All Over Ireland

When Australia's Children's Laureate Leigh Hobbs met Ireland's Laureate na nÓg illustrator PJ Lynch at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in April, PJ invited Leigh to visit Ireland for a brief tour. Leigh was going to England in May, so a visit was just a skip over the Irish Sea.

Little did PJ know that Leigh already had a keen young audience in there. Last year Leigh received a letter from Ms Ferguson and Class P2 at Ballyholme Primary School in Northern Ireland. The school is about 30 minutes from Belfast. And as the Laureate na nÓg embraces both the Republic and Northern Ireland, well...what would you do?

Here's the letter Ms Ferguson's students sent to Leigh.

The students posed some important questions for the author.

So while Leigh was in Ireland the opportunity to drop in draw with the students was not something to could pass up.The school made a marvellous welcome and Leigh was delighted to meet the young readers and artists.

After a welcoming round of scissors, paper rock, it was time to get down to business.

 

Old Tom was on hand, too. That's PJ Lynch, back row left, and Ms Ferguson centre.

 

A marvellous reception unrolled with speeches and a wonderful morning tea. The kids had prepared displays of their Mr Chicken art and, after a workshop by Leigh, both he and PJ Lynch were ‘ crowned’. 

After  Ballyholme in the north it was south to Dublin, and the magnificent library at Dun Laoighre, for a public event From Australia with Love – writing and illustrating for children. The discussion matched Leigh with three Irish Laureates: PJ Lynch, Niamh Sharkey and Siobhán Parkinson. This was followed by a Laureate dinner whose guests included the Australian ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews, who also attended the library conversation. It was a great opportunity to explore the importance of literature for young people.

From left: Ireland's Laureate na nÓg, author and illustrator, P.J. Lynch; Niamh Sharkey, author, illustrator and former Laureate na nÓg; Leigh Hobbs, and Siobhán Parkinson, author of twenty books since 1992 and Ireland's first Laureate na nÓg in 2010. © Photo by Peter Cavanagh

The following day Leigh and PJ Lynch returned to the library for workshops with two more schools to conclude the adventure.

Leigh summed up the whole experience this way: "Altogether it was a terrific trip. Short but sweet and marvellously planned and went off without a hitch. The Irish organisers were extremely generous and thoughtful. PJ Lynch was great company throughout as was his Laureate program manager Aingeala Flannery."

Our warmest thanks to Children's Book Ireland's director Elaina Ryan, Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch, the indefatigable Ms Ferguson of Ballyholme Primary School, and all who helped make the trip such a success.

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