WHAT do children locked up in Scotland need to settle into the new school year?
The need to recharge the imaginations of young people after the lockdown has prompted two moms on the Hebridean island of Lismore to produce a new series of children’s books. The Tartan Trampoline features Manny, Effie and Tilly, a brother, sister and cousin who visit their grandmother every summer.
According to writer and former teacher Jennifer Baker: “If the city kids can’t really come to our island and feel the liberation of life away from traffic and organized entertainment – and we really wish they could. – then we can bring a spirit of adventure to them. ”
The Trampoline series was the product of a stormy night on an island in 2016 when a new trampoline at the author’s house blew up, prompting a neighbor to joke that it was a shame some kids didn’t hang on – blown away towards a new adventure.
Jennifer Baker has teamed up with artist and illustrator Sarah Campbell to publish The Tartan Trampoline
“With three grandchildren of mine, it gave the idea for a book that quickly turned into a series and when the pandemic hit I decided to work on the stories to publish,” added Baker.
She arrived in Lismore with her husband 18 years ago to set up a vegetable garden and lavender farm next to their newly built house north of Lismore, 40 km above Oban.
Baker brought in artist and illustrator Sarah Campbell, a mother of two and designer at her own company, Mogwai Design, as well as crofter / editor Helen Crossan, who lives across Loch Linnhe in Benderloch but whose family is originally from Lismore.
Crossan founded Mòr Media over 20 years ago and has produced children’s television programs and online content – mostly in Gaelic – and four Lismore writers’ books.
“As we are already living and working ‘at the end of the line’, the lockdown has had little impact on our ability to get things done; Like many islanders, the adaptable Liosaich (people of Lismore) have worked cooperatively for years, hampered only by a slow broadband connection and occasional power cuts in the winter.
“With the restrictions relaxed, it was great to meet up in Jennifer’s backyard for a cup of tea and a socially distanced replay. Other than that, it’s business as usual. Digital working practices, print-on-demand, and shorter runs have all democratized publishing for small businesses. So the Tartan trampoline can take off from Lismore and land anywhere in the world.
According to Campbell: “Jennifer decided to create gallus, recognizable Scottish characters using Scottish vernacular words. The stories are so evocative in their descriptions of characters and landscapes that forming ideas for illustrations and costumes has been a delight and has given me many much needed silent laughs.
“Inspiration for the landscapes of history was easy to find in the rich flora, fauna and vistas of Lismore. As a child, my sisters and I would vacation here and go on an adventure among blackthorn bushes, secret sea coves and island lochs. I wanted to offer the magic of these escapes to children caught up in the Covid, through the visuals of the story. But the main motivation was to create a fantasy world as free (and sometimes wild) as real island life for children.
Jennifer added: “As mothers who grew up in the central belt (Edinburgh and Glasgow), the three of us could imagine the experience of children being locked in city apartments during the lockdown for hours, days and days. weeks. It’s not easy for families to physically reach Lismore, so we decided to reach them with adventure stories and, most importantly, time spent away from constant adult supervision.
For its small size (pop 192), Lismore hits well above its weight.
The Local Historical Society (Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mòr) was formed in 1994 by native Gaelic speaking islanders to protect and preserve the island’s particular strain of Gaelic language and culture.
This led to the Gaelic Heritage Center of Lismore (Ionad Naomh Moluag) in 2007, named after the 6th century Celtic saint who built a monastery there. The center is home to an accredited museum, library, archives and shop – entirely manned by volunteers from the island – as well as an award-winning café and serves as the venue for the biennial Taproot Book Festival, which is slated for September 2022.
COMMUNITY archeology has recently unearthed a well-preserved 8th century burial place, which may be the Monastery of St Moluag, founded two centuries earlier. The three-week excavation currently underway was guided by a comprehensive geophysical survey conducted in 2019 that revealed the boundaries of the current cemetery and some unexpected structures.
Baker said: “When I told people I was coming to live on Lismore, the reaction was largely – what will you do on an island? Well, we never stop. Neither do children, which is perhaps why Lismore is an ideal choice.
The books will launch at the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Center on Wednesday, October 13, and there will be a Halloween event featuring the characters from the stories at Lismore Elementary School on Friday, October 29.