Two talents team up for children's book

A school principal and a former student have linked up to create a beautiful children's storybook. Emma Connolly finds out more
Two talents team up for children's book
An illustration from ‘The Cat Who Couldn’t Count.’

A PRIMARY school principal has collaborated with a former pupil of hers to produce a book that came from a story she used to tell her own kids some 20 years ago.

Sharon Hosford, principal at The Model School, and Dunmanway and illustrator Tara Laubach are the duo behind the heart warming and just launched self-published tale entitled The Cat Who Couldn’t Count.

Sharon, from near Bandon, says the character Marmalade was born when her four children, now aged 35 down to 25, would ask her to tell them ‘stories from my head!’

Sharon Hosford, principal at The Model School and Dunmanway.
Sharon Hosford, principal at The Model School and Dunmanway.

And, having remembered her talented student Tara, she sought her out to illustrate her story: “Tara was a fabulous artist in National School — in fact, I had to send notes with her competition entries to vouch they were done by a child, they were so good!”

The pair reconnected at the launch of another book Tara had illustrated (Gerard the Ferret by SJ Rowland) and the creative process started which now sees their work in selected bookshops.

Three of Sharon’s four children, Tom, Sarah, Mandy and Alice, feature in the book. “Sadly, when I read the book to my writer’s group they advised me that I had too many characters so I had to lose Mandy!” she said.

Tara, a graduate of Fine Art in the Crawford Gallery, grew up on an organic farm at the foot of the Shehy Mountains near Dunmanway, which she used as her inspiration.

One of the illustrations from ‘The Cat Who Couldn’t Count.’
One of the illustrations from ‘The Cat Who Couldn’t Count.’

“In The Cat Who Couldn’t Count we get to know Alice and her family as we follow the story of her cat and its newborn kittens around the Irish farmyard setting. The illustrations are greatly inspired by the Irish landscape and farm life. It is a heartwarming and comforting story, perfect for bedtime reading,” the 25-year old said.

The story has an easy-read version on the right and a slightly more complicated version on the left page for older children, explains Sharon, which creates camaraderie between the parent and child who is learning to read.

Sharon has a potential series of Marmalade books along with another series of stories featuring children with special needs and disabilities overcoming the odds.

Illustrator Tara Laubach. 
Illustrator Tara Laubach. 

“Three of my children are blind and they are terrific; they just get on with it; they are independent and capable. But I think children need role models like this in books and to be able to see how they are getting on with life,” she said.

Her children have a rare condition which affects less than 80 people worldwide, and lost their sight when they were 13, 15 and in their early 20’s.

“They wouldn’t have been born with great sight and were colour blind but until my eldest son was diagnosed we didn’t know what it was,” said Sharon, who singled out the Kinsale based sailing group, Sailability, run by the Disabled Sailing Association, as being an excellent example of people’s resilience against the odds.

She insists she ‘doesn’t have a business gene’ in her body but just ‘loves writing stories’ and found the whole process a lot of fun. She also got plenty of feedback from her fifth and class students.

“I would have read it to them in Irish and English and they liked the classical theme a lot.

“They helped and had an input too, telling me not to use certain words as they were too difficult!

“It might not be the kind of book they’d choose for their age group in a library but they were very happy for me to read it to them,” she said.

Another illustration from ‘The Cat Who Couldn’t Count.’
Another illustration from ‘The Cat Who Couldn’t Count.’

She cites her mum, Elizabeth Giles, who lives in Union Hall, along with her sister in Fermoy, both of whom write; along with her husband Ken and late Uncle Risteard O Glaisne, as being her inspiration and support.

And she has no fears for the future of children, reading and books.

“There will always be a place for books and we’ll always be able to wow kids into them; computers are wonderful but books will always hold their own.”

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