Home Features All the Way Home—sparks ignite at Children’s Books Ireland Conference

All the Way Home—sparks ignite at Children’s Books Ireland Conference

All the Way Home—The Children’s Books Ireland International Conference 2022

by Elaina Ryan

The Children’s Books Ireland International Conference is a weekend-long celebration of the very best in children’s books.

For years, we have threatened to change its name to something warmer, a bit less formal, but we haven’t landed on a good alternative—the get together? The gathering? 

When people ask us what the conference is like, we try to explain how it feels rather than what it does. To us, it feels like two days of the best TED talks you’ve ever watched, all on the topic of children’s books.

Celebration and joy

Our audience tell us that it feels like Christmas—a time for an ever-growing tribe of children’s book folk to come together and talk about what they love, whether they’re involved in the making, selling or studying of books for young readers.

A celebration. A joy. A chance to pick up armloads of books from our friends at The Gutter Bookshop and get them signed by their creators. An opportunity for us at Children’s Books Ireland to celebrate our 25th birthday among old friends and new. 

Of course I have only positive things to say, given my position, but I was a conference attender before I stepped into the role of CEO at Children’s Books Ireland nine years ago. I was one of the diehards who bought tickets regardless of who was speaking; it was a bonus when some of my favourite artists were revealed to be on the line up. 

The meaning of home

Our speakers are writers, poets, publishers, illustrators and other children’s book experts, presenting in front of a very big screen at the Light House Cinema, talking to an enthusiastic audience about books and reading for children and young people.

This year’s theme is ‘All the Way Home’. It was a line taken from Steve McCarthy’s beautiful new picturebook, The Wilderness, from which the conference artwork is taken, and it feels just right for our grand return after the last three years.

We have asked each of our speakers to reflect on the meaning of home, and how a sense of homecoming and place informs their work.


Our guests include international artists such as Carson Ellis (Du Iz Tak?), Alex Wheatle (Cane Warriors, Crongton Knights, Brixton Rock) and Nikita Gill (These are the Words), while homegrown favourites Eoin Colfer, Chris Judge, Steve McCarthy and Paddy Donnelly demonstrate the talent and creativity that define Irish children’s books.

Paddy Donnelly, author of The Vanishing Lake, talks all things illustration for Under the Covers for Books Ireland

Carnegie Medal winner Katya Balen (October, October) will talk to fellow author Máire Zepf about representation and empathy, topics that will also feature as we hear from Hannah Lee (My Hair). 

Meeting for the first time since his inauguration as Waterstones UK Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho will join Laureate na nÓg Áine Ní Ghlinn in a comparative discussion of their respective work as Laureates, led by award-winning children’s author, Patricia Forde.

Ireland-Scotland network 

Children’s Books Ireland is a proud member of Lionra: The Ireland-Scotland Youth Literature and Arts Network. We’ll have two sessions with colleagues and partners from Scotland: the first looks at the impacts of Covid-19 on children’s and young adult literature creative, cultural, and reading communities in Scotland and Ireland.

A second panel reflects on a live literature project to get authors of colour into Scottish schools, featuring authors Maisie Chan and Nadine Aisha Jassat.

Sparks of inspiration

The best part of the conference, for me, is the little sparks of inspiration that our speakers ignite in the audience. I love hearing from our attendees during and after the event, when people are excitedly swapping stories; the moments that will stick with them, the Tweet-worthy line or big thought that really hit home. 

And while conference is about getting together and the collective experience, we know that many people can’t make it for a multitude of reasons.

If cost is an issue, we have a limited number of conference tickets set aside at no fee.* We can also hold a ticket for attendees and take payment at a later date. 

We’ll be filming the sessions and publishing them on our YouTube channel for all to access freely in the weeks following the event. 

So, come and join us, if you can – did I mention we’ll have cake? All are welcome to join us as we head All The Way Home this weekend. 

Day and weekend tickets for the Children’s Books Ireland International Conference 2022 are now on sale, with a discounted rate for members. 

*If you wish to apply for a free ticket, please get in touch as soon as possible on (01) 872 7475 or at info@childrensbooksireland.ie. All information shared is strictly confidential.