Tag Archives: CBI

Once Upon a Place

In June this year Eoin Colfer, our brilliant Children’s Laureate, visited the St Catherine’s (aka Wetlands) halting site homework club in Kilkenny. He had put out a call at the start of his Laureateship asking people to send in requests for places to visit on a proposed storytelling tour. I sent one in asking him to come to Wetlands and, happily, he agreed.


The age range of the children he told stories to was quite wide but he kept them perfectly enthralled. The week after his visit one of the Homework Club workers asked young Rocky whether he could tell him the story that Eoin had told them. He recounted it back to him almost word perfect. It was that kind of story.

Peter Salisbury was down with his camera, Nessa Mahoney organised everything in her inimitable style (!) and Eoin’s friend Chris was there recording the event for a podcast. In addition Irish Traveller TV sent a camerawoman there to record the event. An interesting outfit, a volunteer based production and website group dedicated to improving the image of Travellers and Gipsies in Ireland today. Their website is here.


I sat and watched and wondered at the ability Eoin has to tell an engrossing story about something small and everyday. All the elements were there – plot, tension, characters, mighty dialogue, humour (and more humour) and, of course, the essential nappy and a few embellishments. The images he created in the story are as clear in my mind today as they were the day he told them. And the same goes for the children. That’s a gift.


I volunteer at the homework club once a week and have learnt a lot from being there. Great work being done by the full time staff who run it and by the children themselves. St. Catherine’s Halting Site has been a temporary halting site for thirty years. This year houses are being built there. The Father McGrath centre produced a report on the living conditions at the site from a Children’s Rights Perspective.  It can be viewed here

This post is really just by way of thank you to Eoin, to Nessa, to Peter, Chris and CBI who all made the visit possible. To the community at Wetlands who welcomed them with open arms. To Micky, Emmet, Rocky  and Claire who run the Homework Club and do such fantastic work there. And especially to the children who listened to the story and told Eoin some stories of their own!

Children’s Book Festival

October here again, Children’s Book Festival – it’s a lovely month for children’s writers, booksellers, libraries, schools and children all over Ireland.

I am someone who finds it hard to switch my brain off from what is happening in the world – I never understand how it is possible for anyone to switch off. Sometimes it overwhelms. Cruelty, bigotry, prejudice, hatred, intolerance, brutality, murder and mayhem. Yup, we have it all. And I am lucky that it just overwhelms me – I do not live it or die because of it.

And what on earth does that have to do with Children’s Book Festival. Well … partly because it helps me to look on the bright side of life – because what I and many other children’s authors get to do is to travel to different parts of Ireland and talk to children. Children full of questions, children from all over the world who have through different circumstances ended up here (as have I), children who are only starting out on life. Children whose minds are mostly still open, unshuttered.

And in between them librarians and the wonderful CBI staff who all work so damn hard to make this happen.

This month I’m going to Cork, Clare, Wexford and Carlow and in November to Kildare. And I’m really looking forward to it. Writers and entertainers are not always one and the same thing – writing stories and storytelling do not always go hand in hand. And we all do things differently – I have watched other children’s writers present their work to children and have thought, ‘nope, I could never do that’ But that doesn’t matter because I do something else. Part of what I hope to do, as it is where I have lived for most of my life so far, is to bring them to the doorstep of Africa. A vast, beautiful continent that is ‘somewhere else’ in their lives. To show them what is different and what is the same. To slough off some of the preconceptions. Big aim but if I only achieve ten percent of it I’m happy.

Some snakes made by a class in St Johns when they were reading my first book, The Butterfly Heart

Some snakes made by a class in the wonderful St Johns school when they were reading my first book, The Butterfly Heart

Baobab on way to Kariba

And a baobab tree just because it’s my favourite tree .. and that sky!

CBI Special Judges Award 2014

Perfectly delighted to have been awarded the Special Judges Award in the CBI Book of the Year awards. A big thank you to CBI, to everyone I know and love and congratulations to all of those on the shortlist and to Marie Louise Fitzpatrick for her overall Book of the Year award.

What the judges said about The Sleeping Baobab Tree :

• Special Judges’ Award: Paula Leyden for The Sleeping Baobab Tree. The judges said, ‘Combining robust character development with vivid descriptions of the Zambian landscape, Leyden skilfully creates an evocative and atmospheric narrative that explores themes of friendship, family and human rights.’