Christmas Reading

Happy Christmas from OBP!

So it’s that time of year when we’re all planning on settling down for a long winter’s nap or rather a long holiday with lots of books by a warm fire! This time of year always seems tinged with nostalgia and having just published a collection of fairy tales by Oscar Wilde (Stories for Children), here at OBP we’ve been thinking about our childhood memories of reading and our favourite stories at Christmas …



Jamie O’Connell, sales administrator:

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943

I was the kind of child that read everything I could lay my hands on: the cereal boxes while eating breakfast, the shampoo bottle’s promises of glossy hair while having a bath, the labels on the cleaning products under the sink; the RTE Guide on the sofa; my mother’s Hello! magazine stuffed down the side of the couch.

Each week, my grandparents took my sisters and I to Fermoy and stuff us full of sweets: Refreshers, Stingers, Desperate Dans, and Sherbit Dips. This trip would always include a trip to the library. Roald Dahl’s books were a firm favourite, as were Enid Blyton’s. Later on, my appetite for Point Horrors was insatiable. Often, I’d have one of my six library books read before my grandparent’s Morris Minor pulled up outside our bungalow in Ballydeague.

However, though I loved contemporary authors, I had a great love of legends, myths and fairy tales also. Irish legends were a particular favourite, as were the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, notably the story of The Wild Swans and the poor sister who’s hands got stung as she sewed jumpers made out of nettles. The Wild Swans, like most of those fairy tales, had dark elements. Protagonists were not guaranteed to survive the stories unscathed. But this made the stories all the more thrilling, even if took a little longer to get to sleep at night!

Five years ago, I had the good fortune to study ‘Archive of the Imagination’ under the tutelage of Dr Éilís Ní Dhuibhne in Unversity College Dublin as part of my MA in Creative Writing. The module involved the examination of fairy tales, raising the question, why have they have survived over the millennia? It’s often theorised that they remain because they are not simply ‘stories for kids’, rather they tap into our unconscious on a deep level, challenging our fears and expectations of life. In fact, many of the great children’s fiction of the last one hundred years draws on these fairy tales, be it the tales of J. K. Rowling or Roald Dahl, where heroes and heroines are forced to face darkness and cruelty in a very real way.

This autumn I’ve had the chance to dip back into the fairy tales of my childhood as we published a new illustrated version of Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde. Like the Hans Christian Andersen tales, they contain all the bleakness and magic that I remember from the days when I ate sticky Refresher bars and read books in the back of my grandparent’s Morris Minor (while they warned me that I’d be as ‘sick as a dog’ from reading in a moving car).

Last September, I visited my eldest sister’s home and was woken up at dawn by my six and four-year-old nephews. As I made them breakfast, I watched my nephews fight over who could read the cereal boxes, proof that nothing changes. It makes me confident that the fairy tales that I once read and loved, and millenniums of children did before me, will find an audience in a whole new generation.

Helen Carr, Editor:

As a child I was an avid reader. Books always featured on my Christmas list, and I was delighted to unwrap books (alongside other less erudite, but equally memorable, presents like a large plastic unicorn we called ‘Mighty One’, ‘Cluedo’, My Little Pony, an ‘Irish’ Care Bear, ‘Operation!’ and other beloved toys of the 1980s). In truth, I remember my first introduction to some of my favourite childhood authors being connected to hospital visits rather than Christmas – a big haul of second-hand books bought for me when going in to hospital for an eye operation, aged six, included Elinor M. Brent Dyer’s The School at the Chalet and Noel Streatfeild’s White Boots and began a long relationship with both authors’ books. I discovered Antonia Forest, Meindert de Jong, Philippa Pearce and Nina Bawden in my classroom library at school, while my local library had lots of L.M. Montgomerys and Laura Ingalls Wilders.

Some authors, though, are really linked to Christmas in my mind – one Christmas when I was about nine or ten I got ‘A Box of Enchantment’ by Nina Beachcroft for Christmas. It might have been the novelty of the box, and the four books sitting so tidily inside it, that made me remember it so well, but I think it was also the stories – I’d never read Nina Beachcroft before then, and there was a real – and quite frightening – magic to her stories. Set in England in the eighties, they were about ordinary children stumbling into magical situations. Even today, I remember her description of the heavy air and oppressive silence in an English forest as the children find themselves transported back in time in Under the Enchanter. Another author who always seemed connected to Christmas is J.R.R. Tolkien. I can’t remember when I first read his books. I borrowed The Lord of the Rings from an older friend when I was in primary school, and read The Hobbit after, but it wasn’t until I was ten or eleven that I really grew to love Middle Earth, but from then until almost the end of secondary school my dad bought me a Tolkien calendar for Christmas every year.

Ironically, some of the books that I loved to re-read around Christmas as a child were about an American-Jewish family – Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series. These stories about a big, New-York-Jewish family in the early part of the twentieth century really captured my imagination with their stories of apartment buildings and trips to the soda fountain and the big public library. Even though they were celebrating Hanukkah rather than Christmas, the descriptions of their big family celebration dinners always made me feel particularly festive. I used to reread The Snow Queen and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe quite often too – though as my sister recently reminded me, I only really liked the snowy section at the beginning of the book, with Mr Tumnus, and the iconic streetlight in the snow illustration; I never liked Aslan, and enjoyed the book less once he came on the scene.

By the time I was fifteen, I was godmother to my youngest cousin, and I continued the tradition of books as presents with her. Happily, her childhood and teenage birthdays often coincided with the release of a new Harry Potter book – the age gap between us melted away as we both read them for the first time and compared theories of what might happen next.  I now have a twenty-month old niece and a one-year-old nephew, and they’ll both be receiving books (among other things!) this Christmas. (I don’t want to spoil their surprises, but Chris Judge and Dick Bruna will be featuring). Long may the Christmas-book tradition continue!

Jamie O’Connell is sales administrator at The O’Brien Press and Committee Member of Dublin Book Festival. He is the author of a short story collection, Some Sort of Beauty (Bradshaw Books, 2012). He was awarded an Artist’s Bursary from Dublin City Council in June 2013 and completing an MFA in University College Dublin. More information can be found on

Helen Carr is an editor at The O’Brien Press and children’s books enthusiast.

Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde is available now in all good bookshops and at

Confessions of an O’Brien Press Intern



Last week our wonderful intern Catherine finished up her five month internship with us. Here she writes about her experiences …


The word ‘intern’ often comes with more than a few negative connotations. And, after hearing some of the internship horror stories from America, many friends automatically questioned my sanity when I told them what I had voluntarily put myself forward for. Not only would I be getting to grips with my new job as a publishing intern, but being in my final year of college, I would have mountains of reading material and essay deadlines looming at every corner. I can see now why most thought I was absolutely mad!

However, after nearly five months working as a marketing intern for The O’Brien Press and although I will willingly admit that it was tough, I have absolute no regrets about my decision. From day one, it was obvious just how rewarding the experience of working here would be. Once introduced to all the staff, I was warmly encouraged to ask questions about the job I would be taking on, the department I would be working with and about the publishing industry as a whole. I was always invited into the different meetings, whether they related to editorial, production or sales, which gave me such a wide perspective on what the different roles in publishing actually are. I found the production meetings particularly fascinating. You never realise how much thought goes into the minute details that essentially create the books in front of you.

My day to day job usually involved a variety of tasks as well as long term projects that included everything from designing invitations for book launches to researching blogs, preparing mail-outs and organising author events. As part of the marketing team, my job was to do what I could to make sure the widest possible audience was aware of the new up and coming publications. Although that seemed pretty straightforward at the beginning, I was surprised at how flexible and creative the job really demands you to be. The marketing officers, Clare and Ruth, were constantly bouncing ideas off each other about their many on going and future projects. They treated each book in a uniquely specific way, changing small details to suit each particular publication. It made the learning process a lot easier (as I could actually listen in to all their good ideas!) but also really interesting as each different project really came alive. It made the atmosphere in the office really enjoyable as well since there was rarely a quiet moment!

A definite highlight of my time here was an event that took place in the National Gallery where The O’Brien Press celebrated the launch of Brandon, now an imprint of The O’Brien Press, in conjunction with the launch of two new books. It was fascinating to be at an event that was attended by so many influential people from the publishing industry, although admittedly, a little over-whelming as I’m woeful at names and could barely remember who was who. Nonetheless though, the experience was so motivating. It made me realise just how much I wanted to stay involved in this industry. Looking back on my time with The O’Brien Press, I can definitely appreciate just how worthwhile the experience of working here was, not only in terms of discovering the industry’s different roles but exploring which of these I would be best suited to. I’ve learnt as much about myself, my work ethic and what I want for the future as I have about the industry and that is what has really made this experience a rewarding one.

For now however, all I need is to finish my college year, pass my exams and then begin my search for the dream job every publishing intern dreams of!

What did the Normans do for Ireland?

StrongbowThis is the question that Conor Kostick aims to answer in his new book Strongbow – The Norman Invasion of Ireland. Here he talks about the book’s journey to publication.


In a way, this book on Strongbow has been a lifetime in the making. I grew up in Chester, a town in the UK that in medieval times had a very strong connection to Dublin. My dad was a tour guide in Chester and being from Dublin, really explored that connection in depth. Our house had three or four shelves of academic books about the medieval period. And as kids, my brother Gavin and I would love to play in the ruins of the castles we were taken to on outings.

My raw enthusiasm for the subject was channeled in a more scholarly direction by my attending Trinity College Dublin as an undergraduate and a postgraduate in Medieval history. TCD had – and despite suffering from the impact of austerity policies, to a large extent still has – a real concentration of expertise in the period (Strongbow came to Ireland in 1170).  I’m thinking of Katharine Simms, Terry Barry and Sean Duffy in particular, but also I.S. Robinson, who helped me considerably with my reading of Gerald of Wales, our main source for these events.

The book took solid form thanks to a remarkable stroke of luck. In the summer of 2010 I was writer-in-residence at Farmleigh, for my fiction writing. But there Julia Cummins, the librarian, knowing my interest in medieval history, showed me a Latin manuscript, a copy of the Topographia Hibernica by Gerald of Wales. Feeling like a character in a Dan Brown novel, I examined the document with growing excitement. It turned out that this was a version of the Topographia unknown to modern scholarship, due to the fact it ‘disappeared’ from view in 1969, into the private collection of Benjamin Guinness.

Marsh’s Library, which assumed responsibility for the Farmleigh Library in 2009, awarded me a fellowship in 2011 to work on the manuscript and this was really useful for getting to grips with Gerald of Wales.

Having said all this, I don’t want to give the impression that Strongbow is a book written for academics. It isn’t. Here, I’m writing for everyone interested in the story of Strongbow’s involvement in Irish affairs and while my narrative relates to the information we have from historical and archaeological sources, I didn’t want to fill the text with endless qualifications and justifications. For those who want that extra depth, I make suggestions for further reading in an afterword.

With Strongbow, I was trying to write the kind of history I love to read when I’m not seeking a specialist piece of research. I’ve tried to do justice to the passions and violence of the era and the qualities of the main personalities. In particular, I read Diarmait Mac Murchada’s feud with Tigernán Ua Ruairc of Bréifne as being so bitter that Mac Murchada is a kind of Captain Ahab figure, willing to set aside all the usual norms of the Irish aristocracy in pursuit of vengeance.

One last point worth stating is that the book does not take the usual view that the arrival of Strongbow’s army represented a clash of two rival ethnicities, the Saxon and the Celt, not least because Strongbow’s knights saw themselves as ‘Franks’ and spoke a variant of Norman French. Rather, Strongbow deals with what lay beneath the personal dramas, the clash of two differing social systems.


Strongbow – The Norman Invasion of Ireland by Conor Kostick is out now

Interview with New Children’s Author Erika McGann


Erika McGann is an exciting new talent in Irish children’s books and we were delighted to publish her spooky debut The Demon Notebook last year. Readers will be thrilled to know that the fantastic sequel The Broken Spell is out now!

Here is Erika’s interview with a great new children’s books website whose co-founder is an ex-OBPer!


We are very excited to introduce our very first interviewee, debut author Erika McGann. Her debut novel, The Demon Notebook, is a funny, entertaining and spooky adventure that 12+ girls will love. She sat down with Gobblefunked to tell us all about life as a writer.


1)    Why did you want to become a children’s author?

I loved writing when I was a kid, but never really kept it up after school. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I thought of giving it another go. I wanted to write something I’d really enjoy and, even though I’m a sophisticated grown-up now, supernatural stuff in school still sounded like the most fun.

2)    Tell us about your writing process/habits?

I’m not terribly disciplined, but I do try to have the whole story and major scenes planned out before I start writing anything. I’ve got the memory span of a fruit fly so, if I don’t scribble out a timeline first, I’m likely to wander off on a tangent and change the story entirely. I keep my messy, barely readable timeline by my laptop as a constant reminder. I still wander off sometimes, but I’m working on it.

3)    What was your favourite book as a child?

When I was very young I adored Roald Dahl, and I think The BFG was my favourite. A few years later, though, I got stuck into the Point Horror series. They were kind of scary, predictable, and published by the dozen; the literary equivalent of buttered popcorn. I couldn’t get enough of them.

4)    What’s your favourite part of being a published author?

Having friends and family recognize characters or events, and asking ‘Is that supposed to be me?’ I lie a lot, and say ‘no’.

5)    What authors do you admire today?

I’m a big fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, so Suzanne Collins would definitely be one. I love the dystopian / sci-fi thing, but I’m also a sucker for the romantic classics. I’ll never tire of re-reading Jane Austen. I think I know Persuasion by heart at this stage.

6)    What’s next for you? Have you any books lined up?

I do. I’m very excited about the sequel to The Demon Notebook, which is coming out in August. It’s called The Broken Spell, and I’m working on the edits at the moment. I can’t wait to have both books sitting together on my shelf at home!

7)    Will you be doing anything to celebrate World Book Day?

I’ve got a number of events lined up with school classes in bookshops all around Dublin. I was terrified of doing them when I started back in October, but the kids aren’t nearly as scary as I thought they’d be! They get so enthusiastic about reading and writing, and I have a great time doing the events now.

Erika McGann grew up in Drogheda and now lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has a respectable job, very normal friends and rarely dabbles in witchcraft. She loves writing stories that are autobiographical. Sort of.


Check out for lots of reviews and news on children’s books and for more information about Erika’s books visit


Guest Post: Entertaining Made Easy with Edward Hayden!

FoodtoLove-pb                   FoodForFriends

More and more when it comes to all the big occasions in a family, be it a christening, first Holy Communion, Confirmation, special birthday or anniversary, people are choosing to entertain at home. With this in mind I have devised some really simple, stress free recipes to help people when planning the culinary aspects of the occasion.

On April 26th in the Springhill Court Hotel Kilkenny I launched my third cookery book, Food for Friends which was published by The O’Brien Press. When I set about planning this book, I thought long and hard about a different style format and themes to focus on to separate it and set it apart from other books in this genre. My first book, and indeed my company is called Edward Entertains so I wanted to keep this book very much focused on entertaining, but entertaining of a different kind. Sometimes when we think of entertaining we think of it in a much stylised way with polished silverware, cut glass crystal and starched linen. What I wanted to demonstrate in Food for Friends is that entertaining can be simple and still very stylish so I picked a series of different occasions where people would be entertaining family and friends and then planned some recipes around them.

I think that when people are having friends and family around they want to do the same as I do when I am entertaining and that is cook simple and tasty food which will impress the diners!

We had a wonderful night at the launch of Food for Friends with well over 500 people in attendance and I’m delighted to say that so far the book is doing very well and has already enjoyed a number of weeks in the top 10 Irish bestsellers list!

So these are my recommendations for your upcoming family gatherings – keep things simple, be prepared and relax and entertain with a little help from Food For Friends.

Happy Cooking!


For more information about Edward log onto or follow him on Twitter @EdwardHayden and to find out more about Food for Friends and Food to Love visit!


Learning to Love ‘Ulysses’ – An Editor’s View

UlyssesJamie O’Connell, a member of the editorial team that worked on the Dublin Illustrated Edition of Ulysses, gives his view on the famous text and Bloomsday festivities.


As Bloomsday approaches, I await the parade of boater hats, striped jackets and lace dresses, as Joycean fans flock to Dublin to celebrate a book that has been said to have ‘changed the face of literature’. The first festival of its kind was in 1954 on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel; the 2013 pilgrimage through Dublin along the route taken in Ulysses is said to be the largest annual event yet.

I’ve often heard Ulysses described as the most acclaimed and yet unread book in the English language. Though I read Dubliners and The Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man a number of years ago, I skirted around Ulysses, primarily out of intimidation but also a certain amount of laziness. During my time at university I did read extracts, notably Episode 4. Joyce’s description of Leopold Bloom cooking and eating the kidneys had stayed with me, as with most people who’ve read it:

‘Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.’

I did start other episodes but they appeared indecipherable to me. After making various attempts, attacking the text from varying angles, I put the book aside with the thought that I’d likely finish it ‘some day’, though if I was honest, I probably felt I’d go through life without having quite got around to finishing it.

However, this year Ulysses and Bloomsday will have a very different significance to me. Last summer I began working for O’Brien Press and I’ve been part of the editorial team preparing the Dublin Illustrated Edition of Ulysses in conjunction with The James Joyce Centre.

It was not a usual editorial job. After all, Ulysses isn’t a manuscript that needs to be edited in any literary sense. Rather I’ve felt like a tenth century monk in one of those beehive huts, reading the prose letter by letter, word by word in various currently available versions, attempting to create an edition that is as close as possible to the original 1922 text. Wayward commas and colons were returned to their rightful place. Mixed up vowels, apparently ‘corrected’ in newer editions, were replaced with the original. And what has been created is something loyal to Joyce’s creative vision. After all, there have been many warning examples of ‘corrected’ Ulysses texts; a 1984 edition was eviscerated in the New York Review of Books for taking what it felt were liberties in its edits.

As luck would have it, I was given responsibility for Episode 14 ‘Oxen of the Sun’, described as the most difficult episode in Ulysses. On my first general read, I felt my stomach clench as I thought about the logistical nightmare of correcting a text that was written in a largely phonetic way with a near incomprehensible narrative. In the end, it involved reading each syllable out loud, comparing texts, checking each letter, all ninety-seven thousand of them.

But what did emerge as I read, was the expert skill Joyce had with voice. Like an actor that can shift from role to role seamlessly, so Joyce moves from one dialect to another with ease, from Shakespearian to Victorian to slang. The language is sometimes bawdy, with a mix of alliteration and plenty of innuendo – there’s no denying the richness and texture of the prose.

This new edition of Ulysses will launch this June to coincide with the 59th Bloomsday celebrations. That is why with a measure of pride of I think of my contribution to the 2013 festival and to the general Ulysses legacy, however tiny. Perhaps it’s time to don a boater hat and join the likes of David Norris and President Higgins as they pay homage to one of Ireland’s greatest writers.

For more information on the Dublin Illustrated Edition of Ulysses click here.

Our take on ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce

DublinersOur wonderful designer Emma Byrne gives her thoughts on designing the jacket for our new edition of Dubliners by James Joyce, which was published last year as part of Dublin One City One Book 2012.


When something like Dubliners by James Joyce comes across your desk for a new jacket and design concept, it really deserves a little more attention. How do you represent the visual shell of one of the most famous books in the English language? Indeed.

All of life is here in this collection of fifteen short stories. The characters of these stories, these ordinary Dubliners lives, loves, triumphs and failures are observed with a sharpness and empathy that few writers have ever achieved.

Father Flynn in The Sisters, Jimmy Doyle trying to better himself and failing in After the Race, these, for me, were just two ‘windows’ on these Dubliners’ lives that convinced me that using the ‘window’ as a metaphor might be the approach to take. The stories centre on Joyce’s idea of an epiphany: a moment where a character has a special moment of self-understanding or illumination. The initial stories in the collection are narrated by children as protagonists and, as the stories continue, they deal with the lives and concerns of progressively older people. This is in line with Joyce’s tripartite division of the collection into childhood, adolescence and maturity.

There I had my two design elements:

1.The tripartite division of the collection of short stories into childhood, adolescence and maturity. This is achieved by splitting the word ‘Dubliners’ in three. Also within the book three photographs break up the main body of text.

2. A ‘window’ looking onto Dublin of the period hidden behind the letters. As the stories look deeply at their characters, the image used is College Green in 1914.

What did you think of our cover?

For more information on Dubliners click here.

Throughout the month of June receive a 20% discount on all our James Joyce books when you buy online at!

Happy Bloomsday!


Interview with Alfonso Zapico author of the graphic novel ‘James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner’

JamesJoyce-PortraitofaDublinerDid you miss the interview with author and illustrator Alfonso Zapico in the Irish Independent last week? Well don’t worry because we have all the inside information on his fantastic graphic novel James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner here! Read on to find out more about his fascinating project!

Alfonso, how did you come up with the idea to create a graphic novel about the life of James Joyce?

There are a lot of reasons I decided to write the book, no one reason alone. It was a test in a way, to see if I could actually do it. I like to try to build a life with all the elements around a character: the scenery, the places, the other characters, and to recreate the atmosphere of the time through my drawings. I suppose it’s similar to making a film, but with paper and ink. It was a very interesting experiment! The other reasons were more philosophical: James Joyce was a pioneer in 20th century literature: he changed people’s view of the world and society, he rejected the big heroic characters and gave prominence to ordinary men and women, real life, the little details of human existence. And the third reason, and maybe the most important one for me, is the rebelliousness of Joyce, his optimism, and the way he overcame so many challenges during his life. Perhaps this is an Irish trait, I think you can see it throughout Irish history.

How was your experience of researching the book and the life of James Joyce?

The most important thing for me was to try to get across to the reader the spirit of Joyce, this great artist and his world, his vision of life. When I was researching the life of James Joyce, two essential books for me were the biography of Joyce by Richard Ellmann and ‘Joyce for Beginners’ by David Norris & Carl Flint. Also, of course, Joyce’s books: in ‘Ulysses’, ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ and ‘Dubliners’, I found lots of small details that helped me to build Joyce’s Dublin.

You also did some research for the book in Dublin, how was that?

I spent many months doing research for the book in Dublin and the experience was fantastic! I didn’t just want to create my drawings from old photos in books. In order to get across the essence of a place, you have to visit that place. I walked the Dublin streets, I saw the colour of the sky, I drank beer in the pubs, I ate fish and chips, I talked to Dubliners. Old photos are all very well, but Dublin is a magical city, and you have to go to the heart of Dublin to try to understand Joyce. Maybe this special atmosphere is not always visible to people who live in Dublin, but for me as a visitor, it was a joy the first time, the second time and every time I return to this wonderful city.

Thanks very much for the chat Alfonso!

Click here for more information on James Joyce, Portrait of a Dubliner

Plus head to where you can get 20% off all our James Joyce books for the month of June!

Happy Bloomsday!

Marketing & PR Internship


book-loveAlways wanted to work with books? Fancy seeing what it’s like to work in a publishing house? Well now is your chance to find out! The O’Brien Press is offering an unpaid marketing and PR internship for our busy autumn season.


This position would be ideally suited to graduates who are seeking to gain experience in publishing, and in the area of marketing and publicity, in particular.

Candidates should be:

  • Highly organised
  • Able to work as part of a team and on their own initiative
  • Able to handle a very busy and time pressurised working environment
  • Proficient in MS Office (Word, Excel) and Outlook. Experience with InDesign and/or social media for business would be a bonus

Further details are available on request.

Please send applications to Ruth Heneghan at Closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Wednesday 19th June.

One Book One Community

One Book One Community is a community reading project based on the successful One City One Book project that take place ever year in Dublin and in cities across the world. As part of One Book One Community projects, children and their families are encouraged to read and discuss a particular book, along with supporting activities held in schools, libraries and in the community. Here at O’Brien Press we’re proud to support lots of One Book One Community projects across Ireland, with libraries and schools all working together to promote a love of reading. O’Brien Press books chosen for projects include Spirit of the Titanic, Taking Sides, Faraway Home and Across the Divide.

I had the chance to chat to Mary Collins a Home School Liaison Officer and ask her a few questions about her experiences of the many One Book One Community projects that she has organised. The answers she gave are on behalf of the Dublin North Inner City Cluster of Home School Community Liaison Teachers. The Home School Community Scheme is part of the DEIS programme which is targeted at school which are designated disadvantage. One of the aims of the scheme includes fostering positive relations between the home and school, and between the community and the school. Other aims include promoting parental involvement in their child’s education and promoting literacy in the home.

1. Hi Mary, when and how did you first get involved in a One Book One Community project? And where did you hear about it?

Two years ago, some of our newly appointed HSCL teachers attended induction/training days. On these days, HSCL teachers who have been in the position a number of years usually speak to the new HSCL teacher on best practise and schemes they have run successfully. One of the sessions was given by a HSCL teacher who had run the project successfully. The newly appointed HSCL teachers came back from induction and informed our cluster about the project. They spoke enthusiastically about the project and all the possibilities. We decided that the following September (2010) that we would undertake the project.

2. How did you find the experience of arranging and being involved in these projects?

A lot of hard work went into the arranging. In our cluster there are 12 HSCL teachers. We decided to form a sub-committee of 4 people. Each HSCL teacher had to link with their school principal and staff, inform them about the project and look for their support. We had to decide which agencies in the community we were going to involve. We had to design posters and contact numerous printers to get the best price. We contacted Easons and asked how much of a discount they could give us and they recommended that we contacted O’Brien Press to get the best deal. We had also decided that in order to make the project more appealing to class teachers that we would design some activities that could be done with the class therefore reducing the burden of work for the teacher. As our cluster of schools is made up of primary and second level schools, we realised that we couldn’t choose a book that would suit everyone from ages 4 – 18 years. Therefore we decided to aim the project at the 6th classes in the primary schools and 1st year groups in our second level schools.

3. How do you decide what books to feature in the projects?

Deciding on the book was a long and thought-out process. Firstly, we consulted with teachers in our schools and asked them for suggestions. We brought these suggestions back to the cluster group. We went through the list of 20 books and through a process of elimination ended up with 3 books. We had eliminated books that were classics e.g. I Am David (by Anne Holm) as we thought that classes would have most likely read by them already. We eliminated books that would only be suitable for either primary or post-primary. We eliminated books that we thought would be only suitable for either boys or girls. We were also conscious of trying in so far as possible to pick a book by an Irish publisher. That Halloween midterm each of the HSCL teachers took the 3 books and agreed to read them all over the break. When we returned we judged each of the books using the following criteria:
a) The reading level must be suitable for 6th class pupils, 1st year students and parents who may have reading difficulties
b) The book must appeal equally to boys and girls
c) The book must have friendship as a central theme
d) The topic matter of the book must be of relevance to the lives of the pupils reading the book
e) The topic matter must be suitable for the age group of pupils.
Whichever book fulfilled most of the criteria would be the chosen book.

4. What would you say to schools/communities thinking of setting up their own One Book, One Community projects?

I would say to other groups who are thinking of setting up their own One Book One Community project to definitely do it. It entails a lot of hard work, time and effort, but for the children involved their families and communities it had a great unifying effect. Initially when we undertook the project last year, we envisaged to do it every 2 years. However, by the end of the project last year, teachers and pupils were asking us what book had been chosen for the following year. Because the response to the project was so positive from everyone, we decided to run it again this year. We decided to focus on the same class groups this year. This resulted in the 6th class pupils doing it again in secondary and many of them were excited about doing it.

5. What do you think are the benefits to the schools and communities that participate in the projects?

Firstly, it got people reading. Every child who got a copy of the book was allowed to keep it when the project was finished. Children were encouraged to take the book home and see if anyone at home wanted to read it. Secondly, it gave pupils from different schools something in common. We have found that the pupils who would have been in different primary schools last year and now are first years in the same second level school now have something that unifies them.
The project also creates a buzz around the school. They say it takes 5 years to create a tradition – we the home school liaison teachers would hope that One Book one Community would become a tradition in the schools, that it would get to a stage where teachers and pupils would be approaching the HSCL teacher and ask “what book are we doing this year?” or “when will we be starting the One Book project?”
We included local youth clubs and local adult literacy groups in the project. With the local youth club it was great that the pupils were talking about the book outside of school as well as within school.

6. How have you found the experience of working with O’Brien Press on the projects you have organised?

O’Brien Press have been 110% on board from the first time we contacted them. They were instantly available. They gave us a compeitive price on the books and made this price available to other groups that wished to be part of the project e.g. the youth clubs and adult literacy groups. O’Brien’s provided posters and also permission to use the image on the cover of the book for our own posters and bookmarks etc. More importantly, O’Brien’s put us in contact with the author which for the pupils brought the book to life. The author made himself unselfishly available to us and the schools. We could not have made the project as successful as we did without the help and support of O’Brien Press.

If you are considering runnning a One Book One Community project click here for more information about our books. You can also check out our One Book, One Community Pinterest board here.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremony of the One Book One Community project organised by Mary and her colleagues which was held in the school hall of O’Connells CBS on North Richmond Street. Across the Divide by Brian Gallagher was the book of their choice for the project and during the ceremony Brian spoke about his writing and how he came up with idea for the story. There was also lots of activites going on, students were playing music, acting out scenes from the book and everyone received goodie bags!