THIS COMING September 13 would have marked Roald Dahl's 100th birthday. While there will be a great deal of talk with regards to his wonderful books, especially the children’s books, somehow his work for adults rarely gets a mention.
With this in mind, it is appropriate we look at what is it that makes a children’s book rise above the parapet. To my mind, there are three elements needed for a children’s book to make the grade - Its presentation must be strong enough to tempt the child or adult to take it off a bookshop shelf containing hundreds of similar books; on opening the book, the child must be captivated enough to stay with it; and, most importantly, the book must give the child that 'Thing' that will personally resonate with the reader for the rest of his/her life.
Most books achieve the first step, some the second, but only very few make the third. The ones that do not jump the first hurdle tend to be self-published. The faults, and there are many, inherent in self-published adult books become even more sharply evident in children’s, and the child’s instinct is so immediate, s/he will reject the book out of hand.
However, there has been a marked improvement in self-published children’s books over the last couple of years. Two examples of this improvement, both from Galway, appeared last Christmas: Vinnie The Mole by Kenneth Clarke and Captain Cillian by Carina Ginty.
About two weeks ago, I received a phone call from an Emma-Jane Leeson wondering would we be interested in stocking her new children’s book. Her claim that this was the most wonderful book in the world did not surprise me, but her enthusiasm and spirit did, and two or three days later, a small package arrived in the post. The minute the package was opened, the 'Wow' factor stepped in.
The front cover leapt out at me - full of joy, energy, mischief, enthusiasm and life. Before I knew it, I was totally engrossed in the rapid fire script and at one point had to stop myself, albeit briefly, to say, "Hey, wait a minute, this is for kids!" almost immediately followed by, “Ah to hell with it”, and with the greatest of pleasure, I lost myself to the magic until I finished the book.
Under the general title of The Adventures of Johnny Magory, (I gather there are more stories on the way ), this one is Johnny Magory in the Magical World. Written by Emma-Jane Gleeson, delightfully illustrated and designed by Kim Shaw, it has a lot more to offer than the old nursery rhyme it recalls: “I’ll tell you a story/About Johnny Mc Gory/Will I begin it?/That’s all that’s in it.”