This week Juliette Saumande, Tarsila Krüse and Helen Carr tell us all about the making of My Little Album of Dublin and their favourite places in the Fair City!
Juliette Saumande is a French writer based in Dublin. She has published over 40 books in French and English. When she’s not writing, she can be found translating books, reading books, recommending books, talking about books and building forts with books. She enjoys things like tapdancing and liquorice, but hates Crunchies with a passion. Come and say ‘hi’ at juliettesaumande.blogspot.ie
The Wheels of Fortune (on a Dublin Bus)
Between Dublin and thirteen-year-old me it was love at first sight. Coming from the suburbs of Paris, where the French capital felt like a limitless maze packed-full of numberless strangers, I was struck by how small, how homely and friendly Dublin was. You couldn’t get lost! You couldn’t set half a toe in town without meeting someone you knew! It was great. I knew straight away that I wanted to come back and spend longer than the few days I had that first time. So I did. As a dedicated tourist initially (brownie points to my family for humouring me, then becoming Emerald Isle enthusiasts), then as an Erasmus student, and eventually as a Dubliner.
So I’ve been here for well over ten years, reading, writing, translating, chatting, making friends and making it even harder to feel lost or lonely. And after all that time, I still feel quite excited about the city, the new bits, the old bits, the eating places, the meeting places. My favourite haunts, if you can call it that, are Dublin buses. I’ve had some of my best ideas on the number 78 (as was), some of my best rants on the 7 and the elusive 68, some of my strangest conversations with total strangers on the 13 or 40 (about the weather, food, books, kids… or what the Irish use their churches for these days).
And I’ve had some of the best views over the city, just above pedestrian level (because, obviously, the whole point of a double-decker bus is to sit upstairs, right at the front where possible). From up there you can see beyond fancy hedges and building site fences, into first-floor shops and balconies, on top of people’s heads and bus stops (where you sometimes make interesting discoveries)…
This sense of excitement and that of homeliness, of welcome, were two things I wanted to share, both with Dubliners and with people passing through. That’s when the idea came of creating a picture book that really young kids and their families could enjoy. I had met Tarsila at a Children’s Books Ireland conference and I thought her style (fresh, bright and kid-friendly) would work really well, so I got in touch and explained what I had in mind. I was hoping she’d be enthusiastic, but I wasn’t expecting the deluge of excitement! In Tarsila, I found an artistic partner who was as passionate about the city as I was, and as energetic and professional as any writer can hope for. It’s been an absolute pleasure working together, a real collaborative effort and I feel My Little Album of Dublin reflects that.
Since its publication, I’ve chatted with many young readers who’ve really loved looking at the city, their city, through new eyes. They keep spotting things they know (a lunch box! My mam’s Leap card! I’ve been on that Luas!), things they don’t (the turnstile at the DART station, the Eileen Gray chair at the Decorative Arts Museum, an African painted dog from Dublin Zoo…). Most importantly, they keep spotting themselves, often looking beyond the illustrated child’s physical appearance and connecting with what they’re doing, where they’re standing or who they’re interacting with. They keep finding themselves.
Did I not tell you this was a city where you cannot get lost?
Tarsila Krüse is an award-winning illustrator happily living in Dublin in a house with a bright yellow door. Tarsila has four books published as Gaeilge and her latest book My Little Album of Dublin, co-created with Juliette Saumande, published by The O’Brien Press is out now.
Hello dear blog readers…
My name is Tarsila Krüse and I’m a children’s book illustrator. I’m also the co-creator of My Little Album of Dublin, alongside French author Juliette Saumande, published by The O’Brien Press.
You may have noticed that I have quite an unusual name and that is because I was named after a Brazilian painter; as a matter of fact, I am Brazilian, born and bred in São Paulo. Over a decade ago, after graduating from (two!) universities, I moved to Ireland to see what wonderful things could come about (hint, hint: things turned out GREAT!)
When I landed in Dublin I was immediately smitten and like in a lot of love stories our relationship grew stronger and stronger the more time we spent together. The history and stories hidden around the city – on road names, Georgian doors, walls covered in ivy and whispers – are the things that fascinated me most, and I was also enchanted by the coexistence of old and new buildings all over town.
My favourite places in Dublin include (but are not limited to) O’Connell Street, St. Stephen’s Green, Exchequer Street, the Casino Marino, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Kilmainham Gaol, St. Michan’s Church, the sea front (from Clontarf and Dollymount), Ha’penny Bridge and the numerous bookshops and cafés the city offers as a magical refuge for creatives.
I have been living in Dublin for most of my adult life and it is here that a lot of my adult milestones were achieved. In Dublin we rented our first place, bought our first car, got married, had a son, adopted our dogs and bought a house! It is also the place that allowed my creativity and professional life to bloom because all the opportunities to grow and develop as an illustrator were gifted to me in this beautiful city.
Every time I’m outside Ireland and come back, I’m taken over by a feeling of extreme comfort when I see the smile of the flight attendant wearing the distinct Aer Lingus green. I can’t quite explain it, but this is when I truly feel like I’m going back to the place where I belong. Dublin is such a welcoming and nourishing place. It is my home.
When Juliette and I discussed the idea of creating My Little Album of Dublin we wanted to pay homage to the Fair City that has taken us in, given us acceptance and love. We aimed to share the multicultural society that lives and thrives in it, a city that we’re very proud to be part of.
My Little Album of Dublin was made with careful attention to be inclusive, loving and caring, to feature the city’s main places, making them specific but generic enough so they’re relatable; and showcasing selected words, in English and Irish, that entice curiosity and bring attention to the Irish culture and lifestyle.
My Little Album of Dublin is a love letter to the Fair City and it truly fills my heart with joy to see it out into the world in in bookshops, gift shops and libraries, reaching the hands of visitors, locals, children and adults from far and wide; perhaps helping them fall in love with Dublin too.
Senior Editor at the O’Brien Press.
When Tarsila and Juliette came to us with the idea for My Little Album of Dublin we were immediately enchanted by the artwork and by the idea of a book about Dublin, for Dublin children as well as visitors to the fair city. It sounds like such a simple idea, but actually, the development of the book from a broad-strokes idea – Dublin scenes with objects named in Irish and English – to the detailed treasure-trove of a book that Tarsila and Juliette produced took a long time. Alongside the amazing partnership that they developed while working on the book together, the three of us had many meetings (some over coffee and cinnamon buns in the heart of Dublin city) talking about the balance of the book. The plan was to include major Dublin landmarks and places of interest – like Dublin Zoo, the museums, O’Connell Street, the River Liffey – but also more general, everyday things that would be familiar to Irish children, like school, the parks, the seaside. A child’s-eye view of the city.
Despite all the hard work involved on Juliette and Tarsila’s parts, I think it would be fair to say that working on the book was a lot of fun for all of us – once we’d decided what double-page spreads would be in the book, it was then time for Tarsila to populate them with her lovely, diverse, varied and individual characters. We all wanted to include as many different types of Dubliners and visitors, and as many different types of families and groups as possible – to reflect the real Dublin that we all live in. There are so many layers to each spread – the people, the places and objects, the carefully selected words in Irish and English – plus the dog and his bone to find on every spread. We all also put up spirited arguments for the inclusion of our own favourite places and things. I love the idea the authors had of including ‘mash-up’ spreads – all the major museums are included in the ‘At the Museum’ spread, for example, and many familiar and beloved landmarks from both sides of Dublin Bay are included in the ‘By the Sea’ spread.
Being involved in a book like this behind the scenes is lovely, so imagine my delight when Tarsila told me that she was going to draw herself, Juliette – and me!! – along with our families and various other friends and Dublin citizens into the book. See if you can spot me along by the River Liffey – which is very appropriate as I travel home from work by the Liffey several days a week and so am very familiar with the tides, the gulls, the boats and the ships. Picture-book-me is striding along with my niece and nephew, Juno and Oscar, who are utterly charmed to appear in the book.
I hope everyone who reads and pores over My Little Album of Dublin will see some of their own favourite things about the city, whether they like the pigeon sitting on Daniel O’Connell’s head, the piano in the Dart station, the Herbert Simms’s-designed green bathing shelters along Clontarf seafront, the Spire, the Luas, the deer in the Phoenix Park … or something else entirely!
Tarsila has described My Little Album of Dublin as ‘a love letter to the Fair City’ and I think it truly is. I’m so proud to have worked on it, and have bought copies of the book for so many children, both little resident Dubs and those living abroad, so that they can fall in love with Dublin from afar.
Juliette Saumande, Tarsila Krüse and Helen Carr August 2019
My Little Album of Dublin is available to buy here and in all good bookshops!