DESPITE PUBLIC perceptions that fewer children are reading books, there has been a major increase in the publication of books for children in recent years. This is due in no small measure to the work of Children’s Books Ireland, and more especially Siobhán Parkinson.
The setting up of the imprint Little Island Press, a follow on from the New Island Press Open Door Series, is a firm endorsement of their work, as is the quality of the books they are publishing - and these books would not have seen the light of day if there was not an audience for them.
It also is gratifying to note the number of Galway writers writing for children. The Miss Prim series by Knocknacarra's Deirdre Sullivan, are hugely popular, and this year was marked by a new watershed in Irish children’s writing with the publication of the wonderful The Wordsmith by Patricia Ford from Market Street.
Within the last two months, Little Island published one of those books that every child from eight to 80 should read - Once Upon A Place. Compiled by Eoin Colfer and beautifully illustrated by PJ Lynch, it is an anthology of stories and poems by well known writers Roddy Doyle, John Connolly, Pat Boran, Siobhán Parkinson, Jim Sheridan, Eoin Colfer himself, Oisin McCann, and Derek Landy, author of the hugely successful Skulduggery books
In his introduction, Colfer says you “will read stories of magical pumping stations, adolescent detectives and transforming bears to name but a few. You will be absorbed by wonderful poems which conjure pictures of school holidays, bloodthirsty donkeys and travelling snails. And with every word you read you will be transported to various places around Ireland where the magic is as warm and golden as the summer sun”.
Among the motley crew of writers who transport us to these magic places is Galway’s Geraldine Mills whose poem 'Snail Pals' begins with: “I hear Lia calling/as the sun high-fives the sky./I look out the window of my whorly, twurley house,/and there we are nose to eye.” It ends with: “Now here we sit at the top of the world,/lord and lady of all we survey./And we dine on greens and yum jelly beans,/BFFs in all of Galway”. In between, readers will lose themselves in the sheer warm and comforting music of these delightful verses.
Another sign of the growing number of children who read is the appearance on the market of self-published books throughout the country, especially at this time of year, and again, Galway is not wanting in this field.
Carina Ginty from Rockbarton, has a professional background in marine studies and a young son called Cillian. By way of introducing him to marine life and the Irish language, she devised a series of sea "learning adventures” for Captain Cillian. She has just published three of these adventures in little books entitled Surfing Adventure, Hidden Caves, and Stormy Sea Adventure. Each story introduces the child to a new aspect of marine life as well as new words as Gaeilge. The books are available individually or in a cheerful pack which includes a few added goodies.
Moycullen's Declan Clarke was having tremendous success in having his two sons engage in creative writing. To bring this process a step further, he developed his own style of writing and within the last month successfully published his delightful book for children Vinny the Mole and The Baby Dragon. Superbly illustrated by Kieran Clarke, this bright little volume is truly a product of the community. Early drafts were read to national school pupils in Moycullen and Roscahill. Their reactions and comments were taken on board and formed an integral part of the finished text.
As Gaeilge freisin, tá scríobhneoirí ón Gaillimh ag foilsiú leabhar den scoth i gcomhar paistí den scoth. Ar dtús don déagoir tá an úscéal ó pheann Máire Uí Dhufaigh “Raic”. Tá ríméad ar Chaitríona nuair a éiríonn léi jab samhraidh a fháil sa ghnó a bhfuil Séamas ag obair ann! Ach in ainneoin a hiarrachtaí, is beag spéis a léiríonn sé inti. Chun éad a chuir air glacann sí le cuireadh dul le fear eile ar an oileán, fear óg a bhfuil suim aige inti, agus cuirtear tús le heachtraí a fhágann Caitríona í féin agus a chairde I mbaol a bháite
I gchomhar na bpáistí níos óige tá síscéal Lios Lurgain Éalú as an Lios again. Éalaíonn Luisne an sí óg agus a chara Deirdre atá ina gconaí faoi Líos Lurgan I nDomhan na Sí amach san Domhan Thuas nó an Domhan Mór ach ní tharlaionn gach rud mar a cheaptar agus nis gear go mbíonn an beirt I dtríoblóid. Aoifge Ní Dhufaigh an t-údar.
Fa dheireadh tá leabahar ón pheann flaithiúlach sin de Patricia Ford agus a cairdí Kevin Boyle agus Meanagdh Fibín sa sraith Saol Faoi Shráid: An Gíotar Nua. Scéal spaíriúl agus spleodrach faoi chairdeas atá againn anseo le learáidí de scoth.