On May 11, 2010, Siobhán Parkinson (pronounced sh-vawn) became the first Irish Children's Literature Laureate (aka Laureate Na nÓg) ever. (Na nÓg is an Irish term meaning "the young" or "young people"). Held for two years, the main purpose of the position is to expose youths to good, high quality children's literature and to weave it into Ireland's culture. Siobhán said of what she hopes to achieve:
"[That] every child in the country has access to a nice, bright, warm, cheerful, comfortable library, where they can go and find the books that will open their minds and bring them into wonderful imaginary places. That sense of excitement and joy about books I want every child to have... I believe that children's literature lays the foundations of the imaginative life of a people, and that every child deserves to have access to a reading haven."
With more than twenty books in print - for adults, young adults, middle graders and children - and as an active advocate for the importance of children's literature, Siobhán Parkinson was a natural choice for Laureate Na nÓg. Her books have been translated into numerous languages (Danish, German, Slovenian, Thai, and Japanese, to name a few), and she has won countless awards, including the Bisto Book of the Year, which is a top Irish literary honor, presented to selected children's authors and illustrators who are either born in or residents of Ireland.
Siobhán is visually impaired, but, of course, it doesn't stop her from writing. Using a large-screened monitor and a voice program on her computer to read what she has written back to her, Siobhán remains a prolific and passionate author. (And funny, just like Jono!)
Her novel Long Story Short was first published as Bruised in Ireland by Hodder Children's Books (2011); her other works include The Love Bean (2002), Breaking The Wishbone (2000), and Sisters - No Way! (1998). She is also a publisher for an imprint of New Island Books called Little Island, which specializes in quality fiction and books in translation for children and teens. It was her brainchild; she had been co-editing a journal of international children's literature and lamented that there weren't enough foreign books available to Irish youths. Edwin Higel, publisher of New Island Books, suggested that she start an imprint to do just that. So she did!
Siobhán can read and translate German (and has done so twice for Little Island), and she can also write in Irish. She studied English literature and German at Trinity College, Dublin, where she earned her PhD in 1981. She's experienced with and interested in teaching creative writing, and is especially drawn to helping children with special needs.
In the video below, Siobhán Parkinson discusses her passion for storytelling, the writing process, and her upcoming literary projects.
This article is from the August 4, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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