It is hard to believe that it is thirty years since the publication of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’. I still remember the feeling of excitement and nervousness as after working with my editor Ide Ni Laoghaire, the book was sent off to be printed.
It was published in the month of May, a very special time as all across Ireland the hawthorn trees are covered with white snowy blossom. I always consider the hawthorn (the fairy tree) a lucky tree!
My publisher Michael O’Brien of O’Brien Press had commissioned the artist Donal Teskey to not only design the book cover but also the chapter head illustrations. Book covers are so important and I am so fortunate that Donald not only illustrated ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ but also my other books in The Children of the Famine series-‘Wildflower Girl’ and ‘Fields of Home.’ Donald Teskey is now one of Ireland’s most renowned artists with his incredible evocative landscapes.
The book surprised us, as young readers not only here in Ireland but all around the world lost themselves in the story of Eily, Michael and Peggy’s fight to survive during Ireland’s Great Famine. Following eviction the three children must leave their cottage and set off on a courageous journey across a ravaged countryside to find their aunts.
Since then the book has been read by so many readers and is often used in schools here and overseas to help children understand the tragedy of Ireland’s Great Hunger.
In 2002 a new cover was designed by British illustrator Anne Yvonne Gilbert, best known for her beautiful illustrations of classics; The Frog Prince and Robin Hood and Night of the White Stag.
Then my publishers commissioned Belfast born P. J. Lynch, the award winning illustrator to design new covers for the three books. P.J. is best known for his amazing art work for ‘The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey’, The Snow Queen’ and many other children’s classics. He brought a totally new look to the cover of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree.’
And so ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ continues, as new readers discover the story of Eily, Michael and Peggy’s courage and spirit as they fight to survive during the Great Irish Famine.