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This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks for your favourite children’s writer. It’s obviously aimed at people who don’t read much in this area. Hah! Children’s book blog, right? Teacher librarian? Children’s writer myself? Children’s books are what I do. Impossible to answer this question with one. So... Let’s talk about several!
As it’s St Patrick’s Day, I thought I might celebrate with a post about a few Irish writers I’ve read. Please forgive me if I’ve gone light on the women, but I’m sticking to writers I have read. I might add one or two books set in Ireland.
One of these days I am going to visit Ireland, umbrella in hand, as I hear the reason why it’s so green is that it’s raining so often. An Irish couple I met once, who were tourists, told me that that particular year, it had not been raining about forty days(sort of Biblical in reverse!). It fascinates me, with its folklore and history. I believe it was never taken over by the Romans, among other things. Its patron saint, Patrick, whose day this is, wasn’t actually Irish. He appears in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists Of Avalon as a grumpy, unpleasant Bishop called Patricius, but definitely meant to be St Patrick.There are still arguments over the meaning of “he drove the snakes out of Ireland” - was it actual reptiles or did it mean pagans?
On to the books and writers. I’ve read John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which became a huge hit and a film, about a boy whose father is in charge of a concentration camp. Despite all that, I’m afraid my response is “meh.” I much prefer Morris Gleitzman’s Once series, which I would love to see made into movies.
Eoin Colfer is the author of the delightful Artemis Fowl series. Artemis Fowl is an Irish boy, the son of a wealthy crime family. His father really doesn’t want to get involved in crime and has disappeared at the beginning of the first book. Artemis needs the money to get his father back and, unlike him, is a criminal genius. He decides to kidnap a fairy, Holly, who is a member of the elite fairy organisation LepRecon. She is, in fact, a female, fairy James Bond. A very funny series and I loved the whole idea of the fairies being technologically advanced beyond humans. There was a centaur Q, Foaly, who designed the stuff and a dwarf who made tunnels via huge farts...
If you haven’t read C.S Lewis, shame on you! I confess to having first read the Narnia books as an adult, but I read his SF trilogy first: Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. Those weren’t children’s books, but, like Narnia, were about Christianity. I preferred Tolkien, who was also religious, but didn’t shove it down your throat. However, I suspect I wouldn’t have noticed the religious elements in the Narnia books if I’d read them as a child. Perhaps I might, even then, have been uncomfortable with the hints of racism. But no doubt a classic series. If you’ve seen the TV series, by the way, you might have noticed Tom Baker in The Silver Chair as Puddleglum the Marsh Wiggle, a member of a pessimistic race(he is regarded by his fellow Marsh Wiggles as rather too cheerful). Another cast member was the late Patsy Byrne, who went on to play Nursie in Blackadder.
I faithfully promise to start reading Derek Landy, whose Skulduggery Pleasant series was, at one stage, so popular in my school library! But I haven’t yet, so on to the next.
Another popular series my students love, by an Irish writer, is Michael Scott’s The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel. I’ve only got around to reading the first book in the series, The Alchemyst. It was a long time ago, but as I recall, Nicholas Flamel(remember him? Mentioned in Harry Potter?), creator of the Philosopher’s Stone, is still around. So is John Dee, Elizabeth I’s astrologer. In this book he is the villain. It’s seen, of course, through the eyes of some kids who have to help Nicholas Flamel stop the baddie. Again, read it years ago. I really must go back and read the lot.
Darren Shan(actual name O’Shaughnessy) is the author of a series of children’s vampire novels. I’ve only read the first, Cirque Du Freak, in which a boy agrees to go with a vampire running the title circus to save his friend. The friend actually wants to be a vampire, but the vampire concerned refuses to turn him, considering him disgusting. The kids at my school loved this series. I had trouble keeping them on the shelves.
You might not think of the playwright Oscar Wilde as a children’s writer, but he did write a series of fairytales. They were pretty sad and very Victorian in flavour, but hey, they count! I bet you have heard of “The Happy Prince” or “The Selfish Giant” at least? No? Go and read them. There are some beautifully illustrated editions. His mother Jane was an Irish nationalist and wrote for newspapers under a pen name. And by the way, she was a folkorist.
I love the poetry of William Butler Yeats - magical stuff! Did you know he also edited a collection of Irish fairytales? Here is a cover from it. Pretty, isn't it|? I have a copy, though with a different cover.
As I’ve run out of Irish children’s writers and I’ve read and promised you at least a couple of books set in Ireland - by women - here they are.
Most books by Juliet Marillier - the Sevenwaters series, Heart’s Blood and the Blackthorn and Grimm trilogy. Great stuff and you’ll find plenty of posts here about them all.
Anna Ciddor’s Night Of The Fifth Moon, set in pagan Ireland, and Prisoner Of Quentaris, not actually set in Ireland, but featuring leprechauns, who absolutely never wish you “top of the morning!” or hide pots of gold but are shown as a sort of mediaeval heroic Irish society in miniature.
And there you are, and happy St Patrick’s Day! If you’ve enjoyed this post, share it.
Got any favourites yourself?
Got any favourites yourself?