Out of the Mailbag Comes Songs & Stories: Christmas Gift Ideas


Out of the Mailbag, Comes Songs, Stories, and Christmas Gift Ideas
Reviews by John O’Brien, Jr. @Jobjr


Will Someone Play Bluey?
By Eileen Ivers, Illustrated by Solomiia
Musical Bridge Publishing, West Nyack, New York 2021 33 Pages ISBN 9781737632108

The violins get played,
But Bluey’s dismayed
That still no one picks up the blue violin!

“That’s it!” Bluey shouts,
“I’ve all I can take!
No kid wants to play me, I’ve such a heartache!”

“I’m different, I know,
So I’ll have to show
I’m worthy, be kind to the blue violin!”

Eileen & her famous blue fiddle

Eileen’s children’s book is a “stand-up-for-yourself, anti-bullying book writtenin rhyme and rhythm to teach children about kindness and respect.”  Eileen herself exemplifies that kindness and respect in the time she makes for kids before and after every concert and festival gig she stars in.  I have witnessed

this in person dozens of times in her performances at Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival. Eileen herself plays a blue fiddle – one of her trademark loves, all the way back to her performances as the original fiddler in Riverdance.
Eileen’s Music School is a magical place. When the children go home, the instruments speak.

Why do Drake the drum, Finn the flute and the other instruments tease and bully Bluey? All Bluey the violin wants … is to be played. So, why won’t the children play Bluey? Is it because he looks different?

Find out how his only true friend, Priscilla the piano, helps Bluey gain the confidence to show kids how special he is … how we are all unique. Will they all learn to be kind and respectful?

Join Bluey, the children and the other instruments at Eileen’s music school and see how they ultimately celebrate that, our differences are often our strengths.

I love this book, even at my age, let alone for young kids. I highly recommended Will Someone Play Bluey? for the wonderful writing, illustrations, values, sentiments and sing-song musical flow, but most of all for how kids will love this book, so relevant to today’s kids and the times we live in.  Will Someone Play Bluey? is a playful picture book perfect for ages 4-10 and includes discussions on self-confidence, standing up for yourself, anti-bullying, diversity and being kind.

Will Someone Play Bluey was released November 10th in both eBook & Paperback, debuting at #1.  It is available at’dp/product/B09KMGH838 and check out too. The audiobook will be available soon.

Ted Sullivan, Barnacle of Baseball
The Life of the Prolific League Founder, Scout, Manager and Unrivaled Huckster
By Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina 278 pages.

In his day, T.P. “Ted” Sullivan was considered the best baseball mind in America. Some went so far as to call him “The Daddy” of the sport. He was early baseball’s town-hopping bandleader; the ringmaster of the minor leagues; a George Washington, a Harold Hill, and a P.T. Barnum all rolled into one.

Cunning, fast-talking, witty, charming, serious, and sober, Ted Sullivan traveled more than a million miles in the days of horse-drawn buggies, soot-spitting trains, and lumbering steamships. From the late 1860s until the day he died in 1929, Sullivan played, managed, and scouted for dozens of leagues and teams, planting the seed of his beloved sport across the breadth of the United States, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and South America.

Cincy Enquirer

In 1911, White Sox impresario Charles Comiskey, a.k.a. “The Old Roman,” spoke for many in the early baseball world when he said: Ted Sullivan’s standing in the profession of baseball cannot be measured by modern standards. He is in a class all by himself. He is ever and always ahead of his time, with knowledge of the game and a versatility that no other base- ball man of my acquaintance has ever possessed.”2

Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman write in an easy style, infused with humor and

Tom and Pat

just the right touch of admiration for their subject.  I kept trying to put the book down to go to bed, as dawn got closer and closer. But another fifty pages went by, and another … 

The early days of baseball are interesting, and a man perhaps somewhat forgotten, is brought back into the light, his story readily available for another generation, or three. Ted Sullivan, Barnacle of Baseball is Highly Recommended for sports fans and baseball enthusiasts certainly, but also for those who are interested in and want to learn more about Irish people who made a difference by the sheer will of personality and persuasion. 

In Fact: An Optimist’s Guide to Ireland at 100
by Mark Henry
Gill Books 496 Pages 9780717190386

As Ireland approaches its 100th birthday in 2022, a new book claims that the country has much to celebrate, in fact. Author Mark Henry has identified 100 remarkable achievements of the country’s first century as an independent nation, spanning every aspect of Irish life – economic, social, cultural, and educational. 

Mark Henry

“Ireland’s big birthday is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as a country,” said Henry. “I reviewed every aspect of Irish life, and my conclusion is that we have come very far indeed.” 

As the book highlights, the United Nations ranks Ireland as having the second-best quality of life in the world today, after Norway. The Irish lifespan is twenty-five years longer than those alive in 1922; Half of working-age adults have completed higher education, a figure that has doubled in just twenty years; They earn five times more than their grandparents did; The lives of women and children have improved immensely; And personal freedoms exceed those of any previous generation. 

“I have spent two decades working in tourism and telling the world what a great place Ireland is. I wanted to prove it beyond any doubt,” said Henry who gathered facts and figures from sixty national and international organisations as the basis for 120 different graphs and tables in the book. It took Henry, a resident of Dublin, three years to complete the task. 

“Like any nation, we have important problems to address. But no matter how you look at it, we are the most fortunate generation ever to live on this island. The place has been transformed for the better.”

Ireland’s quality of life has improved faster than any other developed nation over the past thirty years – rising twenty-two places in the United Nation’s Human Development ranking to reach second place. The author points to the country’s strong community bonds, its stable democracy, its investment in high levels of education, and its openness to the world as the reasons why the country has excelled.

“Ireland’s success has helped it to end its tradition of emigration and to become a leading destination for immigrants,” explains Henry. Nearly one in five Irish residents today was born elsewhere – a figure that is amongst the highest in Europe. “The country has never been so multicultural, and that will help us to lay strong foundations for continued success into the century ahead.” 

In Fact: An Optimist’s Guide to Ireland by Mark Henry is available in all online bookstores.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day: History, Traditions, and Activities 
A Holiday Book for Kids 
by John O’Brien, Jr. @JobJr

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with this fun introduction for kids ages 6 to 9. St. Patrick’s Day is about more than just shamrocks and leprechauns. This engaging nonfiction book for kids explains the history, traditions, and customs of St. Patrick’s Day―and includes interactive activities that encourage kids to celebrate at home or in their communities. 
This standout among Saint Patrick’s Day books for kids includes: 

  • Celebratory traditions―Kids will learn how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all around the world in different ways, including parades, festivals, sports tournaments, treasure hunts, and more.
  • A variety of activities―From games like Parade Bingo and a Green Scavenger Hunt to recipes for Irish Flag Cookies and Shamrock Shakes, kids can explore hands-on ways to get festive. 
  • Fun facts and illustrations―Colorful illustrations and thought-provoking facts help kids discover new things about this holiday. When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day books for kids, this is the one that will get your child excited to learn and celebrate.

“Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is a wonderful book for all Celtic kids, especially those who are members of our far-flung diaspora.  It’s slim, very readable, and packed with knowledge.  Adults can learn from it too – I studied Irish for many years back home but had to wait for this book to grasp that the Irish alphabet has only 18 letters.  A must read for all who wish to begin with a strong foundation for a lifetime’s appreciation of Irish culture.”
Larry Kirwan Black 47/Irish Echo/Celtic Crush/SiriusXM

Personalized signed copies of all of John’s books are available at

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, History, Traditions, and Activities A Holiday Book for Kids
Festival Legends, Songs & Stories: The People Who Made the Music that Defined a People
~ A biographical look at twelve Irish music legends, including Tommy Makem, Liam Clancy, Johnny McEvoy, Dublin City Ramblers, Barleycorn …
The Lyrics of Irish Freedom ~The history and the stories behind rebellious bard and ballad we think we know so well.
First Generation – a book of original poetry

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