SHANNON AUTHOR, Alex Dunne was one of six winners at this year’s KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards announced as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin.
Selected by an independent panel of expert judges, including a Young Judge, and a network of Junior Jurors’ nationwide, Alex received The Eilís Dillon Award for best debut.
Her book ‘The Book of Secrets’ (The O’Brien Press) is a unique supernatural page-turner and is described as a thrilling and magical adventure inspired by Irish mythology and folklore. A sequel to the book, ‘The Harp of Power’ will be released in October.
Originally from Shannon, Alex is now living in Canada. She completed a BA in English & History from the University of Limerick and an MA in Literature & Publishing from NUI Galway.
She is a co-founder of Silver Apples magazine alongside Grainne O’Brien, an online literary journal of Irish and international writing. The Book of Secrets is her first novel.
Alex moved to Toronto in 2011 shortly after concluding her university studies. She continues to regularly travel to Co Clare with much of her family still residing in Shannon and Ennis. She said that was always a reader before a writer and continues to read every night before she goes to bed.
Winning the award came as a nice surprise, Alex admitted. “Every step of the way I haven’t believed it, I’ve always wanted to and it’s always been a dream but I know it can be difficult. When I first found out that O’Brien Press wanted to read the book I thought that is lovely and very flattering, they will read it and I won’t like it, I’ll still be fine but they did like it and then published it, I thought that was great and then it started to get nominated for an award, at every point along the way it has been a wonderful surprise and it is lovely to see how well received it has been”.
Speaking at the ceremony, Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland commented, “Ireland has always been a nation of storytellers, and every one of these winners exemplifies the sheer excellence visible in contemporary Irish children’s books. As we celebrate another year of the KPMG Children’s Book Awards, we hope that the celebrations encourage them to keep creating stories that speak as powerfully to their readers as these”.
A total prize-fund of €16,000 has been awarded to this year’s winners which also included Ellen Ryan (book of the year), Maggie O’Farrell (honour award for fiction), Steve McCarthy (honour award for illustration), Fearghas Mac Lochlainn (judge’s special award) and Alex.
Damian Smyth, Joint Head of Literature and Drama for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “These awards are recognised as the most prestigious for children’s books in Ireland, and we are thrilled once again to see two artists from Northern Ireland taking home prizes. The stories we encounter in childhood are the ones that shape us for life, and the young readers of Ireland are fortunate to have such excellent homegrown titles at their fingertips”.
Students from St Joseph’s Secondary School Spanish Point, Bodyke National School, Kildysart National School and Ballyvaughan National School participated in the Junior Jurors’ Programme. These sees students shadow adult judges on the judging panel in reading, discussing and assessing the shortlisted books.