because . . . they are fast-paced mysteries. Plus, Liffey is the classic underdog who wins in the end. I had a difficult time eliciting responses from my children on this one. They just like the books, all right, because Liffey has all sorts of adventures and travels to Ireland and England.
If you are like me (an adult, I guess), you will like them because . . . these books are pure magic. At the start of the first one, Liffey Rivers and the Mystery of the Sparkling Solo Dress Crown, I was hooked because Liffey is all on her own at a feis. Magical adventures always occur in literature when children are left to their own devices, and the Liffey books are not exceptions. You might ask yourself how a thirteen-year-old could check into a hotel by herself, let alone stay there by herself, but you will keep reading because it is a fascinating concept. And, yes, all is explained eventually, but, meanwhile, Liffey and her unusual routines will charm you. She is, as one author calls distinctly fascinating characters, off the nose. For example, Liffey must eat spaghetti and meatballs the night before every feis. And she has a feis breakfast, too.
My one criticism of these books is the formatting. The author self-publishes, and I recognized this right away due to the odd formatting. I have a friend who self-publishes, and she has had this problem with the publishers she went with; it didn’t matter that she had checked and approved everything. The books still didn’t print exactly as they ought to have, which forces me to say that I wouldn’t want to self-publish. In Brenna Brigg’s case, she might have felt that self-publishing was the right course because she already had a built-in audience in the Irish dance world. In any case, the writing and story are what count, and her stories are stellar. Click here for the author’s website and read some sample chapters.