Award winning author and champion of Irish children’s books, Sarah Webb (to whom Something Terrible Happened Last Night is dedicated) has increasingly realised that the Irish children’s top ten bestseller list rarely features ANY Irish books. From March to the start of August 2023 – twenty weeks – only ten books by Irish children’s authors or illustrators charted in the top ten. There were 123 Irish authors in the adult original fiction chart in the corresponding twenty weeks. Sarah wants to do something about it.
Bringing together a team of authors and illustrators to help, Sarah has created the Discover Irish Children’s Books campaign, where she hopes to to highlight and celebrate Irish children’s books, by bringing Irish children’s books, and their authors and illustrators, to the attention of young readers and their grown ups.
Sarah is an award-winning children’s author . She has also worked in the book trade for many years and now works as the Events Manager at Halfway up the Stairs children’s bookshop in Greystones, Co Wicklow.
There are around 350 published Irish children’s authors and illustrators, including those living and working in Ireland. We have our own Laureate na nÓg, Patricia Forde, who writes in both Irish and English. Some of our children’s authors and illustrators enjoy huge international success. Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl book was a New York Times bestseller. John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has been translated into around 56 different languages, Oliver Jeffers’ into over 50 different languages (with over 14 million sales worldwide). The children’s books of Catherine Doyle, Judi Curtin, Roddy Doyle, Derek Landy and Mary Murphy are also widely translated.
24% of book sales in Ireland are children’s books. But when they are asked, many children living in Ireland cannot name any children’s authors who are Irish or living in Ireland. Very few children’s authors and illustrators based in Ireland are appearing at book and arts festivals in Ireland, or in the Irish media, although they work incredibly hard visiting schools and libraries. It is only recently that childrens and YA books have begun to be reviewed consistently in the main stream media. While authors are doing their best on a local level, it’s a national approach that’s needed.
While children’s authors are on the road constantly talking in schools and libraries, doing their bit to bring attention to their books, bookshops are reporting increased sales of books by brand authors like Dahl and Blyton plus celebrity authors who parents have heard of. There is no shortage of talent but Irish children’s books are not charting on the Irish children’s bestseller charts or receiving the national recognition and attention that they deserve.
Focusing on highlighting children’s books and bringing national attention to this problem, the Discover Irish Kids Books site has many resources for librarians, teachers, booksellers, festival programmers, as well as parents, grandparents and book lovers. From an age categorised list of authors (which will grow as the site grows) to an ‘if you loved that, you’ll love this’ listing (coming soon), each week the site will feature a different independent bookseller’s top ten bestselling children’s books as an alternative to the Irish Times/Nielsen Book Scan bestseller lists.
This week Charlie Bryne’s Bookshop in Galway has listed their top ten bestsellers 🙂
You can see this image at Discover Irish Kids Books here.
If you are a librarian, teacher, bookseller, festival programmer, parent, grandparent or book lover, you can help Sarah and the team by being an Irish Children’s Book Champion. Find tips and action points at the site.
Resources will be coming to the site soon to help programmers to organise events and to develop their children’s books offering. There will be point of sale material for bookshops and you can already download artwork to print stickers for children and books. Independent booksellers have found that a table of Irish authored books, bringing the focus home, has a huge impact on sales.
Discover Irish Kids Books would love an all Irish top ten in Christmas week (and so would I!) If you liked One of Us is Lying or The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, you’ll love Something Terrible Happened Last Night!
For more information check out Discover Irish Kids Books and make your next children’s book purchase an Irish one!