Barry’s NY Cheeky Monkey book debut

By Aideen O'Flaherty

BARRY Reeves, the son of Tallaght showman and comedian Shaun Connors, has penned his first children’s book, called ‘Cheeky Monkey’, which follows the adventures of a young girl who meets a monkey in New York’s Central Park.

New York-based Barry, who was raised in Ballinteer and moved to the US in the 90s on a football scholarship after playing for Broadford Rovers FC, has previously written about his experiences as a barman in New York City, but his new book is his first foray into children’s writing.

Barry with daughter Sophie and his book

Barry traded his late nights for early mornings after the birth of his daughter Sophie, and was inspired to write a children’s book after he found out about the story of a monkey who ran away after being the star attraction on a horse carriage in Central Park.

The talented writer told The Echo about what the transition to writing a book for children was like, the importance of setting the book in New York and his future plans for ‘Cheeky Monkey’.

Your first book, ‘A Shot in the Dark’, was about the conversations you overheard while working as a bartender in New York City. How did writing ‘Cheeky Monkey’ compare?

It was very different. ‘A Shot in the Dark’ was written at a time of many late nights and not too many early mornings. A couple of comatose waking hours and then back to the bar. ‘A Shot in the Dark’ is about the adventures of a young Irish bartender in NYC. ‘Cheeky Monkey’ came about after a lot of early mornings giving my daughter cereal and rushing her off to school, then coming home and writing about very different experiences. One of the main things about writing a children’s book is that every single word has to work. If there is a word or there are sentences that don’t move the story along you then need to bin it. Children are brutally honest, they will tell you what works and what doesn’t.

What prompted you to write a children’s book?

I was told this story one night while I was working behind the bar about an Irish horse carriage worker in Central Park, NYC, that had a monkey on his carriage and it was great for business as the kids loved it. Well, the monkey ran away one day and I thought to myself, “What kind of interesting adventure would a monkey get up to in Central Park? Sounds like a great story.” So, it was in my mind for a while. And after having my daughter Sophie and reading the many other children’s stories to her, as I was telling her the other stories, ‘Cheeky Monkey’ was coming to life in my mind. So, I would sit down at night or after I dropped her off to school and put it all together. I would read parts to Sophie and she would approve or else climb on my head. [Laughs] Kids are brutally honest, they will tell you what works and what doesn’t. Also, thanks to my writing partner Kayla Corbin and the amazing illustrations from the enormously talented Katharina ‘Micki’ Baksh.

Can you tell me what the book is about?

‘Cheeky Monkey’ is a series of children’s books about the adventure of a little girl called Abby, and a monkey in Central Park. When Abby runs away from home to Central Park after feeling ignored, she meets up with Cheeky the Monkey for a fun journey through the park, which includes meeting Knock, Knock the Raccoon (you guessed it—he tells knock, knock jokes), Belvedere the Wise Owl, and Coyote, the beautiful spirit of Abby’s mother. ‘Cheeky Monkey’ will bring you on an unforgettable adventure. In the end, ‘Cheeky Monkey’ is truly about the importance of family. Families are never perfect, but once you have love, that’s all you really need.

How important was it for you to set the book in New York?

It was very important to me. First of all, New York is the second-best city in the world (besides Dublin). I’ve loved NYC from the moment I landed here in the early nineties. The moment you see that skyline, well for me it was all over. I feel like I owe this city a lot, because it gives me so much every day. Even if I’m running in Central Park or walking the streets, this city has an energy unlike any other place.

Do you plan to write any more children’s books?

Yes. ‘Cheeky Monkey’ is the first in a series of children’s book about the adventures of Cheeky the Monkey and the delightful Abby in Central Park. It will be followed by a more detailed chapter book and an animated children’s film.

‘Cheeky Monkey’ is suitable for children aged from two to eight-years-old, and is available from Amazon.com, BN.com and Kindle.

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