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Going Green: Producing Ireland's Most Environmentally-Friendly Children's Book

Q&A with Matthew Parkinson-Bennett, Publisher at Little Island Books

Welcome back to our feature exploring all things independent publishing! This week, we are highlighting Little Island Books; an independent Irish publishing company specialising in children’s titles. The press is currently engaged with a ground-breaking new venture: a collaboration with Friends of the Earth, Ashley House eco-printers and author Oisín McGann to create Ireland’s most environmentally-friendly children’s book. We spoke to Matthew Parkinson-Bennett to find out more about the project.



Tell us a bit about Little Island Books. How did you come up with its name and concept?


Little Island started life as the children’s imprint of New Island, an independent Irish publisher of books for adults – hence the name. Initially we were just going to publish translations, because there are so few translated books published for English-speaking children and we wanted to correct that. But very quickly we decided there was also room for another outlet for Irish children’s writers so we began to publish non-translated books too. To this day our publishing is rooted in Ireland but with a global outlook. And we are fully independent now.


We’re especially excited about one of your current projects: A Short, Hopeful Guide to Climate Change. Could you tell our readers a bit about what the book is about and who you think it will appeal to?


We knew we wanted to do a book about climate change but we didn’t have good knowledge of that area, so we got in touch with Friends of the Earth to propose a collaboration. When we spoke to them, they told us about their experience of working with young people in schools over the years. They told us that when they first started doing school visits, they needed to explain to the children what climate change was, and emphasise the importance of the topic. But as time went on and awareness of climate change grew, they began to find that the kids already knew all about it – and they were anxious. So we decided to do a book for teens that offered good information about this complex subject but also offered a hopeful outlook, for the benefit of young people who are concerned about the future.


What is it about the production of this book that makes it so unusual?


We saw that a lot of books were coming out about climate change but they were typical mass market paperbacks with plastic lamination and so on. We felt we wanted to walk the walk and try to produce the book in the most environmentally friendly way possible – so we can really say that this book is part of the solution. We found Ashley House printers in the UK, who are committed to offering the most sustainable, eco-friendly cost-effective book printing currently available.


It is becoming increasingly important for the publishing world as a whole to move towards more sustainable production methods. Are there any key approaches that you have discovered during the production of this book that you think could be implemented into the industry in the near future?


I think it’s important to consider book production as a whole. There has traditionally been a lot of focus on paper. But there are plastic elements in book production, and there are factors such as air miles to consider also.


Finally, tell us about the crowdfunder that has been set up to raise money for the book. How is the project developing, and can you explain to our readers how they can get involved?


We set up a crowdfunder to help us raise the funds to produce the book – environmentally friendly printing costs a bit more! - and also to raise awareness of what we are doing. There is a range of rewards and perks for donors. It’s the first time we’ve tried raising funding in this way and we’ve been really touched by the number of people donating so far. The crowdfunder page is at: https://crowdfunder.foe.ie


Little Island Books are hoping to raise €15,000 towards the production costs of A Short, Hopeful Guide to Climate Change, with the aim of releasing the book in Spring 2021.


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