Eoin Colfer was announced as the third Laureate na nÓg, Children's Laureate of Ireland, at a special event at the Arts Council today. He was awarded his Laureate’s ‘medal’ by Minister Fergus O’Dowd who said Eoin was a ‘magical’ writer who would open up the minds of young people over all the world in his new role. Laureate na nÓg is an initiative of the Arts Council with the support of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Children’s Books Ireland, Poetry Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The honour was established to engage young people with high quality children’s literature and to underline the importance of children’s literature in our cultural and imaginative lives.
Eoin Colfer was born in Wexford in 1965. Having qualified as a primary school teacher, he worked in Wexford before travelling and working in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy. His first book, Benny and Omar, was published in 1998, based on his experiences in Tunisia; it has since been translated into many languages.
He attained worldwide recognition in 2001, when the first Artemis Fowl book was published and became a New York Times bestseller. His latest novel, Warp: The Reluctant Assassin has been nominated for the CBI Book of the Year 2014. He currently lives in Wexford, Ireland with his wife, Jackie, and two children, Séan and Finn.
Speaking about his appointment as Laureate na nÓg, Eoin Colfer said: ‘I feel incredibly honoured and incredibly petrified to be taking on the Laureate mantle after Niamh (Sharkey) and Siobhan (Parkinson). I feel I am representing my family and my county and indeed all book people in Ireland which is not something I mean to take lightly. I intend to spend my time spreading stories to every nook and cranny in the country. Nobody is safe. It doesn't matter where you hide – I will find you and tell you a story.’
At the announcement he quipped that the Laureate medal gives him special powers. ‘All writers have to do what I say,’ he said. ‘Sarah and Niamh have to swap (the type of books they write) and John and Derek have to swap . . . I look forward to reading John Boyne’s new Skulduggery Pleasant book in the future.’ He also added ‘This is the proudest moment of my professional life.’
Elaina Ryan, Director of Children’s Books Ireland said: ‘Laureate na nÓg stands for so many things: honouring the talent of Ireland’s extraordinary writers and illustrators; celebrating children’s literature and recognising its crucial place in the lives of children; and bringing people together in Ireland and internationally to talk about children’s books and the possibilities they represent. Children’s Books Ireland is thrilled that Eoin Colfer will be Ireland’s third Laureate na nÓg – his imagination, energy and accessibility to so many audiences are among the many attributes that will make Eoin a wonderful Laureate.’
Sheila Pratschke, Chair of the Arts Council, said: ‘The Arts Council is delighted to award this honour – the highest to be awarded to a children's writer or illustrator in Ireland – to an artist of such high achievement and with such generosity of spirit.’ And Nóirín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland added her support for the new Laureate: ‘Following in the trail-blazing footsteps of Siobhan Parkinson and Niamh Sharkey, Eoin Colfer is an inspired choice for the third all-island Children’s Laureate.’
Spotted at the announcement: the team from Penguin Ireland; Eoin’s agent, Sophie Hicks; children’s book commentator, Robert Dunbar; Director of Children’s Books Ireland, Elaina O’Neill; RTE’s David Murphy; and columnist and writer, Martina Devlin.
If you’d like to invite Eoin to your festival or event, the Laureate na nÓg team will be inviting invitations during the month of June from arts organisations and groups to suggest projects for the new Laureate. See www.childrenslaureate.ie for details. A great opportunity to hear from an amazing writer.
I would like to congratulate Eoin on his appointment and I look forward to the next two years of his reign! Long live Laureate Eoin!
Sarah Webb is a writer and children’s book commentator. She is the Children’s Curator of the Mountains to Sea Book Festival.