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WonderFest 2021

Ireland's online festival celebrating children's books is back!

Amid the chaos and confusion that was 2020, a new online children's book festival emerged. The first WonderFest was an enormous success and the festival returns this month to delight young people and grown-ups alike. This year's lineup features many of Ireland's leading talents, including Tarsila Krüse (who designed the Picture Book and Paperback Snob logos), Oliver Jeffers, Úna Woods, Mary Murphy, Niamh Sharkey, Juliette Saumande, Ashwin Chacko, Eoin Colfer, Muireann Ní Chíobháin, Chris Haughton, Judi Curtin and Derek Landy.

The excitement begins on Wednesday 17th November and you can see the full programme of events on the website. We were delighted to chat to Sarah Webb, award-winning children’s writer, bookseller, programmer for MoLI and co-founder of WonderFest, all about this fabulous festival...

Award-wining author & festival co-founder, Sarah Webb

What inspired the first Wonderfest in 2020 and did it take long for it all to come together after that initial idea? In September 2020 during a virtual coffee morning run by Children’s Books Ireland, twelve children’s writers and illustrators made a decision: we’d band together to create and run a completely digital family book festival – that way it would happen come what may. And from that spark of an idea, WonderFest grew.

We had it all up and running by festival time – November – I’m not sure how exactly but we managed it! We started on this year’s festival in the spring – so we had a lot more time to work on it. It’s been a real pleasure working with the festival team and we can’t wait to share a second year of events with children and families this November.

I’m especially looking forward to hearing Eoin Colfer talk about his books and his previous career as a teacher, with fellow WonderFest team member and award-winning writer, Patricia Forde. And I cannot wait to hear Oliver Jeffers talk about the importance of creativity, our theme for this year’s WonderFest.

What surprised you most about last year’s festival?

How much fun it was to work with all the other writers and illustrators – it was a real team effort! And how many people tuned in to watch – we had over 3,000 bookings which was terrific.

How many authors and artists are participating in this year’s festival and how many events have you planned?

There are over 60 authors, illustrators, publishers and agents speaking at this year’s festival, and 24 different events! We introduced a new strand – Inspires – this year for new and emerging writers and illustrators. This involves webinars, masterclasses and showcases, and these have proved popular with people booking in. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s masterclass is already sold out. Tickets are still left for the other three masterclasses though.

Will Wonderfest always be an online festival or are there plans to hold in-person events in future? That’s a good question – watch this space. There will always be online events, however – that’s a given – they are accessible to all and reach a wide range of different children and adults.

Why do you think Ireland has such a thriving children’s literature scene?

It’s a vibrant, fun area to work in and everyone who works in children’s books is dedicated to getting the very best books into children’s hands.

Sarah will present the New Irish Books Showcase at WonderFest on Wednesday 17th November

What is your favourite Irish book of 2021 so far? I think Flora Delargy’s Rescuing Titanic is up there – what an amazing book.

What are your most-anticipated Irish releases of 2022?

Chris Haughton is working on a book all about penguins – I’m not sure if it will be ready by next year, but I do hope so! I have two books out in 2022 and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them too!

What are your favourite Irish bookshops for buying children’s books?

Why, Halfway Up the Stairs of course – as I work there on a Saturday! And also Dubray Books Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire have super children’s departments. Charlie Byrne’s and Tales for Tadpoles are both terrific also! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Sarah! The Little Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street, Sarah's latest book, is published by O'Brien Press and available everywhere books are sold. Sarah will also present the New Irish Books Showcase at WonderFest on Wednesday 17th November at 7.45pm. This is a free event but booking is required.

The Bee Charmer of Henrietta Street Sarah Webb O'Brien Press


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