Lismore Castle, Co Waterford
Is there better setting in the whole wide world for a children’s book festival than Lismore Castle on a sunny day? Families picnic in the incredible gardens, surrounded by battlements and ornate rooms that drip with history and emanate endless potential to fire young imaginations.
In various corners of the castle and nearby town, readings, workshops and other events explore the world of books from all sorts of angles. There’s even a youth orchestra in the courtyard playing the theme from Game of Thrones to soundtrack it all. And hardly an iPod or other electronic gadget in sight. Olde world feel indeed.
Towers and Tales is into its fifth year and the secret is very much out about the festival. Headline events sell out quickly, helped by the reasonable ticket prices of about €5 per reading, while there’s also loads of free stuff.
Kids can create a comic book around a their own story, draw glow in the dark monsters in the castle dungeons, and type out their name in Braille while hearing the story of the incredible teenager who invented the writing system for the visually impaired.
Among the big draws this year is Philip Reeve, writer of the Mortal Engines series. In those hugely successful books, the author creates a retro-futuristic fantasy world where towns are mounted on tracks and trundle about attacking each other for loot.
Originally an illustrator on Horrible Histories and other publications, the Brighton-born author talks us through some of the books he read as a child that helped inspire his writing. Not surprisingly, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia feature, while he also reveals he loved Tintin, Asterisk and Obelix, and the work of Rosemary Sutcliff.
Elsewhere, there was a strong lineup of Irish authors and illustrators, while other visitors from the UK included Rob Biddulph talking about his dinosaur stories, and David Roberts taking us behind the scenes on his illustrated history book, Suffragette: The Battle for Equality.
Overall, a superb festival. Mark it in your diary for next year for a great day out that’ll also help foster a love of books in the younger members of the household.