The Discover Irish Children's Books Campaign

The aim of Discover Irish Children’s Books is to highlight and celebrate Irish children’s books.

Champion of Irish children’s books, Sarah Webb, has increasingly realised that the Irish children’s top ten bestseller list rarely features ANY Irish books. Ireland is a country that produces some of the best writers in the world and we have some incredible children’s authors  and illustrators living on this island.

In creating the Discover Irish Children’s Books campaign, Sarah hopes to fix this situation by bringing Irish children’s books and their authors and illustrators to the attention of young readers and their grown ups. She has brought together a crack team of children’s book experts to help.

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.

If you are a librarian, teacher, bookseller, festival programmer, parent, grandparent or book lover, you can help Sarah and her team reverse this trend by being an Irish Children’s Book Champion.

Poster of book suggestions titled "If you like Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling you'll love..."

Why This Campaign is Needed

There are around 350 published Irish children’s authors and illustrators, including those living and working in Ireland. That’s a lot of children’s authors and illustrators!

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.

Three Irish children’s authors, illustrators and publishers made the long and shortlists for the prestigious Yoto Carnegie awards this spring: Flora Delargy’s Rescuing Titanic, Marianne McShane’s The Fog Catcher’s Daughter, and Irish publishing house Little Island for Louise Finch’s The Eternal Return of Clara Hart.

24% of book sales in Ireland are children’s books.

The Problem

But there is a problem. When 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. (It’s certainly not 24% of the event programming.)

Bookshops are reporting increased sales of books by brand authors like Dahl and Blyton. Irish children’s books are not charting on the Irish children’s bestseller charts.

Irish children’s books are not receiving the national recognition and attention that they deserve.

No Irish Children's Books in the Bestseller List

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 children’s books (compiled using data from Nielsen Book Scan, which records every book sale through a bookshop till in Ireland). There were 123 Irish authors  in the adult original fiction chart in the corresponding twenty weeks.

During May, June, July and early August there were no Irish children’s books in the Irish children’s top ten and Shane Hegarty is the only Irish children’s author  in the top ten children’s fiction borrowed from Dublin City Libraries so far in 2023.

How You Can Help

Check out our call to action – be an Irish Children’s Book Champion.

A photo of Peter Donnelly (left) and Sarah Webb (right) standing outside the Halway Up The Stairs children's bookshop
Children's Authors Peter Donnelly and Sarah Webb at Halfway up the Stairs Children's Bookshop, Greystones, Co Wicklow

The Team

Patricia Forde, Laureate na nÓg

Alan Nolan, Children’s Author

Eve McDonnell, Children’s Author

Sinéad O’Hart, Children’s Author and Storyshaped Podcaster

Leona Forde, Children’s Author and Secondary School Teacher

Marianne McShane, Children’s Author and Storyteller

Ann Murtagh, Children’s Author and Local Historian

Sam Blake, YA Author/No 1 Bestselling Adult Crime Author

Triona Campbell, YA Author

Conor Bredin, Children’s Writer and Primary School Teacher

Sarah Webb, Children’s Author and Bookseller

Trish Hennessy, Owner, Halfway up the Stairs Children’s Bookshop

Méabh McDonnell, Children’s Bookseller, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop