• THE OBSERVER | 15 November 2000 | N/A

    Pupils at Gaelscoil O'Doghair, Newcastle West, are certainly a bloodthirsty lot, at least where literature is concerned! The recent visit of Darren Shan (children's author) to the school bore out this truth. The students and teachers greeted him with a vampirish enthusiasm, on the day when his third book, Tunnels Of Blood, was officially launched in the UK.

    Since early September, the school had undertaken a major project to prepare itself for Darren's visit. Students from third class upwards devoured all of Shan's books to-date and then wrote their own individual reviews, even daring to suggest "better" endings for the stories! Their teachers helped them create appropriately ghoulish artwork based upon his ghoulish characters. Many pupils contacted Darren by e-mail, and during lunch time each class was taken into the computer room, where they got a chance to surf Darren's website, "Shanville", view other children's art work and read letters from Darren's fans from all over the world.

    Before Darren's visit, Gaelscoil was forced, by the sheer demand from its pupils, to buy out the entire Darren Shan stock from the shelves of Easons and Coole Lane bookshops. On the day, the pupils of Fourth Class surprised Darren by appearing before him as fully adorned vampires! For an hour and a half, Darren entertained the pupils of Gaelscoil by reading an extract from book number 3 in The Saga Of Darren Shan, i.e. Tunnels Of Blood, by holding Question & Answer sessions, and by finishing up with a book signing.

    Darren Shan, who hails from Pallaskenry, has already signed a contract with Warner Brothers to have his first two books, Cirque Du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant, made into films. Much to the delight of the pupils of Gaelscoil O'Doghair, he announced that he has planned 20 books in the entire series.

    The wonderfully motivating and inspiring effect which Darren's visit had upon the children can be summed up in the words of one child to his mother, on returning home that day. He announced, "Mam, I'm going to write a book!" And it seems that the children's enjoyment of Darren's visit was reciprocated in kind, as Darren paid tribute to Gaelscoil as being, "The happiest school he was ever in!", and stating that he would love to launch book 4, Vampire Mountain, in Gaelscoil O'Doghair next May. The Saga goes on .............

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