Friday, March 31, 2017

International Children's Book Day 2017

I was in Meath recently for International Children's Book Day. ICBD is celebrated on or around April 2, which is the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen and it's the occasion to celebrate international children's books and stories. IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People) is the organisation behind it, and it crops up the world over at the initiative of the local branches of IBBY (IBBY Ireland in our case), libraries, schools or arts centres.
Thus I went off with the lovely plan to present a book published in English, relating the story of an Armenian folklore hero and written by a French author. It doesn't get much more international than Disaster David!
Now, as with all lovely plans, some adjustments (ie big improv) had to be made.
(1) I had to go to Meath twice that morning, courtesy of the bus strike: the first time I nearly went on the bus (there was no bus); the second time, I rushed home from Busarás and drove.
(2) the first group I met in Navan expected to hear about Mad Cap. As they hadn't had a chance to read the book yet, there was no disappointment, it just meant that the Q&A at the end was a bit disconnected from the rest of the session.
No matter, we had fun thinking giant thoughts and wondering how different the world would be if we woke up as huge versions of ourselves. The brainstorming was lively and surprising, and the kids' drawing skills proved most impressive.
I was delighted to restore one participant's faith in grown-ups when I turned out to be the first adult she had ever met who knew about manga.
Onwards and forwards, I took to the road again, to Trim this time, where Surprise Number (3) awaited me: 25 ladies from 5th Class instead of the 3rd Class we were expecting. I had a feeling a picturebook (even such a Magnificent and Sophisticated one as Disaster David) wasn't going to work for this audience, so I went into Mad Cap gear and we had a hoot of a session with plenty of shouting and imagining and drawing (kids can seriously draw in Meath!) and writing about super-heroes and equally-super-villains. The Q&A this time strayed into Book Doctor territory which was also great fun. (If you missed my book recommendations, I'm listing them again below, ladies).
So a great day all in all, and a great reassurance that, yes, I can improvise if needs must!
Plus, I got to meet a young song writer who's in with a chance to write the song for the Irish contestant in the Junior Eurovision. How cool is that?
Thanks to everyone for having me and looking after me!

Book recommendations:
Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans: for fans of Greek mythology and running around the Underworld
The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan: a stand-alone novel with plenty of action and gore; his best book in my humble opinion
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin: a sad-and-funny story for fans of Jacqueline Wilson

That's it, as far as I can remember!
For those who wanted to know more about Book Doctors and Book Clinics, it's over here: and here for the upcoming dates:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Writing, rewriting, giants and babies

Chris Haughton's starry night in Goodnight Everyone gets the Baby Bookclub treatment
I've been busy with the Patron of Reading thing lately and it has been a hoot. The baby book club is proving a riot every time and it seems that everyone involved is really enjoying it: babas, toddlers and grown-ups. It is very rewarding to see people coming back and asking for more; even more rewarding to see the little ones rush over to the mats and wait excitedly for the story to begin. And what to say about the preschoolers who bring in their favourite books to show the rest of the group (unprompted) or the stories of terrible-twos who had no time for story-time and who now will grab their grown-up and demand a book be read to them? All of these milestones in the life of a young reader I am totally claiming as a benefit of Baby Book Club. Totally and totally shamelessly. Ahem...
First Class are giants today
I've also been busy trying out new material on my very willing guinea pigs (sorry, kids): doing a poetry workshop with Second Class (of all things!) and, especially, bringing out Disaster David to various school visits.
He has proved a very likeable hero and we've had great fun reading about his antics and creating some new ones for him.
An interesting aspect of this for me has been rewriting the text for a younger audience (of infants classes). A simplified version, with a bit less poetic imagery but a stronger purpose. Which has me wondering why I didn't write it like this in the first place? Writing simply has always been an issue for me; that is one of the reasons I started writing in English, thinking I wouldn't be able to indulge in fancy language as much in a foreign tongue. It worked for Beckett, but I'm not sure it has for me! (The other reason for writing in English was to stop sneaking in heaps of internal rhyming as I do in French; this has been a lot more successful as I can't seem to rhyme in English.)
After-school writing club has been good fun too, with highs and lows, as in everything. It always amazes me how much talent there is going round and how different the creative sensibilities.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Disaster David has landed!

He's here! In the flesh and paper and ink, my last title of 2016, Disaster David has made its way to Dublin from distant Armenia where Zangak Publishing did a fine job with my words and Julie Grugeaux/de Terssac's stunning illustrations.
This is a story very freely inspired by a traditional Armenian tale about David, a young disaster-prone giant.
It involves sheep, leopards and chamber pots, among other things, and is a light-hearted musing on how one's failings can be turned to an advantage.
The book is published in both English and Armenian (two separate editions) and can be purchased in all good bookshops in Armenia as well as online here or there. There will be more widespread distribution eventually, so watch this space for updates!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Babies on Board

As part of my tenure as Patron of Reading in SMGS National School in Inchicore, I have run a couple of sessions of Baby Bookclubs and it's been a hoot, or, more specifically, a roar.
Together with their dedicated grown-ups we have read about kings, queens and castles, about babies and about dinosaurs fierce, meek and fast.
Part of the session is spent reading together: we follow the text on the page as much as we wander from it to make connections with the toys we have in the room, to compare with our own skills (can you be very, very slow like the triceratops?), to manhandle the book or just pore over the images (and maybe do a bit of counting and name some colours, or, even better, find ourselves in the pictures).
The babies are in reality toddlers, with ages ranging mostly between 18 months and 2 and a bit, with the exception of a young lady for whom we are still counting in weeks (17 weeks old for session 1) and who is all eyes and ears: her fellow bookclubbers hold as much interest to her than the books and props. Last week, she was plied with a cloth book and spent half of the session engrossed in it. The other half she spent manipulating dinos like everyone else.
We shout, we run, we sing, we dance. Baby Bookclub is not a quiet affair. But we are engaged, we turn the pages ourselves when we are ready, we comment on everything, we learn (a tiny bit) of sharing and taking turns and we do some absorbing art at the end.
Even in those few sessions, I have seen some very rewarding sights, from the toddler who didn't really want to be there at 9 and didn't want to leave at 9.45, to the 2-year-old who had never quite taken to playgroup but was leading the way in Baby Bookclub.
It is also a chance to answer any questions the grown-ups may have, share reading tips with them and throw in the odd book recommendation. Book doctoring without the white coat!
I'm hoping to do more of these sessions in the new year and can't wait to see how our club members get on with it. For more, head over to my Patron of Reading blog, where you can see the very artistic craft we produced and some extra resources (dinosaur songs, anyone?).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Patron of Reading!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have had the great pleasure and honour to be designated Patron of Reading for Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál Inchicore.
'What's that?' you say. 'Inchi-which?' you say.
A Patron of Reading is a writer who develops a special relationship with a particular school and becomes a sort of embassador for reading for pleasure.
In other words, we're going to have book-related fun. Though job, I know.
SMGS is a National School in Dublin 8 with about 300 kids and, as of now, 1 Patron of Reading. It is the only primary school in the Republic to boast one so far, so we are all super-chuffed. (Sheena Wilkinson is Patron of Reading for Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun, and Pauline Burgess looks after Millenium Integrated Primary School in Ballynahinch).
We're going to have bookish competitions, writing club for kids, writing workshop for the parents, Baby Book Clubs for the younger siblings, and all manner of excitement. Keep up with it all at
If you want to find out more about the Patron of Reading movement, it's over here:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Disaster in sight

Did I not say to watch this space? Well, here he is, or will be very soon, the one and only Disaster David.
David is a young giant with a big heart and big clumsy hands. He is forever breaking things, but he never means to. He is just too strong. So when the good people of Sassoon send him to mind their sheep up on the mountain, they should know what to expect: disaster!

Disaster David is my take on an old Armenian saga. It features sheep and bearded warriors, chamber pots and giant snores, hares and bears and tigers, and is splendidly illustrated by French artist Julie Grugeaux who has done an exceptional job here of mingling traditional patterns and architecture with the energy and zanyness of the text (if I say so myself).
The book is published (imminently) by Zangak publishing in English, with an Armenian translation to follow. Head over to my French blog for more pics...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tip top Tipp

The Inis reading guide in company at Thurles super cool library.
Another October, another bit of wandering, this time through Tipperary where the creative juices flow high.
They got it right in Tipp!
In Roscrea, Templemore, Killenaule, Carrick and Cashel, they know all about evil babies with laser eyes, granny wrestling champions, dentist superheroes who blast their way around with a toothpaste gun, cheese-flavoured chewing-gums, dinner ladies who must cook chicken for 80 days around the world, nasty Mr Pineapple and Acrobanea, the planet at the back of the closet where acrobats are born.
There was laughing, there was reading, there was shouting, there was writing and there was miaowing.
Also, there was some singing in French. For those who missed it, it was a 5-a-day version of Frère Jacques:
Frère Jacques, des tomates
Dormez-vous? dans les choux
Sonnez-les matines, dans les aubergines
Ding ding dong, des citrons.

Thanks so much to everybody who came along for the ride (and indeed provided the ride in the first place!), t'was tremendous!