Rastamouse, Miss Rosie Red and The Gruffalo!

Trisha Deery, Derry author and illustrator pictured wiht pupils from Nazareth House during a reading of her book "What will I be". (1511SL08) Photo: Stephen Latimer
Trisha Deery, Derry author and illustrator pictured wiht pupils from Nazareth House during a reading of her book "What will I be". (1511SL08) Photo: Stephen Latimer

It’s been a hectic year for Derry publishing house Dog Ears. Not only did they launch the adorable Miss Rosie Red on the world, they have also been pioneering an innovative and exciting new literacy scheme which is bringing CBeebies TV favourites to the heart of the City of Culture. CLAIRE ALLAN spoke to Editorial Director Laura Campbell to find out more.

And it’s all thanks to local publishing house Dog Ears - who have set out on a mission to promote fun and interactive new ways to promote literacy among our young people. Part of that mission is to make reading as fun as possible for grown ups as well. Are you convinced? After talking to Editorial Director Laura Campbell, I certainly am.

Laura explained: “Bringing the creators of Rastamouse to Derry is part of a year-long Arts Council Lottery programme where we have put together a series of fun literacy events in local schools and libraries.

“This is all part of our wider ethos - not only are we a traditional publishing company, we also want to look at things more widely. We like to publish books, look at Apps and TV but we also want to tie all that in to help promote literacy and a love for reading.”

Indeed the women behind Dog Ears, Laura and her business partners Fionnuala Deane and Jackie McColgan, are so keen to foster a love of reading that they named their company after how they wish their well-thumbed books to look when children are done with them.!

And they haven’t been afraid to haul in favours, ask questions and think of new and innovative ways to promote books and reading.

“To be honest, we’ve just gone ahead and picked up the phone to people and generally they’ve been very receptive and want tobe a part of something like this.

“We’ve been lucky to be able to tie with with Libraries NI, Book Trust and the Verbal Arts Centre and we are using our combined contacts to make things happen. We do feel we have been pushing at open doors - finding that people really do want to get involved in something a little out of the ordinary.”

With a background in children’s publishing in London, Laura, originally from Creggan, has not been afraid to use her own contacts. And indeed that has been how she has roped in the creators of Rastamouse, Michael DeSouza and Genevieve Webster, who she originally met when Rastamouse wast just in its infancy.

“We just love the whole ethos of Rastamouse. And Michael, he is this cool, laid back man, who along with Genevieve, came up with these books which promote a really positive message.

“The characters are all very diverse - and very accepting of each other - and as a crime fighter, Rastamouse makes it his mission to make bad things good. We think that is a brilliant message to give out to young people.

“But we want to do something more than merely have events where children are read to, or spoken to - our events will be very interactive. Children will be encouraged to discuss the books, to colour in, to shout out along with the story, to sing songs. And we hope this what parents will do too.”

With this in mind Dog Ears have arranged events at local schools Glendermott PS, Nazareth House PS and the Model PS for next week. Next Thursday they will also hold a public event in the Central Library from 1.30-3pm, and on Friday a special Reading and Reggae event at Shantallow Library at 10am.

They have also a very special event lined up for the New Year which will see local parents and their children have the chance to meet bestselling author and Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson - the creative talent behind such huge-selling books such as The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and The Snail and the Whale.

“The event will be at the end of January in the Millennium Forum,” Laura revealed. “And it will be priced very competitively so that many people can come along. Tickets will be only £5 for an afternoon with Julia - including storytelling, interaction with the audience and maybe even an appearance by The Gruffalo.” Further details of the event will be released shortly.

As well as attracting big success stories such as Julia Donaldson and Michael DeSouza, the Dog Ears team are, of course, continuing to push their home grown success story - Miss Rosie Red - on the world.

The creation of local author and illustrator Trisha Deery, Miss Rosie Red is a loveable redhead whose debut appearance in the book ‘Let Me See What Will I Be’ has gone down a storm.

“Miss Rosie Red is selling very well - the public have really latched on to her. We had a great launch in Dublin, supported by Children’s Books Ireland, which was really well attended.

“And it has been brilliant to see Trisha grow in confidence and work so well with children - she is really doing us proud.”

The interest in the little redheaded Derry girl is so strong that RTE have expressed an interest in turning the beautifully illustrated book into a TV series - expressing their particular love for the Derry accent of Rosie herself.

And an App for the Iphone or Ipad has been selling strongly - in places as far flung as the middle east and Canada.

The next Miss Rosie Red book should hit the shelves in May of 2012 - and Dogs Ears are also working on their second home grown project, Puffins’ Rock. “We have amazed at the response we have been getting,” Laura said. “Which proves if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”