I have been illustrating and painting our natural environment and parks in my spare time for the last 20 years and have always been keen to explore as many parts of Ireland as time allows.
Often, especially during the pandemic, I felt a longing for the outdoors like many and this focused my output even more on the precious and fragile habitats not only within Ireland's parks but across the whole country. By limiting our ability to explore, the pandemic heightened awareness of our natural environment. Now imagine being 4 or 5 years old (I have a 4-year old that has never stepped foot in the Burren) and being told about these magical lands out west and how important protecting our planet is. It's a lot to take on for a kid and for the modern-day parent.
I knew that I wanted to use my own voice and skills to share the important idea of preservation and conservation to future generations. So, in January 2021, I began a rewarding collaboration with author and local heritage expert Marie McGauran to produce an illustrated book for kids ages 4 through 8 that introduced the unique habitats of the Burren to the young reader. Marie spends every day guiding people on walks as “The Burren Experience.”
The incredible thing about this area is that not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage site, but that it also features seven habitats (Limestone pavement, Calcareous grassland, Hazel Scrub, Deciduous woodland, Turloughs, Calcareous Fen, Permanent lakes, Cliffs and Scree) as well as a deep range of flora and fauna including flowers only found in alpine regions. In other words, as we found through our development and research, it was a rich ground for an inspiring book for children and parents alike.
The book was released in November and we now have six nationwide stockists. But what we were especially proud of was the local interest in County Clare. The surge in requests for books and local support for a book that explores what is on their doorstep has been our best achievement. We have support from the Family Learning Centre in Ennis that provides education and literary support to parents and children in Clare and Limerick.
Illustrator and designer Shane O’Donoghue says that hearing about the “magical lands out west“ is a lot for a 4- or 5-year-old to take on.
Adult Literacy Organiser Mary Flanagan said “Stones and Stories” is a really lovely book for anyone -- especially those who might visit or live in the Burren. Adults and children can enjoy all the subject areas covered in the book while learning about the stories behind Irish place-names in the area. It's a fantastic resource for schools and Education and Training Boards to use.”
Author and local heritage expert Marie McGauran collaborated on “Stones and Stories,” which introduces the unique habitats of the Burren to the young reader.
Another fantastic early supporter has been the brilliant Majella McAllister, Director of the Museum of Childhood and Children. We are very grateful for these new connections to be made and are open to connecting with publishers and organisations that want to preserve and educate young people about the environment, sustainability, exploration and Ireland's habitats. For details on the book and how to purchase it visit here.