As the author of Stormclouds, I was delighted when my novel was chosen for the 2014 Battle of the Books – and particularly pleased when I heard that the Dublin Airport Authority was supporting the expansion of the project from the previous year.
With one hundred and sixty children from five schools in the Fingal area taking part, this was a big initiative to encourage reading, and it was heartening to see the DAA’s enthusiastic support for the many initiatives that sprang from the project.
In addition to each pupil getting a personal copy of Stormclouds – which explores the first year of the Troubles in Northern Ireland from the viewpoint of children from very different backgrounds – teachers and librarians put together an exciting range of experiences for the pupils.
Although primarily written as an adventure story, Stormclouds is a book in which the main characters have to make major moral choices concerning the dramatic historical events that were taking place in 1969. Taking these events as a springboard, school visits were organised as follows:
Michael Moylan of Irish History Lives provided the pupils with uniforms, vintage clothes, replica guns etc, to recreate the period, so that the children could explore the history of that time in an entertaining, accessible way.
Eamon Rafter of the Glencree Reconciliation Centre also visited the schools, and thought-provoking sessions took place on the origins of the Troubles and the nature of conflict.
Julie Duane engaged in creative writing with the pupils, and using Mr Goldman, the journalist character from Stormclouds, explored the role of journalism.
Painter John Carpenter attended the schools and encouraged the pupils to express themselves visually, culminating in the wonderful display we see today, where every pupil came up with an individual cover design for Stormclouds.
For any writer producing a novel is a journey into the unknown, and for me the rewards of having made this journey were hugely increased by having Stormclouds chosen for the Battle of the Books.
My sincere thanks to Maura Cassidy of the Dublin Airport Authority, to Nora Finnegan and her colleagues in Fingal Libraries, to the teachers in Blanchardstown, Swords, Malahide, Rush and Balbriggan, and to the pupils who read my book and were so generous with their comments. Thanks you all, and congratulations on your own creativity!
Here’s a piece about Battle of the Books, from the Dublin Airport Authority website.