A dragon for Christmas and a charity fundraiser

Don Briggs on the story behind The Boy Who Wanted a Dragon, in aid of The Cottage Home and Blackrock Hospice

Illustrations: Naomi Peppard

"I'd like to own a dragon
I'm sure Mum will agree
While other kids own cats and dogs
A dragon would suit me"

How exciting would it be to have a dragon as a pet and how awestruck and jealous would your pals be? Think about all the things a dragon could do, and how special it would be. But then, also consider all the possible mishaps of having a fire-breathing friend.

The Boy Who Wanted a Dragon is the culmination of almost 20 years of writing and stockpiling animal poems for children. I had mistakenly thought that in order to produce an illustrated book of poems I’d need about 50 whereas, of course, this book only uses one!

Overall, I have been writing poems for special occasions, short stories and adapted play scripts for about four decades. Then there is the usual quarter-finished novel in the attic!


In 1999 I collated, edited and contributed verses to a selection of childhood memories from various contributors in a book in aid of The Cottage Home Child and Family Services called Between You and Me. The book was hugely sponsored and well supported and raised significant funds for the charity. The current book is sold to again support the home and also the Blackrock Hospice and 100 per cent of all profits on sales will be shared between the two charities.

Each time I was encouraged by friends or family to publish something since my 1999 collation, I managed to avoid it and responded instead by adding another poem to my collection. Many of these poems were about animals and were targeted at a younger audience. While generally humorous, several have an underlying message or moral theme to give a pause for thought to the reader, young or even older!

It was always clear that my poems needed to be properly illustrated and the catalyst to publication came when I approached, while attending her art classes, the very talented Naomi Peppard, a highly skilled and experienced professional artist. Her interpretation of my verse has been a key element in the book’s success to date. Her illustrations are fashioned with imagination, insight and a quirky appreciation of the scenarios I wanted my words to inspire. They are simply delightful. Naomi has exhibited in both solo and group shows throughout Ireland and has had commissions from hotels, public and private sources and the AIB in London. She teaches in both oils and watercolours and has previous experience of children’s book illustration. Anyway, my “finding” Naomi happily removed any ambition to illustrate the verses myself.

Meanwhile, I was advised to stick initially with a single story (although there are another 50 in the wings) and the choice became The Boy Who Wanted a Dragon. I had hugely helpful advice and direction from John Davey and Susan Waine of Linden publishing to whom I am very grateful. I’m hoping to have further need of their input in the very near future. The publication has been very well received and now, with less than a month to go to Christmas I face the dilemma: do I go for a reprint? Decision imminent!

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