Curious Ear and curious ear...

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book cover taking sidesNo, this post hasn't anything to do with Alice in Wonderland - I just couldn't resist the lame pun (I'm a tabloid sub-editor in an alternative life). The 'curious ear' I refer to is the RTE radio programme The Curious Ear, part of RTE radio's Documentary on One. The Curious Ear team were at the Central Library on Monday 10th October to record a visit by Irish children's author Brian Gallagher and his young readers and listeners. Brian has just published his second historical novel for young readers, 'Taking Sides' set in Dublin during the Civil War. The book is an exciting read, following the fortunes of a group of young friends, as they get caught up in a Civil War that tears families and a country apart.

Across the DivideBrian's first novel for children, 'Across the Divide', tells the story of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, as seen through the eyes of two young people from different areas and backgrounds. This book has been very popular and was chosen as a One Area One Book in the Marino area earlier this year. Both novels are published by O'Brien Press and are available, as they say, from all good bookshops, and of course, from your local library. 

Brian Gallagher also met readers in four other libraries; Ringsend Library, Charleville Mall Library, Pearse Street Library and Phibsboro Library, as part of the Children's Book Festival 2011. I was in Phibsboro Library on Wednesday 12th when Brian was talking to a group of children and adults about writing 'Taking Sides'. Brian read out the Prologue to the book, where twelve year old Peter Scanlon smuggles a gun through an army checkpoint in his rugby kit bag. Peter is on his way home from a rugby match for his school, Belvedere College, when the gun is slipped into his bag by a member of the rebel forces. A 'hold your breath' story for all of us, but it had a particular appeal to three young listeners in the library that night - all first year students in Belvedere College themselves, though in 2011 and not in 1922.  Here's hoping nothing quite so terrifyingly exciting happens to them on their way home from a match!

And that's one of the great things about both Brian's books - they are set in the past, but they are set in a real and still recognisable Dublin.  Areas of the city featured in the books include Glasnevin, Broadstone, Drumcondra and O'Connell Street - then known as Sackville Street. Like most people my age (and no, I'm not telling!) I grew up reading books set mostly in the United Kingdom - especially historical novels - and while I enjoyed many of them very much, it's great to get the opportunity to read about our own past in such an enjoyable way. 

If you enjoy Brian's novels, and are hooked on the history, O'Brien Press have provided teacher's resource notes on their website for 'Across the Divide', and extra information on the Civil War era covered in 'Taking Sides' can be found on the Ask About Ireland website, including actual archive film footage from the era. 

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