This week we chatted with the wonderful author Sarah Webb and the amazing illustrator Graham Corcoran about their book Dare to Dream. We asked them to choose their favourite three people who dared to dream …
Sarah Webb’s favourite dreamers…
In Dare to Dream, I wanted to shine a light on Irish dreamers from all walks of life: sports people, activists, scientists, adventurers, creators, writers and even rock stars! Irish people who have achieved great things, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed the months spent researching remarkable Irish people, and it’s hard to select just three as ‘favourites’. However, I really admire Maude Delap, who spent a lifetime studying jellyfish and working out their life cycles.
Maude was born in 1866, and as a child moved to Valentia Island, County Kerry, with her family. She spent most of her time outside, searching the island and the sea around it for unusual creatures. As I was mad about whales and dolphins as a child (and still am), this really spoke to me.
In the 1890s, a group of scientists visited the island, and Maude and her sister Connie helped them catch sea creatures in nets and also took the temperature of the sea. It was the start of Maude’s passion for jellyfish.
She designed and made her own jellyfish aquarium, which she called ‘the department’, and became the first person in the world to successfully raise them in captivity. She published her work in 1901, and scientists still use her research to this day.
I was really taken by Maude’s passion and tenacity – it took great care and hard work to raise jellyfish, but she never gave up. She dedicated her life to her work and will be remembered as a brilliant citizen scientist.
Another woman of science I greatly enjoyed reading about was Cynthia Longfield or Madam Dragonfly. Born in 1896, like Maude she spent her childhood outside, watching nature. And like me, she was a devoted Girl Guide, going on many hikes and camps, which proved brilliant training for her future.
In 1924, she went on her first of many, many voyages and adventures – to the Pacific islands, retracing Darwin’s Beagle expedition. She travelled all over the world during her long lifetime (she lived to 94), studying insects – most especially her beloved dragonfly – and became an international expert on dragonflies, with several important books to her name.
And finally, I loved finding out about Jack Kyle, a rugby legend from Belfast who devoted his life after his rugby career to helping people in Zambia as a surgeon. He sounded like such a kind, honest man and a devoted father. His daughter said in her book about him, ‘If decency was measured in stars, to me, [Dad] is a galaxy.’
It has been a fascinating voyage of discovery and I do hope children (and adults!) enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.
Graham Corcoran’s favourite dreamers….
One of my favourite illustrations in Dare To Dream is of Roger Casement. This was a difficult one to get right, as it was dealing with some pretty serious subject matter. My focus for this illustration is on his work highlighting human rights abuses in the rubber industries of Peru and the Belgian Congo. I also included his journey back to Ireland from Germany aboard a U-Boat that was transporting arms for the Volunteers in the Easter Rising in 1916. I used a palette of green tones in this illustration, showing the damp, rain-swept coast of Ireland, and the dark jungles of Congo and Peru. I then used yellow tones to highlight Roger Casement and other elements I wanted to stand out. A steamboat on the Congo River can be seen at the bottom left of the illustration, as a nod to the influence Casement had on Joseph Conrad’s famous novel Heart Of Darkness.
My illustration of Cynthia Longfield is one of my favourites in the book, as it was a lot of fun to create. Cynthia was very much an adventurer, with her pith helmet and travels around the globe to exotic locales. I wanted to depict her gathering her dragonflies in a bright, colourful, exotic jungle setting. Lots of bright colours – pinks, blues and purples – contrast with the more pastel hues in the Irish settings of other illustrations in the book.
Rex Ingram was a person I wasn’t familiar with until I was asked to illustrate him for the book. He really seems to have been a pioneer of early Hollywood cinema. So I wanted to create a vibrant, art deco-style tribute to the Hollywood of the 1920s. Lots of searchlights over the Hollywood hills, and glimpses behind the scenes of a film epic he is directing. I wanted to give the feel of a silent black-and-white film, but still be colourful, so I used lots of golds and blues for a monochromatic, but still colourful, look.
Sarah Webb and Graham Corcoran October 2019
Dare to Dream is available to buy here and in all good bookshops!
Dare to Dream has been shortlisted for ‘Best Irish-Published Book of the Year’ in Irish Book Awards 2019 – click here to vote!