Siobhán Parkinson’s Letter to the Children of the World

This year Ireland hosted International Children’s Book Day!

Letter to the children of the world

Readers often ask writers how it is that they write their stories – where do the ideas come from? From my imagination, the writer answers. Ah, yes, readers might say. But where is your imagination, and what is it made of, and has everyone got one?

Well, says the writer, it is in my head, of course, and it is made of pictures and words and memories and traces of other stories and words and fragments of things and melodies and thoughts and faces and monsters and shapes and words and movements and words and waves and arabesques and landscapes and words and perfumes and feelings and colours and rhymes and little clicks and whooshes and tastes and bursts of energy and riddles and breezes and words. And it is all swirling around in there and singing and kaleidoscoping and floating and sitting and thinking and scratching its head.

Of course everyone has an imagination: otherwise we wouldn’t be able to dream. Not everyone’s imagination has the same stuff in it, though. Cooks’ imaginations probably have mostly taste in them, and artists’ imaginations mostly colours and shapes. Writers’ imaginations, though, are mostly full of words.

And for readers of and listeners to stories, their imaginations run on words too. The writer’s imagination works and spins and shapes ideas and sounds and voices and characters and events into a story, and the story is made of nothing but words, battalions of squiggles marching across the pages. Then along comes a reader and the squiggles come to life. They stay on the page, they still look like battalions, but they are also romping about in the reader’s imagination, and the reader is now shaping and spinning the words so that the story runs now inside his or her head, as it once did in the head of the writer.

That is why the reader is just as important to the story as the writer. There is only one writer for each story, but there are hundreds or thousands or maybe even millions of readers, in the writer’s own language, or perhaps even translated into many languages. Without the writer the story would never be born; but without all the thousands of readers around the world, the story would not get to live all the lives it can live.

Every reader of a story has something in common with every other reader of that story. Separately, and yet in a way also together, they have re-created the writer’s story in their own imagination: an act that is both private and public, individual and communal, intimate and international. It may well be what humans do best.

Keep reading!

Siobhán Parkinson

Author, editor, translator and former Laureate na nÓg (Children’s Laureate of Ireland).


Inspiring a Passion for Young Readers

Name: Laurel Heger


Institution: Libraries and or field trips to Community Colleges by 3-6 graders

Audience: Grades 3-6

Books used:
Thumbelina By Hans Christian Anderson and over 150 fairy tales and stories by Hans Christian Anderson.

Materials needed:
The 1952 musical film  Hans Christian Andersen, posters for the event (designed by college students), and materials to design finger puppets for the story characters.

Brief outline of program or event:
Children’s literature students from Community colleges would read Thumbelina  and use finger puppets to re-enact the story as portrayed in the 1952 movie with Danny Kaye:

A party theme with the sound/music playing I’m Hans Christian Anderson:


Global Literature from England by Doris Gebel

Doris Gebel is the President of USBBY and Head of Children’s Services at the Northport-East Northport Public Library in Northport, NY.

The International and Global Literature Collection at Northport Library was launched in December 2012. This growing collection features children’s and young adult literature translated from a language other than English, imported from outside the USA, or written by an author with international roots.

Perhaps the best known literature from abroad comes to us from England. What American child does not know Winnie-the-Pooh (albeit thanks to Mr. Disney). Image

Never the less, he is just one of the famous animal characters that populate British children’s literature. He stands proudly next to Paddington and the creatures of The Wind in the Willows. Little people are no strangers to British children’s literature beginning with the folk character of Tom Thumb to Jonathan Swift’s Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels to Norton’s Borrowers.

Britain stands among the first nations to institute the position of Children’s Laureate, naming Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Anthony Browne (author and illustrator of that famous gorilla), Michael Morpurgo (author of nearly 100 books for young people and recently come to our attention by way of War Horse), and the current Julia Donaldson (if you don’t know the Gruffalo, check out Donaldson talking about her process and see the universal appeal of the story from Hong Kong to Italy


Children of long ago cherished books like A Child’s Garden of Verse, Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island. From the more recent past there’s The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sword in the Stone, The HobbitAlice in WonderlandPeter PanMary Poppins,   The likes of Joan Aiken, Leon Garfield, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Mollie Hunter, Helen Cresswell, Ian Serrraillier, Philppa Pearce, William Mayne and Roald Dahl stand in the halls of great British writers for children. Contemporary authors such as Eva Ibbotson, Phillip Pullman, Hillary McKay….dare I mention J.K Rowling are also currently popular in England.

And this doesn’t touch on the great tradition of picture books. Just consider the works of the great nineteenth century illustrators, Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway and Beatrix Potter, to name just three.

Check out these popular Irish authors and illustrators: Roddy Doyle, Siobhán Parkinson, Oliver Jeffers, Shibhán Dowd, Eoin Colfer, P.J. Lynch.

We are all familiar with the Newbery and Caldecott awards and wait with anticipation for their announcement each January. The British equivalent of these awards are the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards: Also of interest is the Guardian Prize

Further Reading:

Chambers, Aidan. Tell Me: Children, Reading and Talk. Pembroke, 1996.

Townsend, John Rowe. Written for Children: an outline of English-Language children’s literature. Scarecrow Press, 1996.

International Playground Games

childrens-games-from-around-the-worldName: Lisa Herskowitz

Institution: Northport-East Northport Public Library

Title of proposed program: International Playground Games

Audience: ages 7-10

Books used:

Materials needed:
crepe paper streamers balls boxes

Brief outline of program or event:
Please refer to CHILDREN´S PLAYGROUND GAMES FROM AROUND THE WORLD by Glenn Kirchner for more detailed descriptions of these activities for groups of 16 or more children to be played in a large program room. Provide 2 colors of crepe paper streamers to create team arm bands. Have a display of folktales, nonfiction and fiction books that highlight the countries of origin of the games.

  1. KITCHEN BALL (pg. 43) from Botswana is a relay games that requires setting up two teams to pass a ball under the legs to the next player.
  2. The tossing game BALLS IN BOXES (pg. 111) from Jamaica needs a ball and a box (large enough to comfortably accommodate the ball) for each pair of children.
  3. Children pretend to play different musical instruments in the guessing game THE CONDUCTOR (pg. 133) from Romania.
  4. Children physically create geometric shapes as a group in the group guessing game from Argentina GEOMETRY CLASS (pg. 193).