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'There's So Much in a Book!
The National Children’s Book Festival theme, There's So Much in a Book! provided ample scope for Clare County Library to develop a month- long programme in October. This year’s Children’s Book Festival would highlight the best children’s writers, the best illustrators of children’s books and provided a platform for a whole host of events, bringing a focused awareness of books and reading to thousands of children in the county.
Sixty individual events were hosted by all library branches and included visiting authors, science workshops, drawing and illustration sessions, storytelling and live history shows.
Alan Nolan known and loved the length and breadth of the country for his books for children, including the Murder Can Be Fatal mysteries series, Fintan’s Fifteen and Conor’s Caveman was one of the main attractions. His Cartoon Capers workshops were a resounding success.
E. R. Murray, a writer, reader, lover of adventures and all things outdoors introduced 5th and 6th class children to her Nine Lives Trilogy. Her workshops were stimulating and exciting and she made stories come very much alive in her Magical World of Senses & Storytelling workshops.
Alan Early the critically acclaimed author of the Father of Lies Chronicles (Mercier Press) including Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent, Arthur Quinn and the Fenris Wolf and Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper was a welcome return visitor. His events for schoolchildren were engaging, interactive, and varied. His new workshop, THOR BLIMEY! The Secrets of the Vikings and their Gods, saw children take part in the oldest game show in history – Who Wants to be a Viking God? In engaging and funny hour-long presentations children at his shows learned the secrets of the Vikings; how they lived, what they believed in and even how they kept themselves clean!
Junior classes were treated to stories of animals and nature in Etain McCooey’s presentations on her book, Deefer’s Day Out. Illustrated by Alison O’Brien, the self-published book tells the story of Deefer the adventurous border collie puppy and her travels through a snowy countryside. Etain’s library visits included lots of chat, music and song and were well received by young audiences and their teachers.
Other events for younger children included visits by first time guests for CBF in County Clare. Sarah Murphy’s story workshops were fun and interactive and with lots of help from her enthusiastic audiences she provided free reign for childhood imaginations.
Author Valerie Sheehan has written a series of stories for very young children featuring Tony the Turtle. These she describes as “short social stories to help families with children who see and feel the world a little differently.” In her workshops in Clare’s library branches Valerie presented circle time activity inviting children present to interact with her stories.
Clare County Library staff were delighted to welcome the O’Brien Press published author, Gillian Perdue to four branches on the 21st and 22nd of October. Her first novel, Adam’s Starling, won the Eilis Dillon Memorial Award in 2002 and was hailed by the Evening Herald as a book that ‘belongs on the shelf of any home with school-going children.’ During her library visits Gillian introduced us to her O’Brien Press Panda books for younger children, in particular Conor’s Cowboy Suit. To say she brought the story to life is an understatement. Gillian used her expertise as a dance teacher to include dance and drama in her sessions which were the most memorable events of the hundreds seen in libraries over recent years. She effortlessly encouraged the youngest and most reluctant children to engage with her character, to get involved in the action and to bring the stories to life.
Remembering 1916 was important to the organizers of CBF 2016 and they were pleased to have author Brian Gallagher bring a sense of the Easter Rising to children, through his novel Friend or Foe (O’Brien Press, 2015). Brian’s books have been hugely popular with schools, and have been chosen for many “One Book One Community” projects. In his visits to Clare libraries, Brian revealed the nuts and bolts of how a historical novel is put together, using Friend or Foe, as a reference point to explore inspiration, research, plotting, and characterization.
Michael Moylan of Irish History Live added to the historical theme bringing an array of weapons, ammunition, costumes and the usual impressive volume of information to four libraries. During his shows children became Irish volunteers! joined the Irish Citizen’s Army and the I.R.B.! and discovered how our country became a nation!
The National Library of Ireland came to Clare this October when Brid O’Sullivan from the Learning and Outreach Department facilitated the Ancient Art of Heraldry, Children’s Coat of Arms Workshop, in four libraries. Children learned about the ancient art of heraldry and looked at the ways coats of arms are used today. They designed their own imagined coat of arms at this fun workshop that had been specially developed for a primary school audience. An accompanying exhibition entitled Hosting Heraldry: Coats of Arms Uncovered consisting of eight banner stands and a discovery box containing hands-on learning materials and activities was also available for viewing at participating libraries. The exhibition was inspired by the National Library’s unique collection of genealogical manuscripts and explores the related themes of identity and citizenship.
Illustration and drawing workshops came courtesy of Alan Shoosmith and Aidan Courtney who both focused on the books of Roald Dahl celebrating the famous author who would have been 100 years old on the 13th of September this year. Roald Dahl-style delumptious delights were available in Kilrush and Kilkee libraries with happy children walking back to school with helpings of Liquid Chocolate Mixed by Waterfall, or Fizzy Lifting Drinks thanks to Marie Clohessy who was in charge of the menu!
And last but not least were the Children’s Book Festival Science shows brought to Clare this year, courtesy of Declan Holmes of Science Ireland. Rockets were launched and waves were made in Ennistymon, Miltown Malbay, Newmaket on Fergus and Sixmilebridge libraries. Flight, pressure, density, waves, light, sound and electricity were among the topics covered in an interactive learning experience.
The closing event of Children’s Book Festival 2016 took place in Glór Theatre, Ennis on the 27th of October. Renowned storyteller Niall de Burca performed two shows beginning for primary school children. A lover of stories and an advocate of reading and libraries, Niall’s show was a fitting end to the festival. His memorable and bewitching stories really did enchant his audiences.
Feedback received from those collaborating on CBF 2016 included emails and reports from schools and library branches
Thank you for organising the Niall de Burca storytelling
event last week. I took my group of five as arranged to the earlier session
and they had a wonderful time, and some of our seniors went to the later
one. Niall is excellent at engaging the children (and teachers too). So
we all had a great morning. And it was such a bonus to not have to ask
parents for money. Thanks again.
Most of the children came dressed as their favourite
Dahl characters for Alan Shoosmith’s art workshop. We had 4 Willy
Wonkas, Danny the Champion of the World, Matilda’s galore, Fantastic
Mr Fox, Oompa Loompa’s and some Sophie’s from the BFG. They
were great – some very inventive costumes.
The children and their teacher had read Conor’s
Cowboy Suit, around which Gillian Perdue based her session and so were
fully familiar with the characters and story. Teachers and children joined
in the activities with gusto. The author managed the session extremely
well and was obviously well prepared and practiced. The simple props were
a big hit and the session was full of laughter and excitement. The children
were heard to remark that they would continue to play the same games when
they went back to school. Their teachers commented on the quality of the
We had eighteen children from Carrigaholt N.S. for
E R Murray’s workshop. They were utterly enthralled by her –
she was so interesting, and the children had piles of great ideas for
the story they created and loads of questions about writing for her. They
had been doing some creative writing in class and were very keen, lots
of participation. She could have gone on for another hour and none of
them would have moved from their seats.
Brian Gallagher was excellent. He kept the children
and adults’ attention throughout the 45 minutes, with his easy manner
and informative session. He didn’t bore the group by just reading
continuously, but chatted about his life in general as regards his career
as a full time writer of books, and also his script writing for T.V. and
documentaries for radio stations like Newstalk. He invited questions from
the audience and you could see that the children were genuinely interested
judging by the type of intelligent questions they asked. This session
was well suited to the 11/12 age group.
Alan started off with an activity with lots of audience
participation. All hands were raised for each question. He made it fun.
You could tell they liked him right from the start and this made it easier
for them to participate. Then he did a reading from his first book. You
could tell they really loved his books as they had so many questions about
the story. He was very patient and generous with his answers. There was
a lot of interest in asking him about his inspiration but mostly the children
wanted to know what happened next in his books!
The Heraldry Workshop was well organized and well
run. Brid knew her stuff! She was informative, calm, inclusive and encouraging.
The children really got engaged and into the whole process and created
some fine coats of armour.
The hours passed fast as the children followed Aidan
Courtney’s step-by-step guide to drawing cartoon figures with plenty
of interactive talk. The children loved the fact that Aidan was in costume
and asked him about his character and his wife, Mrs Twit! The event went
very well. Children are very knowledgeable about the books of Roald Dahl
and familiar with a huge range of characters, lots of which Aidan worked
into the session. They seemed to follow his instructions easily and were
delighted to produce some excellent drawings. There was great interest
from schools in the event. Very topical and relevant given Roald Dahl’s
anniversary and this session built on other events the library had held
to mark it. Lots of Roald Dahl books issued after the session.
Aidan has a great laid back, humourous style that
works well. It was a large group but he held their interest for the full
The Declan Holmes Science Ireland Hands-On Science
show was excellent and just the type of event we need. His preparation
and presentation was excellent. The combination and mix of information
and entertainment was spot on. It was a very interactive session with
great audience participation and yet he managed to keep audience attention
throughout even with a big group.
Alan Nolan introduced himself to his audience and
told them about himself and his work. He went on to tell them stories
about his sister and how she used treat him when he was growing up (all
very exaggerated) and he told them he had used these characters in his
books. Before he finished he invited the children to draw a dog character
fron one of his books showing them how to achieve each step. He was very
lively and really got both the children and their teachers involved and
laughing. He was one of the best events we have had here.
Declan Holmes created many experiments using household
objects like hairdryers, bottles filled with water, straws, balloons etc.
to demonstrate how flight, pressure, sound and many more everyday occurrences
that we take for granted happen. He pitched the show to suit the younger
7-9 year old curious minds perfectly. He kept good control of the large
group of 53 children and made sure that each child got a chance to take
part in an experiment. He certainly stimulated a level of curiosity with
his show judging by all the questions he received at the end and throughout
the hour. The teachers and children thoroughly enjoyed the experiments
and the teachers asked for Declan’s details afterwards with a view
to having him visit their schools on another occasion.
The National Library’s Coat of Arms Workshop
was very suitable. The subject appealed to all the children, both the
historical ‘horrible histories’ aspect and the creative. Boys
particularly seemed to enjoy it. The facilitator was very good and in
control at all times of a large and boisterous group. Mix of historical
info and creativity was spot on.
Thanks to Clare Library staff for the warm welcome
and the great time I had in Clare for CBF The library teams were super-helpful
and organised and the kids were great. And not a single teacher refused
to be Bartender Betty...so that's brilliant!