Robert Dunbar, rest in peace

It’s a while since I’ve blogged but felt that it was easier to get my thoughts out in a blog rather than a series of disjointed tweets.
Yesterday, I heard the very sad news that Robert Dunbar had passed away.
For those who don’t know, Robert was a children’s literature commentator, a journalist and educator. I was honoured to meet him on a few occasions, including one cold sunny morning we met in Rathmines for a coffee, which turned into several coffees, all the while chatting about books and writing and life.
Ireland has an especially supportive children’s book community. Yesterday that community lost one of its greatest champions. Robert was at the heart of the community and always full of enthusiasm. I will never forget the feeling of immense gratitude and joy when I read the overwhelmingly kind words he’d written about my book.
So my deepest sympathy go to his family and friends. He was one of a kind and will be missed greatly.
And to Robert, I say thank you.
And rest in peace.

In Which Paintings Scare Me

There were two films that really scared me as a kid – and both of them had one rather unusual feature in common.

‘The Witches’ and ‘Ghostbusters 2.’

Let’s look at ‘The Witches’ first. Remember the scene where the grandmother tells Luke about her first encounter with witches? If you don’t, just watch the clip below.

That clip ended a little bit sooner than it should have. After that, the grandmother told us that the girl in the painting would change positions from time to time but nobody ever saw her move. And freakiest of all, she got older and older, until one day she simply wasn’t there anymore.

Why did I choose the film over the brilliant book? Because in the film we got to see the painting. And in my parents’ house, we had a painting of a cottage in the woods just like that one, which you can imagine I was terrified of. I honestly think that the clip above is one of the most frightening scenes in cinematic history. Getting trapped for eternity in a lonely painting is such a horrifying prospect. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Which brings me to ‘Ghostbusters 2’, which also had a person trapped in a painting at its core. Except this time, the person trapped is the evil ghost Vigo the Carpathian.

I loved everything about ‘Ghostbusters’ growing up; the cartoon, the toys, the first film. So I couldn’t wait to see the sequel when it came out. I went to the cinema with my mother and brother. I took the aisle seat and waited to laugh and jump in equal measures. And this was all going so well, until Vigo stepped out of the painting.

I distinctly remember that moment. It’s stayed with me more than any other cinema-gonig experience. Sitting there, in the aisle seat, I was convinced that Vigo was going to come walking down the steps from behind to get me. I even looked over my shoulder a few times to make sure he wasn’t there.

Thankfully he wasn’t. But even to this day, if I see a painting like the one in ‘The Witches’ or a poster with Vigo’s snarling face on it, I can’t help but swallow drily, avery my gaze and hurry away.


So with that, I’ll wish you all a HAPPY HALLOWE- Wait a second! There’s a painting over my desk I never saw before…

I think I’ll just take a closer look. Be right back…


What a weird painti-ARGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Christmas Countdown: 3


Nothing says Christmas like gingerbread and I found this great simple recipe. Other recipes I’ve tried have been too bitter or even too time consuming. But this one is perfect. I advice rolling it quite thick so you get nice chewy cookies.

– 350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling
– 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
– 2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 125g/4½oz butter
– 175g/6oz light soft brown sugar
– 1 free-range egg
– 4 tbsp golden syrup
To decorate
– writing icing
– cake decorations
Read the rest of this entry »

Arthur needs YOU


How would you like to have a character named after you in the final Arthur Quinn book?

Well you can! The competition opens Monday (10th December) and closes the following Friday morning (14th). All the details of how to enter are above and Alan will reveal the winner on Elev8 on the 14th.

Remember, the competition is only open from the 10th to the 14th so get your entries in straight away!