*This post is dated May 8th, 2014*
Today, Thursday 8th May 2014, novelist Eoin Colfer was announced as the third Laureate na nÓg, Ireland’s laureate for children’s literature, at a special event at the Arts Council. The announcement was made by Fergus O’Dowd, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources and Environment, Community & Local Govt, with responsibility for the NewEra Project.
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. A sequel followed in 1999. He attained worldwide recognition in 2001, when the first Artemis Fowl book was published and became a New York Times Best Seller, as did some sequels. Among his other popular works are Half Moon Investigations, The Wish List, The Supernaturalist, and a series of Eoin Colfer’s Legends. In January 2008, Colfer published a book titled Airman, another best-seller. His latest novel, Warp The Reluctant Assassin has been nominated for the CBI Book of the Year 2014. To date more than half of his books have reached the New York Times list at least once. Eoin Colfer 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 and Siobhán. 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.’
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: ‘To date, Laureate na nÓg has been a tremendous success, and the stellar work of Eoin Colfer’s predecessors, Siobhán Parkinson and Niamh Sharkey, has broadened and deepened the imaginative worlds of young people across the country. 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. We have no doubt that the Eoin Colfer’s term will be exciting and inspired, and we very much look forward to the two years ahead.’
Nóirín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: ‘Laureate na nÓg is an important vehicle for us to increase the recognition of the importance of Children’s literature and advocate the benefit of creativity among our young people. 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. The Arts Council of Northern Irealand is delighted to be working with our cross border partners to strengthen his island-wide ambassadorial role.’
Eoin’s first public speaking event as Laureate will be at the Children’s Books Ireland Conference ‘The F Word: Failure‘ which takes place on May 24th and 25th 2014.