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New children’s picture book inspired by grandmother

A Letterkenny-based artist and writer has just published a new children’s picture book inspired by her grandmother.

Granny Makes Me Grumpy, written and illustrated Letterkenny-based by Karolina Olchowska, is a new picture book which consists of English and Polish versions.

The new book is about accepting and loving the person who raises us as they are and tells a story about a special relationship between a granny and her granddaughter.

Karolina said: “I always knew that I have to honour my amazing grandmother in some way, but also to share this unique relationship between a granddaughter and her granny.

“I lost both of my parents as a little child and my granny became my foster parent. And she is not an ordinary granny, but a granny with a very open mind, really progressive in her views, with a great sense of humour and devotion to other people.”

In her picture book Karolina explored the perception of old age through the eyes of a child and how this perspective changes and matures with age.

She said: “It’s a picture book for everyone. I felt it was important to make this picture book for me and others who were cared for by that special someone in their lives, whether it’s their grandparents, uncle or aunt.”

Karolina, a graduate of English Language and Literature at the University of Wrocław, Poland, where she specialised in picture books, completed the new publication as part of a residency with the RCC in 2021.

Karolina, who creates watercolour illustrations and linocut prints, is interested in how picture books can bring people of different ethnic and age groups closer together. Her masters thesis focused on the image of migrants and refugees in these works.

She is also involved in voluntary work at the Donegal Intercultural Platform, an organisation that helps communities from ethnic minority groups.

Karolina said the idea to make a picture book was born during the first year of her English Studies when she wrote her BA thesis on picture books as literature breaking the age barriers.

She said: “The graphic novel Maus by Spiegelman and Persepolis by Satrapi were a great inspiration for me. When I became a university student, I started spending less time with my grandmother, so I started recording her as she was telling me different stories from the past, I wanted to write these memories down.

“First, I wrote the text. The greatest motivation was precisely the pandemic and lockdown, it was then that I created illustrations and started putting the book together.

“Since I moved to Ireland a few months before the pandemic was first reported, my separation from my grandmother was even more painful. This situation of being even more separated from my relatives and the feeling that we have little time in this world gave me a ‘kick’.”

“My grandmother’s contribution in the creation of the book was the delivery of memories, by phone calls I made sure that I was presenting our story well, my grandmother acknowledged that I was creating a book and was cheering for me. The idea was to present the story 100 per cent honestly.”

Jeremy Howard, Acting Director & Curator of the Regional Cultural Centre, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to support Karolina on her creative journey over the past year and we’re proud of her for producing such a beautiful children’s book. Donegal is home to over 2,000 members of the Polish community.

“Each day they work hard on improving their English and help us shape and improve our county. Hopefully, this bilingual book will encourage a few Donegal children (and parents) to embrace the Polish language, and maybe even learn a few words in return!”

Granny Makes Me Grumpy is available from the RCC, Bookmark (Letterkenny Shopping Centre), Donegal Stationary (Letterkenny), Four Masters Bookshop (Donegal Town) and Polish shops, Your Delicatessen (Letterkenny, Donegal Town and Buncrana). The book can also be purchased online HERE!

The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny is proudly funded by Donegal County Council and Arts Council Ireland.

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