Blog tour: ‘To the Island,’ by Patricia Forde, illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli.

Today I’m sharing with you a beautiful picture book about a girl called Fia who dreams of crossing the water in the bay to visit the mythical island of Hy Brasil. I also have a special piece written author, Patricia Forde, about what inspires her writing.

The mythical island of Hy Brasil only appears once every seven years so one night, when the moon was high, Fia crept down to the quay and tiptoed across a silver moonbeam to the magical land. There she saw some of the most beautiful creatures imaginable, rode on the back of a gilded butterfly and danced to the bed of the sea.

When the sun started to rise, Fia knew it was time to follow her heart and head back home.

This would make a beautiful bedtime story – full of soft, dreamy images teaming with whimsical details and sparkling with magic. The tale itself is sure to capture the imagination of any reader and take them on a wonderful journey into a mystical land – good dreams guaranteed.

The lyrical language make this story a pleasure to read aloud and conjures up the island of Hy Brasil in the real world.

Now we are lucky enough to hear from Particia Forde about how the streets and stories of her childhood in Galway help inspire her work.

What Inspires Me’ by Patricia Forde

My imagination is ignited by all sorts of things; a snippet of overheard conversation, a beautiful image, a story, a piece of music and the place in which I live. Galway, in the province of Connacht, is a medieval town on the west coast of Ireland, the most westerly place in Europe, and a place steeped in history. This was where Cromwell forced people to go in 1649 when good land was confiscated and people told to go… to hell or to Connacht. 

The people went to live in a place full of stones and at the mercy of the wild Atlantic, but they prevailed. They not only prevailed but eventually they thrived. They relied on music and storytelling and the company of their neighbours to kill the long dark days of Winter and in Summer they celebrated. They’re still celebrating!

Galway and its environs are spectacularly beautiful with rugged landscapes of mountains and valleys and the ever present thrum of the sea. When tourists come here they head for the wilderness of Connemara or out to the islands of Aran but I love the town.

I grew up in the centre of the town, in Market Street, in a house that was three hundred years old. As a child, I hunted for secret passages and hidden treasure and fed my imagination with books. One story that stayed with me was the story of a mysterious island called Hy Brasil. It was said to appear off the set coast every seven years and I wanted to see it. I spent hours down at the Claddagh watching the horizon, hoping it would appear.

The Claddagh is a magical place in itself with a colourful history. The Claddagh basin is the home to a whole colony of swans. In Irish folk belief swans are said to be the souls of drowned fishermen who come back to watch over the boats. It is very unlucky to harm them. I think that Nicola Bernardelli captures the essence of the swans beautifully here.

The streets of Galway are narrow and the building seem to loom over them. There are castles – relics of the fourteen tribes who ruled the roost in Galway from the mid-13th to the late 19thcentury. These were merchant families who dominated the political landscape and were often at odds with the native Irish. During that period it was forbidden to speak Irish within the walls and it was also forbidden to wear a shawl! Shawls were the traditional dress of the native Irish women at that time, but the merchant families were afraid that they might conceal weapons.

Galway is a place full of stories like this and more stories based on history. Down in Kirwin’s Lane, for example, where my sisters and I played hopscotch on summer evenings,  was the home of Dick Martin (or Humanity Dick) who fought for animal rights, in the 19th century. On one famous occasion, we were told, he brought a donkey into court as a witness. Whether or which, he was responsible for the first prosecution for animal cruelty in the world. 

Story upon story, history, legend and probably bare faced lies, have been handed down from generation to generation. Why? Because these stories ignite people’s imagination, and satisfy a craving to use a familiar pattern, to make sense of a world, that is mostly unknowable. The spies, the rebels, the soldiers, the pirates all added to the colour of Galway and inspired many writers and inspire me now. I hope that Nicola and my book will go some way to inspiring another generation of Galwegians and of readers everywhere.

Isn’t it fascinating how the stories and adventures of our childhood can shape us as adults and inspire a whole new generation?

There’s a gorgeous song which has been specially written to accompany this book which you can listen to HERE.

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Little Island Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Make sure you visit some of the other stops too*

2 thoughts on “Blog tour: ‘To the Island,’ by Patricia Forde, illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli.

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