Dr Hibernica’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals celebrates the diversity and wonder of Ireland’s fauna – from the tiny Eurasian pygmy shrew to the enormous killer whale – with exquisite zoologically correct illustrations and light-hearted prose. Giving loving and detailed information about the robins, puffins and owls of the air, the toads, seals, and basking sharks of Ireland’s waters, and the hedgehogs, otters and deer with whom we share the land, this is a treasure of a book with details of twenty-eight of Ireland’s most compelling and iconic animals.
The animals are introduced to the reader by Dr Hibernica, a fictitious Irish zoologist who travels the country and knows everything there is to know about Irish wildlife. The Compendium is presented in the style of her notebook and field notes, with jokes and sketches throughout.
The book was the idea of Irish-Polish illustrator Aga Grandowicz, who originally wanted to be a vet, and to this day spends some of her happiest times drawing animals. She joined forces with Bray native Rob Maguire, who supplied the witty, entertaining and informative prose – despite being allergic to animals. They also worked closely with Nicola Marples, Professor in Zoology at Trinity College Dublin, who shared her knowledge of the animals of Ireland and checked every fact – furry, fishy or flighty – in the book.
Aga Grandowicz says that ‘As a child I loved reading books about biology and animals and, because I’m a designer and illustrator, it was natural for me to come up with an idea for a book on the topic. But I wanted my book to be different than all the books I could see these days in bookstores – I wanted it to be humorous and illustrated (as opposed to filled with photographs). I was lucky to meet Rob in the ad agency where I was hired as a freelance designer to work on a project together – shortly after I read his first copy for the job, I realised he’d be the perfect person to work with me on the book. And he said yes!’
Rob Maguire says ‘This book was a real voyage of discovery for me – I’ve never had a pet (beyond a goldfish) and am allergic to most animals that people would usually want to be around, so with this project I was really sailing into unknown territory. But with such a fascinating subject, channeling Hibernica’s passion was relatively easy. Aga’s illustrations also really helped in that sense – they’re so intimately detailed that it felt like actually wandering into the wild and getting properly immersed in nature.’
Siobhán Parkinson, publisher at Little Island, says, ‘When Aga Grandowicz came to us with a bunch of sample drawings of Irish animals and the idea for making a book about them, we were absolutely charmed by the quality of the artwork and could already see the magnificent book it would make. So what could we do only publish it!’
Rob Maguire hails from Bray, Co.Wicklow, and has worked as a musician, a script supervisor, a journalist, a blogger and a bookseller. Now an advertising copywriter, Rob spends his time coming up with madcap ideas – such as writing a book about animals, despite being allergic to them.
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As a child, Aga Grandowicz always wanted to be a vet or an ichthyologist (a scientist who studies fish), but she changed her mind before she started college and became an art director and a graphic designer instead. Originally from Gdynia in Poland, she’s been living and working in Dublin since 2006. She is happiest when drawing furry animals and old trees or designing corporate identity.