Children of Lir - Tackling Irish mythology with a children’s book

By Hayden Moore

A charming fresh take on the Irish legend, ‘The Children of Lir’ has been published by a Kilnamanagh native in a new rhyming picture book.

Laura Ruth Maher is a trained Montessori teacher who focused her research on the importance of storytelling for her dissertation when doing her degree and Masters in Early Education.

Kilnamanaghs Laura Ruth Maher has written a refreshed take on The Children of Lir compressor

Kilnamanagh’s Laura Ruth Maher has written a refreshing take on The Children of Lir

Kilnamanagh born and bred, Laura attended St Kevin’s GNS and even worked in Kilnamanagh Kids Crèche and Montessori School for six years before relocating to Warwickshire in the UK three years ago, which is where she now lives with her fiancée and son.

This week, Laura caught up with The Echo to let us know about what made her tackle the age-old Children of Lir tale, how working with children inspired her to bring it to life and what we can expect from her next.

Did your work in Kilnamanagh Kids Crèche and Montessori School have any influence on bringing this age-old tale to life once again?

Absolutely, nurturing a child’s sense of identity and belonging is a big part of Kilnamanagh Kids ethos and something they work hard to achieve on a daily basis.

As a Montessori teacher it was always important that the children in my care understood and took an interest in our Irish heritage as well as other cultural traditions and celebrations.

Our lovely myths and legends, however, I found quite difficult to simplify for pre-school children, especially when the only books available have few illustrations to accompany a text that has beautiful big Irish words such as Tuatha de Danann, Emain Macha and Mochaomhóg.

As these stories have always been a love of mine, I have always tried hard to come up with different ways of introducing them to the children, so I guess this is where it all began.

What made you want to tackle the classic Children of Lir tale?

The Children of Lir has always been a personal favourite, not only is it a tale filled with magic and sorcery but it shows us how love and bravery can give you the determination to keep going no matter how hard things get – a little lesson that I feel you are never too young to learn.

What separates your book from any of the other renditions out there?

My book is the first recreated version of the traditional tale written in rhyme; intended to be introduced to children from a young age.

While studying for my degree in early education, I did a lot of research on the importance of storytelling for my dissertation.

I was reminded of how crucial rhyming stories are for the development of early literacy skills in children.

The song-like quality of rhyme gives children the confidence to participate in the storytelling process. It supports memory and language development, as they not only begin to predict what comes next, but they start to retell the story in their own words.

LIFE Children of Lir artwork2 compressor

The Children of Lir

The artwork is beautiful in the book, what was that process like of having it illustrated?

Conor Busuttil did such a fantastic job on the illustrations. He works in a traditional manner, bringing his ideas to life through watercolour, pencil and pen, so there was a lot of time, effort and love put into each of the drawings.

I was slightly apprehensive when I was told that the illustrator would be chosen by O’Brien Press as through the whole process of writing.

I knew where the characters lived, their faces, and what the magic looked like around them. So, it was important to me that the illustrator chosen would be able to see the same.

But honestly, they could not have chosen anyone more suitable for this story. Conor has really given The Children of Lir a new lease of life with his combined talent and imagination.

Is this your first book? If so, what were the events that lead to you releasing your very first book?

This is my first book. I had an idea to turn The Children of Lir into a rhyming story for pre-school children as I felt we needed a new way of getting these ancient myths and legends engrained in our children from a young age so they can love, retell and carry on the traditional Irish storytelling process – as we have done for many years now.

The story was written, read, re-read, re-written, read again, by myself, family and friends before I took a chance in submitting it to a handful of Irish publishing houses.

You can imagine my excitement when I received a phone call from Michael O’Brien to say that they wanted to publish my story.

How long did it take to write the whole thing?

It really didn’t take too long to create the bones of the story.

Once I had this in place it was a matter of tweaking it here and there to make sure I had the most important elements of the story included and the rhyming just right.

I was determined to make a story which would capture the attention of even our smallest readers, just as their favourite rhyming stories have done over the years.

Can we expect any books in the future from you?

Yes hopefully! I am currently working on recreating some of our other favourable myths and legends into rhyme as well as my own stories.

It is an exciting time for sure.

What is it about The Children of Lir tale that has stood the test of time?

The Children of Lir is about family and how you would go to the ends of the earth for that kind of love. Something which I feel a lot of people can relate to.

‘The Children of Lir’, written by Laura Ruth Maher and illustrated by Conor Busuttil from O’Brien Press is available now for €12.99 from www.obrien.ie

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