Ryan Tubridy in his Late Late Toy Show library, with Albert the Dragon on a bookshelf nearby.

Local author’s first children’s book makes Late Late Toy Show library

Galway author Gareth Chapman was delighted to spot his children’s book, Albert the Dragon, on Ryan Tubridy’s bookshelf on last Friday’s Late Late Toy Show.

Illustrated by Andrea Rossi, Albert the Dragon is Gareth’s first book and it was independently published earlier this year.

It’s an enormous challenge for even an established author to get their book featured on Ireland’s biggest annual television event. Every year, all the major publishers compete for a much-coveted spot in Ryan’s library. Albert the Dragon was placed with its cover facing towards the audience and visible several times over the course of the evening – a great achievement for an unknown, independent first-time author.

Albert the Dragon is a collaboration between a Kiwi writer living at the foot of the Slieve Aughty Mountains and a Brazilian artist based in Spiddal.

Gareth had been working on his book for a few years when a mutual friend introduced him to Andrea in the spring of 2019. Intrigued by the tale of a shy dragon and the friendship that transforms him, and passionate about children’s books herself, Andrea joined the project.

After researching the market, Gareth decided to establish his own independent publishing company and Gareth Chapman Books was born.

Albert the Dragon was released last February, just in time for the pandemic. It’s difficult for a literary debut to make an impression in ordinary circumstances but a national lockdown made it much harder, so Gareth and Andrea took to social media to promote their book, amassing almost 2,000 followers across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

As a result, Albert the Dragon has travelled the globe and was acquired by the library of the Kiddie Academy of Colonia in New Jersey, USA. The book has received glowing reviews from parents and bloggers all over the world, but nothing could compare to seeing it on Ireland’s favourite TV show.

Gareth said: “We knew Ryan had a soft spot for children’s books, especially quirky stories, so we sent the book to RTÉ. My mother always said, ‘Why look at the ground when you have a whole sky above,’ and I thought it was worth a shot.

“We hoped the book might at least make it into Ryan’s hands and make him smile, but never dared to assume anything. We hadn’t heard anything at all, so it was a huge surprise to see Albert peering out at us from the Late Late Toy Show bookshelf!”

Andrea, who teaches art to children, was thrilled to see her work featured on Ireland’s most child-friendly TV programme. She hopes the illustrations in Albert the Dragon will encourage young people to be creative themselves: “I like to think that if a child can see pencil strokes, paper texture and simplicity, they will be inspired to draw their own characters and stories too.”

Andrea and Gareth are already working on their second publication for Gareth Chapman Books. Albert the Dragon can be purchased from www.garethchapmanbooks.com and is also for sale in Spiddal Craft Village, Charlie Byrne’s, Kenny’s and selected bookshops throughout Galway.

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