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1. Claddagh Pool main issue follow up by Pope Francis

Finally there is a new Pope who seems to want to take responsibility for the clerical abuses over the last few years. This is a huge step toward healing the horrific wounds inflicted by some members of the clergy on the innocents . He totally gets my vote.




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2. Marcus Garvey: The Irish Connection

The unqualified achievement of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League (UNIA-ACL) led by Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940), the first National Hero of Jamaica, owed its success to many sources. 

One of Garvey’s main influences was Booker T. Washington, whose vision of self-help through education and economics was the main impetus behind the movement. However, Garvey’s organizational strategies for the liberation of people of African descent closely modeled the slogans and methods employed by Irish nationalists such as Padraig Pearse, Robert Emmet, Roger Casement, and Eamon de Valera.

In 1914 when Marcus Garvey returned to Jamaica from England, his heart and mind bursting with ideas for the freedom of African peoples, one of his first official acts was the creation of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League (UNIA-ACL), whose slogan was “Africa for Africans at home and abroad” an echo of the oft repeated Irish slogan, “The Irish race at home and abroad.” 

Even the choice in naming of the UNIA-ACL headquarters, Liberty Hall, was a nod to “Liberty Hall, Dublin, the symbolic seat of the Irish revolution.” In The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, he repeated his conviction and alliance with the Irish cause: “Marcus Garvey has no fear about going to jail. Like MacSwiney or like Carson, like Roger Casement, like those who have led the fight for Irish freedom, so Marcus Garvey shall lead the fight for African freedom” (183).

To say that the Easter Rising of 1916 had a profound effect on Garvey would be understatement. But Garvey’s familiarity with the revolutionary struggle of the Irish people began long before that fateful week:

As early as 1910, Garvey was assistant secretary of the National Club of Jamaica, a group whose activities marked the first attempt by Jamaicans to create a nationalist political platform. The club's founder, S. A. & G. Cox, absorbed the influence of the Sinn Fein movement while he was enrolled as a student, beginning in 1905, at the Middle Temple in England…The Jamaican historian Richard Hart has pointed out that "for [the National Club's] newspaper Cox chose the name Our Own, a rough translation of the Irish nationalists' Sinn Fein."

Indeed, Garvey’s most audacious plan, the Black Star Line, which led to his imprisonment on trumped up charges brought by J. Edgar Hoover and the US Justice Department, was another symbolic nod to the Irish struggle:

RUPERT LEWIS: The idea comes to Garvey that black people need a shipping line, and he bases his idea on the fact that the Cunard family has the White Star Line and the Irish have the Green Star Line, and he says, "Why shouldn't blacks have the Black Star Line?" So it is a vision of grandeur.

Perhaps the greatest influence on Garvey’s strategies was the courage of the Irish heroes. As Robert Hill points out:

In July 1919, Garvey announced that "the time [had] come for the Negro race to offer up its martyrs upon the altar of liberty even as the Irish [had] given a long list from Robert Emmet to Roger Casement.

Yet it wasn’t only the courage of the Irish that moved Garvey. During the International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World at Madison Square Garden, August 1-31, 1920, Marcus Garvey gave a speech to thousands of UNIA delegates from twenty-five countries and accepted the title of “Provisional President of Africa.” This was not an accident. During the Easter Rising of 1916, Padraig Pearse had been named “President of the Provisional Government” before his martyrdom on May 3, 1916.

However, Garvey’s closest personal relationship with Irish nationalism was with the Hon. Eamon de Valera. In fact, they had even arranged for a speaking engagement to share the platform:

Come and See the Irish President
Among the Speakers will be
His Excellency Hon. MARCUS GARVEY
Provisional President of Africa
His Excellency Hon. EAMON De VALERA
Provisional President of Ireland

Although the meeting did not take place, Garvey continued his relationship and emulation of de Valera:

The example of de Valera's clandestine travel between America and Ireland also became an object of emulation for Garvey. In his speech at Liberty Hall on the evening of 6 January 1921, he alluded to his impending departure for the Caribbean and Central America: "Two weeks from this I shall suddenly disappear from you for six or seven weeks," he told his audience. "You won't hear from me during that time, but don't be alarmed because we Negroes will have to adopt the system of underground workings like De Valera.

Marcus Garvey’s meteoric rise to fame and influence was due to his knowledge of the struggle for Irish freedom. From the outset of his career, Garvey recognized the kinship of the Irish and Pan-African struggle for freedom from the British Empire. Garvey’s awareness of the slogans and methods of Irish nationalists as well as his connection, personal and symbolic, with Irish revolutionaries, shaped the direction of the UNIA-ACL and provided a framework for the struggle of Africans at home and abroad. As Garvey said in his famous Chicago speech in 1919, “Robert Emmet gave his life for Irish independence . . . and the new negro is ready to give his life for the freedom of the negro race."
It is no wonder that the historian, William Ferris, would give this final summation of Garvey’s career: “the same courage which St. Patrick showed in delving the pagan gods of Ireland Marcus Garvey shows in defying Anglo-Saxon caste prejudice." Marcus Garvey's life was a testament to the kinship of Irish and Pan-African freedom fighters in the liberation of their people.

First Published: 3/17/13 6:35 AM, Eastern Daylight Time

The Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey is petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey: 


Thank you for your support.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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3. The Night Gardener - a review

A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

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4. The Playboy Riots of 1907

By Ann Saddlemyer

There had been rumours for months. When Dublin’s Abbey Theatre announced that John Millington Synge’s new play The Playboy of the Western World would be produced on Saturday, 26 January 1907, all were on alert. Controversy had followed Synge since the production of his first Wicklow play, The Shadow of the Glen, in which a bold, young, and lonely woman leaves a loveless May/December marriage to go off with a fine-talking Tramp who rhapsodizes over the freedom of the roads. Irish women wouldn’t do that!

In The Playboy the action takes place in a public house on the wild coast of Mayo, when a travel-stained stranger enters and is persuaded to tell his story. Impressed, the admiring on-stage audience thinks he must be very brave indeed to have killed his father, and in turn the young tramp blossoms into the daring rollicking hero they believe him to be – winning all the prizes at the races and the love of the publican’s daughter. But then his father, with a bandaged head, turns up seeking his worthless son who is not the courageous father-slayer after all. Disillusioned and angry at the loss of their hero, the onstage crowd turns brutally on Christy, who tries to prove that he is indeed capable of savage deeds, even attempting unsuccessfully to kill his father a third time. The play ends with father and son leaving together, dismissing the onstage audience with the words “Shut yer yelling for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth”.

Irish actors Sara Allgood (“Pegeen Mike”) and J. M. Kerrigan (“Shawn Keogh”), in ‘The Playboy of the Western World’, Plymouth Theatre, Boston, 1911.

The offstage audience, thrown off guard by the comedy of the opening scenes, erupted at the word “shifts” (a woman’s chemise) in the third act. Some were outraged by the intimation that not all Irish girls were pure or holy, others were shocked by the strong (and strange) language. All were doubtless bewildered by finding themselves laughing as church and the law are banished from a world eager for a hero, charmed by the language and the love story, then challenged again when the tale threatens to invade reality. Synge and his colleagues were in turn accused of “playing” with a nation’s ideals. The riots continued for almost a week. Yeats, eager to champion the rights of the artist, exacerbated matters by calling in the local police, and Dublin and beyond were agog with press reports of the playacting on stage at night and in the courts by day. The actors loyally performed in dumb show until the play at last had a full hearing. But even they were not always comfortable with the control exerted by the playwright through language and gesture, sometimes in their confusion making matters worse by causing their actions and speeches to be more realistic. And who could blame them?

Yet the playwright does not seem to have been aware of the response his play would cause, insisting that it was merely a comedy, an “extravaganza”, meant to entertain, and that “the story — in its ESSENCE — is probable, given the psychic state of the locality.” Not to this audience, who charged him with immorality, obscenity and blasphemy, “a sordid, squalid and repulsive picture of Irish life and character”, making a hero of “a foul-mouthed scoundrel and parricide”.

For three years Synge had painstakingly developed his original idea, producing more than a thousand typescript pages, drafts and scenarios, all the way to draft “K” before he finally hit on the brilliantly ambiguous final form. For a “playboy” may be an athlete, performer, seducer, trickster, manipulator, creator, hero, or all of the above; while “the western world” might refer to County Mayo, to the United States, or to this world as contrasted with that “eastern world” of folk and fairy tales — or to all. “What a blessing you did not go to version L, if Version K had such a disastrous effect!” a friend commented in the turbulent months that followed.

Like Christy’s own tale of slaying his Da, the story of his injuries to Ireland’s good name continued to grow with the years. When the Abbey theatre took the play on tour to the United States, the clash between the idea of a pure nationhood cherished by Irish immigrants and what they saw on stage was even more pronounced. In New York missiles were thrown on the stage, and a hundred police attempted to keep order. Lady Gregory, who led the tour, received death threats; Theodore Roosevelt’s presence at the second performance ensured a more sedate reception. But when the company arrived in Philadelphia all hell broke loose, and the players were hauled into court by an Irish-American patriot who accused the company and the play of indecency. The case was dismissed when the judge learned that the accusers had not read the text.

In the theatre individual response to what is clearly not real can quickly become an excuse for objecting to what is perceived to be real. Audiences have always felt justified in expressing their disapproval of what is staged, or attempted to be staged. In 18th century London theatre managers petitioned the King for a guard of soldiers; one manager engaged thirty prize-fighters as well. Destruction of scenery, benches and even musical instruments was all too common when the audience felt cheated; often foreign performers were pelted with rotten fruit and other missiles (and told to go home).

Patriotism was perhaps the most frequent cause, especially in Ireland where the stage Irishman, created by English dramatists, was a subject of mockery and ridicule, and where class, nationalism, and religion were inextricably entwined. In 1907 however the disturbance was premeditated, with members of the audience carrying in stink bombs, rotten vegetables, trumpets, whistles, and other paraphernalia. There was clearly an organized cabal determined to silence a work which is now considered a masterpiece of comedy, performed throughout the world and recently the centrepiece of a world tour.

Would such events happen today? We are much more accustomed to onstage violence; but censorship is still very much with us. Synge suggests that to hold a dream is better than to live with caution; the outsider serves to perpetuate the myth-making process while at the same time challenging it, introducing a heightened self-awareness which embraces community on both sides of the footlights. Thus the audience is caught off-guard, encouraged to enter the world of fantasy, then betrayed by a reality of a different sort — the dream itself can threaten if fulfilled; we are briefly dangled above two worlds at once.

Ann Saddlemyer has published extensively on Irish and Canadian theatre and edited the plays of Lady Gregory and the letters between the founding Directors of the Abbey Theatre. Her book Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography. She has most recently edited W.B. Yeats and George Yeats: The Letters. She is the editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World and Other Plays.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter and Facebook.

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Image credit: From the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Archive, Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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5. James Joyce and birthdays

By Finn Fordham

Joyce was obsessed with birthdays.  Today, February 2nd, is his. An emerging secular saint’s day, it will be remembered and alluded to round the world – especially in Dublin — in the corners of newspapers and pubs, in blogs (like this one), tweets and the odd talk. Born in 1882, Joyce’s cake — if he could have one, let alone eat it — would have a hundred and thirty one candles; a hundred years ago, therefore, he would have been celebrating his 31st birthday. The image of candles is suitable, since Joyce’s birthday fell on ‘Candlemas’, a holy day which commemorates Christ’s first appearance in a synagogue with his mother, forty days after his birth, in part by the lighting of candles. Mary was following the Mosaic law which says that, after giving birth, a mother is not clean for forty days, at which point she is to be purified through sacrifice. 

‘Celebrating’, however, might be too strong a word: in 1913, Joyce was, artistically, in something of a lull, and life might well have been frustrating. He was teaching English in Trieste, with two small children, aged 5 and 7. He was struggling to get Dubliners past timid publishers and printers; A Portrait…, begun some nine years before, was unfinished; Ulysses was not yet begun. He was writing the odd bit of journalism, but the high artistic ambitions he had cherished as a young man had taken a battering. He’d spent his twenty-first in Paris, receiving a letter written by his father John Joyce, which he would carefully keep wherever he went:

My dear Jim, May I be permitted to offer you my best wishes for your future which I, at one time, fancied may have been more rosey on your attaining your majority [i.e becoming 21]… I hope you will beleive [sic] me that I am only now, under I may tell you, very trying times, endeavouring to do my little best, but Jim you are my eldest Son I have always looked up to your being a fitting representative of our family one that my father would be proud of. I now only hope that you may carry out his ideas through your life and if you do, you may be sure you will not do anything unbecoming a gentleman.

John Joyce, here and in general, was, like Simon Dedalus in Ulysses, strong and open in his expression of emotion. He is not the stereotypical cold and detached Victorian father. On the other hand, the complexity of his warmth borders on ambiguity, and its intensity must have brought some pressure to the young and, by all accounts, lonely Joyce: the father feels responsible for failing his son, but implies that his son was failing, or in danger of doing so; he seeks forgiveness while sending his son on a guilt trip; he says he looks up to him, while also establishing a role model in his own father, thus reaffirming the patriarchal hierarchy of genealogy. Self-pityingly unable to help materially, he adopts the role of civic mentor — urging him to behave like a gentleman, as Polonius did to Laertes when the latter was about to go to Paris (and its fleshpots).  Larkin’s term for such ambivalence was ‘sloppy-stern’.

Popiersie James Joyce 01 ssj 20070328Birthdays may be a universal convention, but they are not universally liked.  One pressure that birthdays bring is the inevitability, almost the duty, of self-reflection — a pressure which the Joyces, father and son, must have been aware of in 1903. The attention of others — fathers, mothers, friends, colleagues, wishing us well, presenting a gift, raising a glass — may exacerbate processes of self-examination and even pernicious comparison. Relative to where we were, or where we hoped to be, relative to our peers, or where our role models once were — where have we got to, or to what have we sunk?  Birthdays are ciphers that multiply whatever condition we’re in. The potential trauma of birthdays repeats, perhaps compulsively, the trauma of the day of birth. The twitching nervous checking during labour of the condition of mother and child – how are they doing, what are their heart rates? — becomes a twitching nervous checking on birthdays of whether one has yet become oneself.

For an ambitious person, for someone intent on establishing a mythology of themselves, for someone superstitious, birthdays, especially their own, and other anniversaries are crucial. And so they were for Joyce, for these very reasons. He habitually made awkward deadlines for himself and his publishers, by wanting his books to appear on his birthday or, failing that, his father’s. The day on which Ulysses is set (itself the day of the troubled birth, though fictional, of Mortimer Edward Purefoy), is supposed to be the day of Joyce’s first date with Nora Barnacle, though their encounter is not in fact recorded in the fiction.

Through the cyclical repetition of dates, days become haunted, charged with the meaning of the events of the past, implicit in their dates: Armistice Day, Guy Fawkes, the Battle of the Boyne. The different calendars of the global village, now shared in multi-cultural societies, show the space of the year as an environment that is densely built up with official anniversaries which are the signs and the foundations of institutions, of nations, states, religions, organisations, movements.

Anniversaries seem inevitable because of the cycle of the year, but they are not guaranteed: different anniversaries can coincide on the same day, so that one feast day ousts another; secular festivals push out saints’ days. Joyce cheekily engineered such a coincidence in the birthday of Molly Bloom, which was September the 8th, the same day as the Virgin Mary’s birthday. Joyce’s love of birthdays is in part a wish to appropriate this map, a symptom of an eternal struggle he identified between the individual and society: ‘the state is concentric; man is concentric. Thence arise an eternal struggle.’

We have a Bloomsday, on which the institution of Joyce studies (and Joycolatry) are built. But there is no Wake-day: Finnegans Wake does not seem to happen on a single day, though for one critic it is a dream dreamt on 28 March 1938. For others the events of the Wake happen everyday and anyday. Unlike Ulysses, it has not been so easily institutionalised. Either way, it is certainly worth celebrating and lighting candles for: and Joyce’s birthday is as good as any to do so.

Dr Finn Fordham is Reader in 20th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. Along with Robbert-Jan Henkes and Erik Bindervoet, he has edited the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Finnegans Wake is a book that reinvents the novel and plays fantastic games with the language to tell the story of one man’s fall and resurrection; in the intimate drama of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and his wife Anna Livia, the character of Ireland itself takes form. Joyce called time and the river and the mountains the real heroes of his book, and its organic structure and extraordinary musicality embody his vision. It is both an outrageous epic and a wildly inventive comedy that rewards its readers with never-ending layers of meaning.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics onTwitter and Facebook.

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Image credit: By Paweł Cieśla Staszek_Szybki_Jest (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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6. inis interview

Hey look, I have an interview in Ireland's Inis (pronounced 'IN-ish') magazine with Cethan Leahy, including a piece of brand-new picture book artwork no one's seen before! Click here to read...

Thanks to the Irish book community for being so supportive of my work! I'm looking forward to a week in Ireland this May, where Children's Laureate Niamh Sharkey, French picture book man and sculptor extraordinaire Hervé Tullet and I will be running gloriously amok. More news about that later!

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7. “23 Degrees 5 Minutes” by Darragh O’Connell

Irish animation studio Brown Bag Films released its 2011 short 23 Degrees 5 Minutes online today. Based on a story by Austin Kenny, the CG short is directed by Darragh O’Connell, who has been twice nominated for the animated short Oscar for co-directing the films Give Up Yer Aul Sins and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty.

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8. Maggie Welcomes Thousands of Visitors Worldwide

Maggie Steele, the storybook heroine who vaults over the moon, has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. So many visitors, in fact, that she’s using a time zone map to keep track of them all.* People are … Continue reading

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9. Five important facts about the Irish economy

By Donal Donovan

After many years of extraordinary success the dramatic collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 was unprecedented in the history of post-war industrial countries. Who and what was responsible for the demise of the poster boy “Celtic Tiger?” What lessons can be learned form the Irish debacle and can the Tiger come roaring back?

(1) Until around five years ago, the Irish economy was the envy of the world.

During the nineties, the rise of the Celtic Tiger was one of the most remarkable post-war industrial country phenomena. A relatively poor country on the periphery succeeded in transforming itself into one of the richest countries in Europe. The key was the massive inflow of foreign direct investment, as US and other multinationals sought to take advantage of Ireland’s location and young, well-educated labour force – the only English-speaking country in the common currency euro area. To be sure, sound financial and macroeconomic policies also helped inspire confidence. Ireland experienced annual growth rates of almost 10% at times, living standards soared, and emigration — the hallmark of the Irish – turned into net immigration. Foreigners, especially from Eastern Europe, flocked to take advantage of the booming economy.

 Awaiting an upturn in the Irish economy. This section of City Quay between Moss Street and Prince's Street, surrounded by steel and glass buildings of the Celtic Tiger Era, has been saved from demolition by the severe downturn in the Irish economy. Photo by Eric Jones of geograph.co.uk

Awaiting an upturn in the Irish economy. This section of City Quay between Moss Street and Prince’s Street, surrounded by steel and glass buildings of the Celtic Tiger Era, has been saved from demolition by the severe downturn in the Irish economy. Photo by Eric Jones of geograph.co.uk. Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

(2) Things then started to go horribly wrong, although it was not recognized at the time.

Starting around 2002, the technology based export led growth began to turn into a property bubble. Fuelled by special tax incentives and unlimited funding at low euro area interest rates, the Irish banks went on a splurge of reckless lending to property purchasers and developers. Government budget expenditures soared, financed by revenues from the artificially booming property sector. House and land prices soared to levels among the highest in the world and the population engaged in a frenzy of borrowing to acquire property before it was too late…

(3) The economy started to collapse around 2008.

In 2008, following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in the United States, the property bubble burst in a spectacular fashion. Almost overnight, prices began to plummet, eventually losing between 60-80% of their value. All the Irish banks became hopelessly insolvent, the budget deficit soared to almost unimaginable heights as the earlier surge in expenditures could not be reversed, and unemployment tripled. The fall in output was probably the largest ever experienced by an industrial country since the Second World War. Ireland quickly found itself unable to borrow on international markets and in November 2010, had to follow Greece and seek ignominious recourse to an emergency bail out from the IMF and the EU.

(4) Much progress has since been made but there is still a tough road ahead. 

Under the strict insistence of the IMF/EU, much — albeit painful — progress has been achieved in righting the financial ship of state in the last four years. The enormous budget deficit has been slowly but steadily reduced, and the massive financial problems of the banks have been addressed. But Ireland’s debt has unavoidably continued to soar, and while the economic decline appears to have bottomed out, unemployment remains stubbornly high at around 14% and large scale emigration has resumed. Moreover, it is not clear that steps are being taken to tackle decisively the major failings in political and economic governance that caused the debacle  in the first place

(5) Can the Celtic Tiger rise again?

It is very difficult to imagine a return to anything near the heady heights of the Celtic Tiger. Ireland’s economy is very heavily dependent on exports and the EU growth outlook remains very clouded. Increasingly, there are questions as to whether Ireland’s preferential corporate tax regime – key to attracting foreign investment over the years — can be sustained in the face of pressures from other countries. Still, even if real incomes in Ireland return to around their 2000 levels, this would still be an enormous improvement compared to the seventies when Ireland joined the EU as its then poorest member.

Dr. Donal Donovan is a Member of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, Adjunct Professor at the University of Limerick, and Visiting Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. He is a former deputy director at the International Monetary Fund with considerable experience in the area of financial crises. He is co-author, with Antoin E. Murphy, of The Fall of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland and the Euro Debt Crisis.

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10. French Prize could go to a novel set somehwere in ireland

The PRIX GONCOURT - the tres prestigious French literary prize - goes through four rounds: a longlist, a shortlist, a shorter list (which was announced today) until finally  a winner is declared who must be living on his or her nerves by the time the announcement is made, surviving on a diet of nails (the handy kind that are easy to nibble) and strong drink.
The four books on this year's
short short list are:

  • L'Art français de la guerre by Alexis Jenni
  • La belle amour humaine by Lyonel Trouillot
  • Du Domaine des Murmures by Carole Martinez
  • Retour à Killybegs by Sorj Chalando 
My French is almost non existent I am ashamed to say (I won't bore you with a bag load of excuses) but as I have been to Killybegs, a very pleasant town in Donegal, I wanted to find out more. From what I can gather Sorj is a journalist who knows Ireland well. His story is about three generations of a family involved in nationalist politics and at least one family member is an active member of the IRA. 
 As I was reading websites with my French English dictionary in one hand and my finger poised over the Google translate this now button, I can't tell you much more except that some folk seemed to think that Killybegs is in Northern Ireland.
Given the novel's subject, it's an easy mistake for commentators to make. (I am sure the author didn't make it.) Donegal, however, is in southern Ireland - in the Irish Republic.
It is though the most northerly part of the island of Ireland. There, that's cleared that up.

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11. Animated Fragments #16

FoxRetro X-Mas Spot by Váscolo (Argentina)

Thor facial rig test in Softimage by Stephen McNally (Ireland)

Strip Tease by Natalianne Boucher, Camille Chabert, Marine Feuillade and Naïmé Perrette (France): “The technique consists of ‘cut-out’ animation (cutted paper, here added to tissues) then back projected on a wall and shot frame by frame.”

African plains, manes and stolen meals by Chris O’Hara (Ireland): “Featuring audio from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

X-Ray, Ace & Son studio bumper by Kelsey Stark (US)

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12. “The wonder of all wandering…”

Today we read a chapter from H.E. Marshall’s English Literature for Boys and Girls:

But of one of the great treasures of old Irish literature we will talk. This is the Leabhar Na h-Uidhre, or Book of the Dun Cow. It is called so because the stories in it were first written down by St. Ciaran in a book made from the skin of a favorite cow of a dun color. That book has long been lost, and this copy of it was made in the eleventh century…

In the Book of the Dun Cow, and in another old book called the Book of Leinster, there is written the great Irish legend called the Tain Bo Chuailgne  or the Cattle Raid of Cooley.

This is a very old tale of the time soon after the birth of Christ. In the book we are told how this story had been written down long, long ago in a book called the Great Book Written on Skins.

That last bit cracked us up and we had to spend a while proclaiming the title in sonorous tones.

We enjoyed the story of the Book of the Dun Cow even more than the story in the Book of the Dun Cow, if you see what I mean. Marshall drops in intriguing details and doesn’t explain them: “But a learned man carried away that book to the East.” Who? Why? Where?

We’d have liked to hear more of Mary A. Hutton’s poem, “The Tain,” of which only a snippet was included—the Brown Bull’s death:

“He lay down
Against the hill, and his great heart broke there,
And sent a stream of blood down all the slope;
And thus, when all the war and Tain had ended,
In his own land, ‘midst his own hills, he died.”

Later we decided it was time for Rilla to meet The King of Ireland’s Son, and Padraic Colum’s rollicking, lilting prose swept us off on a grand adventure. Oh, such chills when the Eagle looks at the King’s Son with the “black films of death” covering her eyes!

Hmm, this is all sounding rather gruesome, but I guess I’m just calling out the gruesome bits. We were laughing ourselves silly at certain parts of the morning’s reading. And Colum weaves in such irresistible poetry:

His hound at his heel,
His hawk on his wrist;
A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
And the green ground under him,


I put the fastenings on my boat
For a year and for a day,
And I went where the rowans grow,
And where the moorhens lay;

And I went over the stepping-stones
And dipped my feet in the ford,
And came at last to the Swineherd’s house,–
The Youth without a Sword.

A swallow sang upon his porch
“Glu-ee, glu-ee, glu-ee,”
“The wonder of all wandering,
The wonder of the sea;”
A swallow soon to leave ground sang
“Glu-ee, glu-ee, glu-ee.”

I’m using Pinterest to create a little scrapbook of our Ireland rabbit trail—it suddenly made sense to me last night how that’s a perfect platform for collecting all the books, pictures, and websites we tend to explore in the pursuit of a particular interest.

Here’s a clip of some Irish

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13. Picture Book Roundup: spring, truck and mummy edition

As the co-organizer of the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month blog, I've been very busy formatting, posting, and reading all of the great guest posts this month.  (If you haven't checked it out, you're missing some great essays and reviews.)  As a consequence, I've been neglecting to post often this month, but today I have a quick rundown of three titles that grabbed my attention this past week:

  • Fogliano, Julie. 2012. And then it's spring.  Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. New York: Roaring Brook.

I loved this book from the minute I saw the cover staring at me from my book delivery bag.  It's simply perfect.  Betsy Bird, of Fuse #8, named it to her early Caldecott predictions list yesterday.  Get yourself a copy if you can.

  • Sutton, Sally. 2012. Demolition. Illustrated by Brian Lovelock. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Bright colors, realistic trucks, repeated refrains, rhymes with perfect rhythm - a storytime book doesn't get much better than this.  If you know any small children at all, you know one who will like Demolition.

And finally, a curious addition to my bag 'o books,

  • Bunting, Eve. 2011. Ballywhinney Girl. Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The hauntingly beautiful cover art caught my eye, and with St. Patrick's Day approaching, I was on the lookout for anything Irish to add to a display of Irish-themed books.  Ballywhinney Girl, however, was not what I was expecting.  It's the story of Maeve, a young Irish girl, and her grandfather, who accidentally uncover a body while digging in the peat bogs near their home.  After they report the find to the local authorities, it draws the attention of news reporters, archaeologists, and scientists, who determine that the body is that of a thousand-year-old mummified girl - a girl much like Maeve, herself.  Maeve naturally find the whole process unsettling.  Elegantly told in verse, this is a fictional story that, according to the Author's Note, happens more often than one might think.  It clearly, and rightfully, is unsettling to author, Eve Bunting, as well.  Whether your young listener will find it unsettling as well, 

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14. Emily’s House by Natalie Wright

Readers, please welcome, as part of our Summer Teen Reading Party, Natalie Wright: author of Emily's House for YA readers. Thank you to Rebecca for having me as a guest on her blog today. The Summer Teen Reading Party is in full swing! How many contests have you entered so far? Have you snagged any fun summer reads for your e-reader? In my novel, Emily’s House, Emily must learn how to focus her magical abilities. One of my goals when writing Emily’s House was to embed a primer for “real magic” into the story. Here is my favorite story of real magic and how I used it to win a trip to Ireland! Continue reading

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15. This and that - 3 reviews

A little of this and a little of that, as I'm ahead in reading and behind in writing!

(short stories, novel, audiobook)

Kibuishi, Kazu. 2012.  Explorer: The Mystery Boxes. New York: Amulet.

This book is an unexpected little gem, something of a mystery itself. From the cover, I was expecting a graphic novel mystery, a la The Box Car Children infused with a bit of magic.  What I found instead, was a themed, graphic, short story collection.  Mystery Boxes contains seven stories by noted graphic artists including Raina Telgemeier (Smile).  What ties these disparate illustrators and authors together is that each story features a mysterious box, contents unknown.  The stories range from amusing ("Spring Cleaning by Dave Roman and Telgemeier) to profound (Jason Caffoe's, "The Keeper's Treasure") to social commentary on war (Stuart Livingston and Stephanie Ramirez', "The Soldier's Daughter").

Judging from the way  my Advance Reader Copy was scooped up by a child in my book club, I'd guess this will be popular if it can find the right audience.  I'm also assuming that we can look forward to more collections in the Explorer series. I, for one, would like to see more interest in short stories.  They don't seem to be required reading for middle schoolers - a pity.  (Another good short story series, though not in graphic novel format, is Jon Scieszka's Guys Read Library)

Doyle, Roddy. 2012. A Greyhound of a Girl. New York: Amulet.

Advance Reader Copy

I chose to read this one because it features a multi-generational Irish family.  It's hard not to like Ireland - a beautiful country full of "lovely" people.  In fact, you will hear people in Ireland describe nearly anything as "lovely" --friendly people they are in general, but I digress.

This is the first Roddy Doyle book that I've read and I wasn't sure what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed it once I stopped looking for some artificial contrivance or tricky plot twist and settled in to enjoy a simple yet touching story of 12-year-old Mary O'Hara, and three of her female relatives, one of whom happens to be dead.  A Greyhound of a Girl covers a short span of time in a short book (208 small pages)  about life and death and family. Being of Ireland, of course it is not without humor.

Riordan, Rick. 2011. The Son of Neptune, The Heroes of Olympus Series, Book 2. Read by Joshua Swanson. Listening Library.
12 hours, 27 minutes.

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16. Castle update

I've started on the castle itself, after lingering over the sky.

This is an old stone castle, so its scruffy and uneven and has irregular color patterns.

Its tricky sometimes to keep the colors and values in check, and describe the form accurately. What I mean is, you have values that describe the form, like the light and dark sides of the building. Then you have the changes in color in the stonework, which sometimes fight with the light/dark pattern. You might have dark stone on the light side of the building, for example, which goes against the ideal 'light to dark' way of rendering something.

To add to it all, there are also cool and warm colors of stone, which ideally would be placed to enhance your picture; but since this is real life, those are usually uncooperative as well. Cool colors would be in shadows, whereas the warm tones would be out front. So here we're dealing with a good range of greys, which are all over the place, and I'm doing my best to make them work, and still have it look like the place its supposed to be (which is Enniskillen Castle in Ulster).

I'm using lots of greys (French Greys and both Cool and Warm greys) as well as one pass of Ginger Root to start giving it a bit of life. I'll continue on from here until I get it just right!

Another thing that can help or hinder your drawing experience are the photos you have to work from. Sometimes you get great photos, but more often than not, you don't. Either some nice person who has commissioned your drawing has gone out and taken photos that are: too sunny, too dark, out of focus, while its raining, with cars blocking half the building, etc. etc etc. Or you get photos that have been tarted up with Photoshop filters to look all glowy and warm in the sun, when in fact the building is as grey as old dishwater. And on it goes. So the challenge is to find the truth in there somewhere, and do the best you can to make an accurate rendering. It can be a challenge! Here I'm splitting the difference between all my reference and making the best interpretation I can.

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17. Enniskillen Castle


I skipped to the finish here, leaving out any more steps in the process. Sorry. Sometimes when you get into a piece its a drag to keep interrupting yourself to stop and scan. Like with this one. I just wanted to get it done.

I just kept going with more and more and more layers of greys, mostly, building up the colors and values until it was 'there'.

And because its in Ireland, it needed a nice bit of green grass to sit on.

I kept the pencils slightly dull, and let the grain of the paper work for me in making the stone texture.

This was done with Prismacolors exclusively. 

I used just about all the French Greys, Warm Greys and Cool Greys, as well as Putty Beige, Slate Grey, and Ginger Root. 
No Black.
The grass was done with Limepeel, Apple Green and Grass Green.

This piece was a fun challenge, since I usually do newer buildings.
(The two previous posts, here and here, document my process with this piece, in case you missed them.)

Next up is something with food. 

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18. The Great Unexpected, by Sharon Creech

Naomi lives in the small town of Blackbird Tree.  It is not named because of the shape of its trees, however, but for the many blackbirds that live in those trees.  Blackbird Tree is a bit of a tragic place, where most of the children have experienced some sort of loss.  Naomi is unsurprisingly a bit of a pessimist.  After losing her mother as an infant, and her father in a tragic accident, she has been in the care of Joe and Nula.  But she has always felt a little off kilter about the whole thing.  What if someone comes to take her away?  What if bad things instead of good things start coming out of the donkey's ear from the story that Joe tells?

One fateful day, a boy falls out of a tree right in front of Naomi.  She's not sure if he's real or not-real, so she is happy when her friend Lizzie comes by and lets her know that she can indeed see this boy laying unconscious on the ground.  Where Naomi dwells in the quiet places, Lizzie fills the air with her words, which can be both comforting and bothersome at once.  She fusses over the boy when he comes to, and worries after "Finn boy" who says that he is staying up on the hill with the dim Dimmenses.

Finn has awoken something in Naomi, and she finds that she cannot stop thinking about him.  Each time she runs into him she asks Finn about his life, but he would much prefer to talk to Naomi about hers.  He seems odd, however, visiting the folks in town that others normally steer clear of - folks like Crazy Cora, or Witch Wiggins.  When Finn asks Naomi where he can find Elizabeth Scatterding, who just happens to be Naomi's Lizzie, she finds herself consumed with jealousy.

Meanwhile over in Ireland, Sybil and her caretaker Miss Pilpenny are plotting revenge.  Living at Rook's Orchard, Sybil has enlisted the help of a solicitor to help her with the perfect plan.  There is a Finn boy who used to live there, as well.

Creech has woven together a magical story about family and friendship and the ties that bind.  Each character, no matter how seemingly small is tied to another, and readers will find themselves spell bound from considering the ways in which this is possible in their own lives.   Naomi herself often wonders about the connections between people and places - 

"But I thought about all the things that had to have spun into place in order for us to be alive and for us to be right there, right then.  I thought about the few things we thought we knew and the billions of things we couldn't know, all spinning, whirling out there somehow."  (p 223 arc)

The Great Unexpected is a story that defies categorization in terms of story and of audience.  Found within its pages are mystery and magic, old and young, boys and girls, rich and poor.  I just finished it an hour ago, and I already want to read it again!

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19. ireland's mountains to sea festival

So here are the top superheroes behind one of the best book festivals I've ever been to! Meet Tom Donegan and Sarah Webb, Ireland's ultimate dream team:

The sun was shining bright and Dun Laoghaire (pronounced 'dun LEER-y'), just next to Dublin, felt like being on the Mediterranean riviera. And I got to hang out with one of my best friends, writer Philip Reeve! We strolled along the promenade with Irish filmmaker Frank Kelly, who kindly agreed to take this author photo for the book I'm working on with Philip right now, Oliver and the Seawigs. My studio mate, Gary, just looked over my shoulder and said I look like a mermaid, so that's perfect.

On the first evening, Tom and Sarah took me for dinner with Philip, writer Marcus Sedgwick and top librarian Dr Marian Thérèse Keyes, who took the photo.

After dinner, Marcus, Philip and I went along to hear Sarah Webb talk about her book and writing, along with lots of other writers for adults and young adults, including Cathy Kelly, Katie Fforde, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, Sinéad Moriarty and Marita Conlon-McKenna. Our dinner had run overtime a bit, so we were sitting way, way in the back and couldn't see all that much. The panel gave a great talk, but the three of us were quite jolly from dinner and I made stupid drawings of us.

The next morning, Philip and I did a big MONSTERS & GOBLINS stage event, in front of something like 300 kids. It was loads of fun! Here's Philip with a miniature version of a bratapult, a weapon of war which plays quite a key part in his Goblins book. In fact, his main character spends something like two chapters falling after being hurtled from such a device. We fired goblins into the audience to make some merry chaos.

At two different events, we introduced ourselves while the other person drew an attractive portrait. We weren't allowed to look at our portrait until it was finished. You can get a glimpse over my shoulder here of Philip's drawing of me, which set the kids in the audience absolutely howling.

I grossed out the kids with a reading from Morris the Mankiest Monster and then the kids helped us invent new monsters, and Philip and I took turns drawing how we thought some of the characters in Goblins might look, including Trolls and Boglins. Here's Philip's Boglin.

Then we turned the kids into a tribe of goblins by having them each design a goblin face.

It was fun seeing the kids' work when they came up to get their books signed.

Hee hee!

As ever, I can't post photos of the schoolchildren's faces, which is a shame, but they look quite nice with books for heads.

After the show, we recorded an interview for national television, RTE2's Elev8 programme (the same show Gary Northfield and I took part in a couple years ago, which you can see here). It'll go live in the show's next season, probably some time in October. Here are camera crew Elaine Buckley, Julian Hills and Orla Morris-Toolen.

Orla (in the polka-dot dress) was an amazing interviewer; the camera crew would ask her to do something a bit different, and she'd quickly think about it and come up with a good way to ask us a question that fitted in well with the flow of the programme. Not many kids can think on their feet as calmly as that, I was really impressed.

Later on in the festival, I ran into Moldovan Elev8 presenter Diana Bunici, who'd interviewed Gary and me last time. You can follow her on Twitter as @DeeBTweets and read her blog here.

And here's the fabulous illustration exhibition Tom Donegan put together in the County Hall! Scholastic UK let the festival have sneak peeks at two spreads in my new book, Superkid with Claire Freedman, coming out next spring. Here they are, printed up large:

Both times Philip and I had some time off, we took the chance to stroll along the beautiful Dun Laoghaire harbour. Philip took a photo of me in front of this big sea urchin sculpture and said I looked like something painted on the front of a B-52, the thought of which pleases me to no end.

You can just about see the James Joyce Tower in the background. I really should know what this is. *Makes note to self to try to get into Ulysses again, despite several failed attempts*

And here's some of the jolly gang from Children's Books Ireland! Mags Walsh, Jenny Murray (and Aoife (pronounced 'EEF-ah') Murray arrived a bit later); bookseller and blogger Kim Harte, can someone remind me who that nice gentleman is?, and Tom.

The next day, Philip and I led a Comics Jam workshop in the lovely posh yacht club, with about 20 kids.

We started out by talking about character design. Here's one Philip drew:

And a kid's drawing. Isn't it fabulous?

Then we took our characters and put them into a comics story. Here's one Philip and I bashed out at great speed, taking turns with each panel, with story material based on suggestions from the kids.

Then we set the kids off on their Comics Jam!

They had five minutes to draw a panel, then everyone passed their papers to the next person and for the next five minutes in the second panel, took up the new story where their neighbour had left off.

And so on, passing every five minutes until the four panels were filled.

At the end of 20 minutes, they had some great results. Here's one that made us laugh.

One of the cool things about doing events is meeting kids who are really stuck into comics already. Here's Finn, who brought along his notebook to show us and will obviously be an awesome comics artist if he keeps working as hard as he's doing now.

I was thrilled to see he'd been studying my favourite comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes. Copying is a great way to learn in detail how another artist works, and I remember copying pages and pages of Archie comics when I was his age.

And he's coming up with great stuff of his own! Philip laughed and pointed out this Will-You-Need-a-Gas-Mask-o-Meter.

You can definitely see the influence of other comics on Finn's work, and it's great to see how he's exploring them and starting to add his own creative elements. Look out for this guy, he made be making appearances at small press comics fairs in the next few years.

After our comics jam, we met up with lots of other writers on the yacht club deck to go for the Monster Book Lunch. I didn't get to talk with them as much as I would have liked to, but that's Claire Hennessey on the left (whom I hardly got to meet), someone (can anyone tell me who?) in the middle who I didn't really get to meet at all, and Judi Curtin, with whom I chatted briefly and is really lovely. Apparently her books are as popular in Ireland as Jacqueline Wilson's books are in England, so look out, English people, you might be seeing more of this lady.

When I walked into the lovely banquet room, I was kind of expecting the table I was sharing with Philip Reeve to be packed with girls in tea party dresses. And most of the tables were like this, except ours, which was entirely seated with ROWDY BOYS. Ha ha! They were gentlemen enough to warn me not to drink the squash, which had salt and pepper added to it.

At most tables, the esteemed writers were having gracious conversations with their table mates, but that wasn't going to happen at ours. Instead we played a Monster Consequences game, and made some pretty awesome creatures.

It was loads of fun meeting kids who already knew my work, including Shauna here, who was a huge fan and sent me a lovely e-mail which I read on my phone at the airport on the way home.

Here's our marvellous bookseller for the festival, the ever-energetic Bob Jonstone, who runs The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin's Temple Bar area. His shop's been getting lots of publicity and winning loads of awards recently, and he and his team ran the whole book sales side of things completely smoothly. Thanks, Bob!

I left the Monster Book Lunch a bit early to do another Comics Jam workshop for older kids than the first one I'd done with Philip. Finn was there, but the rest were teenagers and a couple adults. They'd come to hear Steve Simpson give a talk on Superhero Illustration, but he had a family emergency, and the people at the workshop were great about letting me step in. Here are a couple of the Comics Jam results:

Meanwhile Philip Reeve was getting ready to go on a panel with writer Michelle Harrison, and I managed to dash in to listen, just as they were getting going.

The panel was a project for the three girls interviewing Michelle and Philip. They'd had the chance to choose writers they'd like to interview, get them invited to the festival, and spend quite a lot of time preparing for the interview. They knew the writers' books well, and were able to ask some great questions.

I was interested to find out that, like Philip, Michelle also does some illustration (as does Marcus Sedgwick, whom I mentioned earlier). And both she and Philip were very influenced by the early work of Brian Froud, who designed the looks for The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth films. Michelle writes a lot of horror stuff, and read from her recent book, Unrest, inspired by the sleep disorders she's encountered in people she knows. Here's the trailer video, and you can find out more over on her website.

Here's the fab panel, being VERY SCARED.

Or is that speakers being VERY SCARY?

One of the great things about Mountains to Sea is that the festival's all within walking distance and everyone stays at the same place. So we were always bumping into people, including the writer Eoin Colfer (creator of Artemis Fowl), who wasn't even taking part in the festival this year!

Here's the Royal Marine Hotel, a lovely Victorian candybox of a place:

I got to sit across from Michelle at dinner, and meet writer Robert Muchamore. I didn't really know Robert's work, but he's the writer of the Cherub graphic novels, which my friend John Aggs illustrates, so it was great to meet him. Michelle (@MHarrison13) tweeted: Sat next to @RobertMuchamore at dinner earlier. He threw olives at me and pulled my hair. ...I think I will say nothing about that.

The next day, writer-illustrator Chris Judge and I went to the People's Park to take part in the Picture Book Picnic. I'd met Chris once before, at the festival at Tales on Moon Lane, but I'd been so busy keeping my group of kids from dumping paint on the bookshop floor that I didn't have much time to see him in action.

Here I am, reading from You Can't Scare a Princess.

Chris did a great job reading from The Lonely Beast and The Great Explorer and getting the kids to respond.

It was so obvious that all the kids, parents, festival volunteers, everyone, really love him. That's something so nice I'm noticing about Ireland. They don't have a huge home-grown publishing scene, but those they do have, they really get to know and cherish them. I really like that.

We both did some drawing with the kids. Here's Chris showing us how to draw the walrus from his book.

So many kids showed up that some of them had to share clip boards. I love this photo.

And this one, too. The team of volunteers was brilliant. And can I just say that if I was making an epic action film, I would want to cast this awesome-looking one in the lead role? This is designer-illustrator Simone Crowley and I spent some of the picnic admiring her and her tattoos from afar.

And one more photo with Chris. The weeping willow in the Secret Garden section of the park made for a wonderfully atmospheric storybook kind of place.

After the picnic, Tom and a lovely volunteer named Jenny hustled me off to County Hall for The Big Picture Panel Discussion with Chris, Inis magazine editor David Maybury and David Mackintosh.

No event involving the whirlwind that is David Maybury can be anything other than terribly exciting, and this panel was no exception. The best part for me was finding out about David Mackintosh's work. I'd never even heard of him, but his books are SO beautiful.

David's now London-based, but he was born in Belfast and grew up in Australia. And he worked as a graphic designer before moving into making his own picture books. And you can really tell: his understanding of typography, colour, how to use space on the page is exceptional.

I'm already such a fangirl. Here's the dedication in one of the books I bought:

Aren't these pictures the best thing ever?

I talked a bit about self-publishing during the panel, and at the end, two members of the audience came up and gave me copies of their self-published books, The Enlightened Light Bulb Boy by Dublin-based Brazilian illustrator Tarsila Krüse and the Yum! Yum! Recipe Booklet by Tarsila and her friend Paula McGloin.

Googling their names, I saw their blog post about the annual Dublin Zine Fair, which looks like something worth visiting or taking part in if you're in town.

After the panel, CBI's Jenny Murray set me up for my interview for Inis magazine with Cethan Leahy, and we had a good chat.

Then it was time to go home. Jenny whisked me off for a late lunch at the bagel place, then I got a festival taxi to the airport with Philip's agent, Philippa Milnes-Smith, and Sara Wingate Gray, who runs The Itinerant Poetry Library. Philippa and I listened, enthralled, to all the stuff Sara's been getting up to with her suitcase of poetry books, providing her 'guerilla public library service'. She was one of the first librarians to know about Twitter, which you can guess from her succinct Twitter name, @Librarian. I mentioned Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile
and short story Moths of the New World, and we decided that Sara had probably crawled out of the pages of one of those books before they were even written.

Oh, and this is my lovely new companion, a 'zonk' which I have named Webbster Donegan. She loves flying, even though her wings aren't terribly aerodynamic.

I was sad to leave. Someone tweeted a Dr Seuss quotation during the Paralympic Closing Ceremony that evening - 'Don't be sad it's over. Be glad it happened.' - and I thought that was a good way to look at it.

Goodbye, Ireland! An enormous thanks to Tom, Sarah, Marian, David, Jenny, Philip, CBI, Bob, Orla, the team of volunteers, and loads more people who made this festival such a wonderful experience.

I feel like sleeping for a week now, and I'm sure the festival team do, too, but wow. That was amazing.

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20. Ulster since 1600: politics, economy, and society

By Philip Ollerenshaw

For many people the terms Ulster, Northern Ireland, and ‘the North’ conjure up images of communal conflict, sectarianism, and peace processes of indefinite duration. More than 3,500 people were killed in the national, communal and sectarian conflict that engulfed Northern Ireland between 1969 and Easter 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Tens of thousands were injured or maimed, while sporadic acts of political violence persist to this day.

The near-present is a powerful influence on how we view the past. Yet, in many respects, these blood-spattered years serve to distort our understanding of the lived experience of people in Ulster from 1700 onwards. True enough, this was an ethnically-divided society, but one characterised by complexities, ambiguities, contrariness and the unexpected. Above all, it is necessary to appreciate that violence was not the dominant motif in most time periods in recent centuries.

In 1600, Ulster was a thinly populated, economically backward region. By 1900, without the benefit of local coal or iron, the Belfast region had emerged as a significant industrial and commercial centre in western Europe. This social and economic dynamism was based, first, on linen textiles and later on shipbuilding and engineering. Elsewhere in Ulster, more traditional but vigorous small-farming enterprises predominated.

The story of Ulster since 1600 is one of dramatic transformation, in which immigrant entrepreneurs and workers played a vital role. Moreover, in terms of economic geography and social networks, east Ulster was well placed to benefit from the English and Scottish industrial revolutions. In fact, the north east of Ireland was the only part of the island of Ireland to experience modern industrialisation and urbanisation on a major scale. By the time of political independence in ‘southern’ Ireland, Belfast stood out as Ireland’s only industrial city.

But here is one of the many paradoxes. Despite these modernising tendencies, Belfast and the lesser towns of Ulster incubated and perpetuated forms of politico-religious conflict that have outlived similar tendencies that were once characteristic of many parts of western Europe.

There are other paradoxes. The economic trajectory of Ulster in the eighteenth century, though marred by periodic crises, was generally upwards. Yet the province of Ulster experienced higher levels of emigration, particularly to North America, than any of the other Irish provinces. These emigrants, Presbyterians in the main, went on to forge other lives in the New World. A disproportionate number were involved on the insurgents’ side in the American war of independence. At home, a minority of Presbyterians were active in the radical United Irishmen, seeking reform of the Anglican and landlord-dominated Irish political system.

Presbyterian radicalism took a new turn in the following century, focusing on reform of the landlord and tenant system and local government, but within the framework of the Union of Britain and Ireland. The industrial success of east Ulster in turn served to solidify support for the Union, among Protestant workers as well as captains of industry, aided by a resurgent Orange Order. The comparative underdevelopment of the south and west of Ireland provided ideological justification for emerging Irish nationalist and Catholic opposition to the Union. It is significant, though, that members of the Catholic working class in Belfast, Derry and Newry were not swayed by economic arguments. In conjunction with their co-religionists, they sought Home Rule and later political independence for all of Ireland.

The partition of the island in 1920-21, with six of the original nine Ulster counties forming the new statelet of Northern Ireland, was a major source of grievance to Irish nationalists, North and South. Yet much of social and cultural life proceeded as before – arguably the continuities were as important as the discontinuities – though the heat and invective of political partisanship was sometimes imported into activities as diverse as sport, schooling and language revival.

The formative phase in the making of modern Ulster was undoubtedly during the Plantation of Ulster. But maybe Ulster was a place apart, even before then, as Estyn Evans has suggested? Indeed has the distinctiveness of Ulster in recent centuries been overstated, as some others have suggested? These, and many other questions, find at least partial answers within the pages of Ulster Since 1600.

Philip Ollerenshaw is Reader in History at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He is the author or editor of several books on economic, financial, and urban history, including Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy, and Society (co-edited with Liam Kennedy; OUP, 2012) .

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21. a little luck of the irish....

in january...;)

i have been working on this illo/painting for the past few days. it was inspired by a dear friend of mine's daughter, born on st. patty's day. the ironic thing...she's about 110% POLISH! go figure...;)

i just thought a little irish whimsy would be fun. for the sake of the illo, i decided to make her hair a strawberry blonde color...kinda like macaroni and cheese (and how could THAT be bad....)!

i'm just about done and will be listing it FOR SALE as a PRINT sometime in early february.

hey, who says leprechauns are always boys...?!;)

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22. “The Fisherman” by Ferg Brennan

The sixth film in our Student Animation Festival, The Fisherman, comes to us from Ferg Brennan who produced it at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology in Dublin, Ireland. To comment on the film or read extensive behind-the-scenes notes from the filmaker, click HERE.

The film is an incredible piece of theater, a dark psychological drama with an exquisite monologue performed by Irish actor Diarmuid De Faoite. Brennan’s CG animation fits the narrative perfectly, and his stylized design of the lead character captures the manic despair of the lonely, lower class fisherman. It’s the acting, by both voice actor and animator, that pulls the film together—and (pardon the pun) reels the viewer totally in. The film’s sophistication stands apart with its powerful portrayal of a man facing his own madness.

Cartoon Brew’s second annual Student Animation Festival is made possible through the generous support of Titmouse and JibJab.

Titmouse and JibJab

Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation | Permalink | No comment | Post tags: , ,

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23. calling all dubliners!

Hey, look at the poster that just popped up on the Inis magazine blog!

If you're anywhere near Dublin this Thursday, come join me and two top-notch illustrators Oliver Jeffers and PJ Lynch at the big Easons on O'Connell Street for a cosy evening event! I'm looking forward to finding out more about PJ Lynch and I'm already a huge fan of Oliver's work. I remember the first time I saw an original piece he'd done for The Incredible Book Eating Boy, I was totally blown away because none of it was digital (as I'd assumed), he'd really found all this beautiful old paper and things and cut and pasted and painted it together.

I've really enjoyed my trips to Ireland the past couple years (see past blog posts here). My studio mate, Gary Northfield and I did an amazing whistle-stop tour last year. You might have already seen this, but I'll post the video of our slot on RTE2 Irish kids telly, that was such good fun.

(Click here for Part 2)

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24. Yeats, faeries, and the Irish occult tradition

W. B. Yeats is usually seen as a great innovator who put his stamp so decisively on modern Irish literature that most of his successors worked in his shadow. R. F. Foster's new book, Words Alone: Yeats and his Inheritances, weaves together literature and history to present an alternative perspective.

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25. The Black and Tans in black and white

By D. M. Leeson In September 2010, when my book was just about to enter production, my editor asked me if I had any ideas about an image for the cover.

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