Skype Hype

Author Conor Kostick, he of the critically-acclaimed Epic and Saga, recently gave a talk to a group of students, which he does regularly. The difference being that this time Conor was in Ireland, and the school was in New Hampshire in the US. Conor’s books are hugely popular throughout the US, and with the aid of Skype, he’s able to connect with his fans overseas and take part in events. Teachers and students at the New Hampshire school reported that their event with Conor was a great success and that it was a thrill for them to be able to talk to one of their favourite authors.

Conor is also the author of The Book of Curses for younger readers, and Move, for older readers. He is the recent recipient of the Reading Association of Ireland Special Merit Award 2009, not only for Move, but also for his overall body of work and his contribution to science-fiction writing for children. He looks forward to taking part in lots more transatlantic events in the future!

30 editions on, it’s as fresh as ever

In 1990 a very unusual manuscript from a new author arrived in The O’Brien Press. It was a story about the Great Irish Famine and involved the desperate journey of three starving children across the country to find their relatives: it involved death, danger and a faint hope of safety — and it was aimed at children. Nobody had read or heard of anything like this before, and we realised that this was an opportunity to show Irish children their own history in a unique way.

We had been publishing children’s books for a few years at that point, convinced that there was a need for Irish material for Irish children, rather than continuing to rely on books from Britain: lashings of ginger ale drunk on the White Cliffs of Dover simply did not reflect the experience of Irish people! This book, Under the Hawthorn Tree, was exactly what we were looking for.

We commissioned fine artist Donald Teskey to paint the cover and do chapter-head illustrations, and we published the book, which was a sensation: within three years an incredible 45,000 copies were in print. Author Marita Conlon-McKenna was a celebrated writer and wrote two more books, Wildflower Girl and Fields of Home, which completed what became known as the Children of the Famine trilogy.

Ten years later the book was selling as strongly as ever and, in 2000, we felt that a new look was in order. We commissioned Anne Yvonne Gilbert to produce new cover artwork for the trilogy. By this stage the international success of the book was well-established: in 1991 it won the Reading Association of Ireland Award and International Reading Association Award in 1991 in America, and was available in many translations: there have been 14 at the last count!

An amazing 20 years after first publication, the book continues to build: last year we decided it was long past time for us to work with Ireland’s premier children’s illustrator, PJ Lynch, and he created fabulous new covers for the trilogy. A new US edition was published last April by Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, one of the most imaginative independent presses anywhere. And now we have just received stock in for the 30th printing of this book: 30 printings in 20 years, and life sales of over quarter of a million copies sold of our editions alone: which all goes to show that a great story, in the hands of a gifted storyteller, can transcend the fascination with the new that the book world is often accused of.

So congratulations to Marita on this great achievement and for keeping history alive for children the world over.


Award Season: time to get out our frocks!

The shortlist for the Reading Association of Ireland award has been announced. We are really excited that five of the six titles on the list are ours, and can’t wait to see which way the awards are going to go.

  • The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan: with two Irish Book Awards nominations under its belt already and great international sales, The Moorehawke Trilogy continues with The Crowded Shadows
  • Hal’s Sleepover by Maddie Stewart: the first time that a book from one of our series for young readers (Panda Cubs, Pandas and Flyers) has been nominated for an award, which is wonderful news.
  • Move by Conor Kostick. Conor has followed huge success for Epic and Saga with this dark but hopeful contemporary fantasy.
  • Wild Dublin by Éanna Ní Lamhna. A spectacular introduction to all that nature has to offer in Ireland’s capital.
  • The Story of Ireland by Brendan O’Brien. Already an award-winner, this multi-layered, beautiful book will soon be available in a mini-edition

The very best of luck to all of our authors: the results will be announced on 24 September.