Donegal Woman talks to children's book author Evelyn Mc Glynn to find out what hidden aspects lie within the colourful pages of 'Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland'.
You might have spotted a familiar freckled face around Donegal. Her bright orange hair stands out from the bright green book on bookshop shelves and library displays.
This little lady is Freckles the Elf, a Leprechaelf from the North Pole created by Donegal woman Evelyn Mc Glynn. Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland is a festive book for children all over the world, and it’s a good-natured tale straight from Donegal that was made possible through a collaboration with Crafty Kids Toy Shop in Letterkenny.
The story of Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland is about a little boy called Shaun, and his family who leave New York just before Christmas for a new life in Ireland. Shaun however, is worried that Santa will not be able to find his new home in Ballytown, Ireland.
Shaun’s worried letter to Santa reaches Freckles The Elf, a sprightly Leprechaelf who embarks on a mission with her new Irish friend Mulligan to deliver an unforgettable festive season for Shaun and his family.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the magical adventures of Freckles and friends, but some eagle-eyed readers will notice a thing or two about the book that brings an extra element of wonder to the story.
Donegal Woman spoke with author Evelyn Mc Glynn, a marketing consultant from Ballybofey to find out what special touches lie behind the colourful illustrations.
1. Traditional tale
Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland might seem like a very modern story with its hashtags and GPS systems, but the story originated from a decades-old tradition.
Author Evelyn has a tradition with her children, that every year at 8pm on Christmas Eve she read them a story before they went to bed.
Her children, now aged 22, 24 and 27, still insist on hearing a story from their mother, Evelyn says. “Even now we still have that tradition on Christmas Eve, the only thing that has changed is that they head to the pub afterwards!” Evelyn told Donegal Woman.
2. There’s a special lady on certain pages
If you look carefully in the book, you’ll see one particular illustration that is a little different from the rest. Letterkenny artist Jenny Yourell illustrated the book, but in Shaun’s grandmother’s sitting room hangs a picture on the wall of a woman that seems to be drawn by a different artist. The painting is by Caitlin Lynch, a teenager artist and entrepreneur from Castlederg.
This woman is ‘Molly’, Evelyn revealed, who is an example from her work in promoting business and marketing.
“Last year I went to the Donegal Women in Business Network meeting and was asked to give a talk. I wanted to give a really simple message of how marketing a business works, so I came up with the story of Molly.
“That lady on the wall is Molly. She’s a farmer who lives on the side of a hill in Anytown. She has many hens who lay too many eggs and she wants to sell them. It’s a basic business story that women loved. Molly’s Eggcellent Enterprise was born, and because she’s dear to me, we put her on the wall.”
3. You can play a game of spotting the local products
Shaun’s little sister Maeve asks Santa for a Lottie Doll, the innovative toy created by Donegal doll-maker Ian Harkin.
Under the Christmas Tree sits two books that Evelyn has been involved in – The Wild Atlantic Way Mindfulness Colouring Book, which was drawn by a 16-year-old Transition Year student from St Columba’s College in Stranorlar, and The Crafty Kids Guide to Donegal and its Wild Atlantic Way.
A Fairy Door can be spotted in the corner of Shaun’s bedroom, from the Irish Fairy Door Company.
4. It’s a story retold
Evelyn began writing Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland back in May, and has since rewrote the story about ten times, she tells us.
One of the first major changes came from Donegal TD Joe McHugh, who is the Minister of State for the Diaspora and Overseas Development Aid. Deputy McHugh has written the foreword of the book, and influenced Evelyn to add an element of ‘global giving’ to the story.
Shaun’s mother is a foreign aid worker with the United Nations, and her work helping refugees in Syria was included in the story to connect the message of giving all over the world. Minister McHugh also brought the charity connection with Yonkers to Evelyn. Some 92% of people in Yonkers, New York have Irish descent, and a contribution from every book sold will go to The Aisling Irish Centre in New York to help Irish immigrants in the USA.
Evelyn also had to rewrite the story after the first draft received some critical feedback from children in Ballybofey. “I used a focus group of local children, I got them all together and gave them sweeties and asked them to read the book. And they hated it!” Evelyn said. “They loved Christmas morning and Santa’s workshop, but that was only 20% of the story at the time.”
“I literally had to decide over a weekend whether to scrap the whole thing or do it again, so I rewrote it, and the next time the children loved it.”
5. Freckles has already travelled around the world
Freckles the Elf may bring Christmas magic to Ireland, but the book, like Santa Claus, was intended to connect the whole world. Evelyn held a global launch to spread the book to as many countries as possible on November 5th. People in Melbourne, New York, Australia, London, Canada and elsewhere received the book and read it together on that day.
“Everyone was very supportive and it felt really good. I love how our digital world makes it a big global village. There’s a good world out there and if people care about each other and amazing things are possible,” Evelyn said.
Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland is on sale for €7 in Crafty Kids Letterkenny, McElhinney’s of Ballybofey and The Book Centre Ballybofey. Check out www.facebook.com/Frecklestheelf to follow her journey before Christmas Eve.
Plus, the story will be brought to life this week as Karen Murphy’s School of Speech, Drama & Communications will be performing a play Evelyn has written based on the book.