Last Weekend at the CBI conference

(It has been a busy week, post CBI conference; so apologies for now catching you up before now.)
The Childrens Books Ireland conference is actually my favourite weekend of the year. CBI always puts on a great show, with amazing speakers and great comradery all the way around. It's a time to catch up with like-minded people working in childrens' literature, find out what's been happening in their lives and what's coming next in the world of childrens' books...so it does take some time to absorb all the information. I always leave feeling inspired and happy. Here are some of the highlights...
Day one....
CBI is celebrating 20 years! With many new incentives and schemes to bring books to children of all ages, it is going to be a very exciting year for childrens' literature in Ireland. Happy 20th, CBI!


Lucy Cousins is the creator of Maisy (as you may know) and so many other beloved characters in childrens' books over the last twenty or so years. Created for young children, Lucy Cousins reaches into her childhood and 'draws by heart...going back to her own childhood instincts.' In an amazing conversation with Mags Walsh, we discovered how her brightly coloured and lively books play their part in making readers for life.
Rob Biddulph and Chris Judge talked together about their work; picture books which explore adventure, friendship and over coming loneliness.


We did some time-traveling with Anna Carey ( The Making of Mollie) and Lucy Adlington (The Red Ribbon), who spoke about the unexpected part the women play in history. With engaging female characters, the shifting social constructs through the Edwardian streets of Dublin and the atrocities of the Holocaust, both of these authors have fascinating and unexpected information teaming through their novels for young adults and teens. Both are on my 'must-read' authors list. Their historical fiction for young people is riveting, exciting and thought-provoking.

Shane Hegarty, Cecelia Ahern and John Boyne are all Irish authors who travel between writing for adults and writing for young people. In their conversation, they explored the paths and pitfalls that navigating these routes send them through.
We ended the afternoon with the most wonderful, amazing writer for children I could think of...Kate DiCamillo. Kate describes herself as "an enormously lucky person person who gets to tell stories for a living." She talked a bit about her life as an incredibly shy child and related one incident that ended with a phrase from a woman she encountered in a glass-bottom boat that has stuck with her ever since; "Oh my....this world." Through her books,we see the world and the world inside our world...we see each other. From Because of Winn-Dixie to Raymie Nightingale, Kate DiCamillo has enchanted us all with this wonder. She cannot write a bad book...I suggest you read them, if you haven't already.
Day two...
Joseph Coelho was a fantastic way to begin a new day. His lively performance poetry woke us all up and got our attention as he spoke about the childs' 'natural propensity for poetry'...that, frequently, they don't even realise they have. It's all in the approach and his approach is outstanding! His new picture book, Lulu Loves Library Day (illustrated by Fiona Lumbers) talks about the joy of a little girl as she spends library day with her Dad...they explore the shelves and find magic, and reassurance everywhere.
Of course, every year CBI  brings in 'New Voices'; those authors in Ireland who have emerged over the last 12 months. Each has just 5 minutes present their work! This year, we were treated to Amanda Bell, Sarah Carroll, Orlagh Collins, Sadhgh Devlin, Meg Grhan, John Kane, Jane Landy, SinĂ©ad O'Hart and Mary Watson.







Dragon Loves Penguin...a wonderful story about love and belonging





Debi Gliori is the author and illustrator of over seventy picturebooks; and that doesn't include her novels for young people. She has five children of her own. Her writing/illustration make for incredibly heart-warming and reassuring reading for all ages, while exploring the side of life that can be troubling. Debi talked about how personal representations of big issues can bring a more active communication...and bring great joy.
Her books talk about love, hope, the environment, family life,
The Trouble With Dragons
remembering; dragons, owls, children....all with a wonderfully appropriate colour palette for whatever subject she is handling. Her latest offering is a book entitled Night Shift. It examines the dragon of depression and its' hold over all those who live with it. Stunningly moving fare. She is one of my favourite author/illustrators...and now I can view her work with a completely different perspective.










James Mayhews' talk was titled 'Flying Carpets' and whisked us away on a journey. He talked about stories, time-honoured and familiar stories and how migrate across other art forms - from storytelling to books and then to music, art, theatre; as well as across cultures and time.
I do still need to know more about a particular Finnish legend and why it didn't migrate...fascinating stuff.










Finally....what a way to wind-up a conference. Sally Gardner is an author I have wanted to hear from for at least 10 years now; and I was NOT disappointed. Sally Gardner has a canon over more than 30 books for young people as author, illustrator or both. As a young child, Sally was pronounced 'word-blind' and 'unteachable' (due to dyslexia) and has emerged as this incredible voice for those marginalised and excluded by social definitions of success and focus on what qualifies as a 'proper' education. Very impressive! Her writing mission is to challenge these notions, and to inspire. Her books and in person, she does exactly that. She had us all re-thinking our priorities. utterly amazing. Sallys' final plea, echoing something I have always felt very strongly about, particularly in lieu of todays' educational standards and measure, is a simple, but extremely important one. Leaving us with one phrase: Let Children Play! Thank you, Sally.










A pretty impressive conference. don't you think?

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