Friday 19 January 2018

Spreading the word – how this 10-year-old penned two novels

Joe Prendergast gets his best ideas on the trampoline, says Lisa Jewell

Early starter: children's author Joe Prendergast working at his desk at home in Sandyford, Dublin.
Early starter: children's author Joe Prendergast working at his desk at home in Sandyford, Dublin.

Lisa Jewell

Like most 10-year-olds, Joe Prendergast likes to hang out with friends, watch TV and bounce on the trampoline in his back garden.

But not many kids his age have published two novels and are embarking on the final book in the trilogy.

Joe, who lives in Sandyford, Dublin, started writing stories with his dad Geoff when he was just five. Then last year, he wrote The Great Fragola Brothers and followed up with a sequel.

"I just got the idea and I started writing," says Joe. "I didn't think I was going to finish it 'cos I hadn't finished most of the books that I've written. But I finished this one and then I sent it to my cousin."

It was through Joe's cousin Ruth that the book actually got published. Ruth was friends with the sister of Emer Cleary, who was just launching her publishing company, Emu Ink.

The books are about the Fragola brothers, magicians who travel from Venice to New York.

"They go in the hope of having a career there – they're a double act and basically this famous actress is kidnapped and they have to save her. But there are lots of other mysteries and surprises. The brothers are opposites of each other but they're very protective of each other, which is what I like about them."

The books are dedicated to Joe's dad, Geoff, who sadly passed away last year of lung cancer.

Proceeds from the books are going to the Cancer Clinical Research Trust at St Vincent's Hospital, where Geoff was treated. Joe still has some of the stapled picture books that he wrote with his dad, stored in the attic.

"I kind of taught myself to type," says Joe. "I was on my dad's lap when he was working on his computer and obviously he was homesick when he had cancer. But he would type with me and I picked it up from there."

Joe's mum Ita says they noticed at around four that he was an advanced reader.

"Certainly by five, he was starting to create – he wanted to write things down," she says. "We kept thinking that his penmanship almost slowed him down at that stage because he had all these ideas but it was slow getting it down on paper. But once he got typing – maybe at around seven – he was writing these long paragraphs of stuff. It wasn't quite books but it was pages of writing."

It was something that Joe and his dad got to share.

"Unfortunately, God love him, Geoff hadn't the energy to just go out into the garden and kick a ball," says Ita, who is a teacher. "It really upset him that Joe wouldn't be out kicking a ball or playing hurling. But the one thing he could give him was sitting at the table and teaching him how to type and use the computer. So he did what he could do.

"He'd be very proud of you," she says to Joe.

Unsurprisingly, Joe's fav-ourite subject at school is English. He's in fourth class at Holy Trinity National School in Leopardstown and plans to be a writer, journalist or radio DJ when he's older.

He gets his best ideas for writing when he's jumping on his trampoline and his other great passion is reading. "His pocket money is spent almost entirely on books," says Ita.

'He goes down to the library but the newer ones, the attractive ones, are all in the shops."

Joe's favourites include Harry Potter, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Hunger Games.

Emer Cleary, who publishes Joe's books, says she was impressed when the manuscript first came through last year.

"I was expecting an essay, maybe a few hundred words. And what came across was 15,000 words, which was a proper book and really well written. What Joe is doing is having a very positive effect on younger people.

Joe's books can be bought as paperbacks or e-books from

They're also available, in a new innovation, to rent from the site. And they're for sale in 1,500 pharmacies across the country.

So what does Joe think of the fact that kids on buses, planes and trains or at home all over the world could be reading one of his titles?

He's a little overwhelmed by the thought of it. "Mmm... it's just, I don't know what to say. It's very cool."

Irish Independent

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