Book Review: The President’s Glasses

It was very exciting to get our hands on the first copy of The President’s Glasses by Peter Donnelly, ahead of his much anticipated appearance next March at OFFSET 2018.

Peter has been working as a commercial illustrator for over twenty years with a background in animation that goes back even further. The echoes of mid 20th Century artists such as Jim Flora, Mary Blair & Miroslav Sasek jump beautifully from each spread and if the intention was for the book to be reminiscent of children’s books of that period then it certainly succeeds in this goal. The cover design alone would particularly feel right at home alongside work of that time. But this is no mere retro homage, the Dublin here feels modern and charming with the story and visuals overflowing with references to modern culture and technology.

At the center of story is the character of the President of Ireland and his trusty pigeon, a much maligned but key Dublin character in itself. After the President heads off to Dublin Castle to sign a very important document his wife notices he has forgotten his glasses. Entrusting them to the President’s pigeon we are then treated to a bird’s eye tour of Dublin, racing to deliver the pair of glasses to the President.

Worth noting at this stage that the President is never named but we are going to go out on a limb here and say he bares a strong resemblance to our current president, the much loved Michael D.

Through the pigeon’s flight path we witness many of the city’s most famous landmarks, with some quirky and funny additions including a Viking ship winning a boat race in the River Liffey, a crowd of tourists taking selfies outside of Trinity College, as well as the pigeon’s saluting his city cousins taking a swim at the pond in Saint Stephen’s Green.

After nearly dropping the glasses while flying past Christ Church Cathedral, he hitches a ride on a passing hot air balloon (a common Dublin sight!), which takes him past Dublin Castle where he sees the president’s car. Here he flies in and delivers the glasses to the president just in time. What an eventful journey and there is still time for a great punch line at the end!

Of course the other hero in the book apart from the determined pigeon is the lavish illustrations, each covering a double page spread. They are executed in a bright, engaging, child friendly style but are full of detail and highly expressive. The cityscape is highly recognizable, and any child growing up in Ireland will likely be familiar with them and have fun pointing them out. A sequel is already planned, which we’re sure will be just as good. We would highly recommend The President’s Glasses to any family with young children; our kids absolutley love it… it’s destined to be a modern classic.

The President’s Glasses by Peter Donnelly is published by Gill Books and available online or at all good bookshops.
Reviewer: Brake Finson