March 17 marks Saint Patrick’s Day–the time when anyone, from anywhere, can be Irish for a day. Although regarded as a relatively minor holiday in the United States, Saint Patrick’s Day does inspire its share of media and toys for children. Recently, three Irish American sisters– Eileen Cowley, Michelle Dougherty and Victoria Coffey–created “Silly McGilly” a book and toy set that celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day.
Silly McGilly is a leprechaun who, along with the storybook, creates a “tradition in a box” that families can enjoy every Saint Patrick’s Day. The book tells the story of the very lovable Silly McGilly. According to the official press release:
Silly is a friendly leprechaun who enjoys visiting homes and classrooms to play funny little tricks on children throughout the St. Patrick’s Day season. First, children read Silly McGilly’s story. Then, the child, parent or teacher places the Silly McGilly doll by a window on each evening they would like him to come play a trick. The next morning, children will delight in seeing what shenanigans Silly McGilly has been up to while they slept! Maybe he’s left some treats behind such as chocolate coins, shamrocks or St. Patrick’s Day sticker. Or, maybe he’s been up to a little mischief, turning over chairs, writing on the blackboard, or leaving the kitchen cabinets open.
“Silly McGilly is a labor of love for our entire family,” said Eileen Cowley. “We were all brought up to appreciate our Irish culture and particularly enjoyed the fun and revelry of St. Patrick’s Day. However, we also recognized that there was no defining story or character that young children could embrace, both literally and figuratively. And so, Silly McGilly was born!”
“We see Silly McGilly as a way to draw children into the St. Patrick’s Day fun and tradition over an extended period leading up to the holiday,” said Victoria Coffey. “In truth, we received the inspiration for Silly McGilly from our kids, as a way of adding family fun to a holiday that we believe should be marked by more than just a one day parade and parties geared primarily for adults.”
Part the Silly McGilly appeal involves each family’s unique creative inspiration in deciding what sorts of fun Silly will have at home or in the classroom, and how often Silly will visit: every day in March, once a week, or the day before St. Patrick’s Day. He can also be made a part of the classroom curriculum.
“Silly McGilly” is the brainchild of three sisters–Michelle Coffey Dougherty, Eileen Coffey Cowley and Victoria Clark Coffey–living in New Jersey with ten children between them. Being of Irish- American heritage, they have always loved celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with parades, parties, music and dancing. Their children inspired us to add some family fun and magic to their favorite holiday by sharing the story of Silly McGilly. Whether or not you’re Irish, the sister’s hope is that Silly McGilly adds magic and St. Patrick’s Day fun to your home.
Michelle is a former school teacher turned stay-at-home-mom, Eileen is a former textile saleswoman turned stay-at-home mom and Victoria–now also a stay-at-home-mom–is a former systems implementation specialist. Recently Victoria spoke to the Examiner about her experiences working on “Silly McGilly” with her sisters:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): Can you please tell us a little more about the books and how you got into writing?
Victoria Coffey (V.C.): The idea for “Silly McGilly” came about after the Christmas holidays. Michelle’s youngest son expressed to her how sad he was that all the “holiday excitement” was over. When Michelle thought about what holidays she was looking forward to, St. Paddy’s Day came to mind. Recognizing that there was nothing out there to appeal to families with young children, she realized she could create a character for St. Patrick’s Day. An adorable leprechaun who leaves behind “tricks” behind during the St. Patrick’s Day “season” to bring some fun for the kids during the bleak, winter months. From here, Silly McGilly was born. We are an extremely Irish family. Our grandparents came here from County Kerry, Ireland. We were raised in a Catholic home on Long Island. Irish music was a staple in our house growing up. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and loved attending whatever St. Paddy’s day parade we could. We were taught about our Irish heritage from our grandparents, and visited Ireland as children. We love being Irish, so creating a tradition where we could incorporate our children and our Irish heritage made perfect sense. We knew we didn’t want our leprechaun to be a traditional leprechaun in any sense of the word. We wanted him to have a fun name and an adorable look to appeal to young children. After brainstorming, the name “Silly McGilly” just seemed to fit the spirit we were after; fun, young and maybe a bit mischievous in the most innocent of ways. The three of us worked on all aspects of the book and creation of the doll together. We began writing in January 2013. The book was written on soccer sidelines, over weekend long playdates with the kids and over the phone. The year was full of writing, re-writing, searching for the “right” illustrator, finding manufacturers for a doll, book and packaging. One of our biggest obstacles was finding an illustrator. It took us a long time to find an illustrator that could capture his fun and young spirit. We worked closely with Charlotte on character sketches to find the right look. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the result.
M.M.: Right now you have aa few products on the market. How many more do you plan to produce?
V.C.: We have the Silly McGilly book and doll set. We sell them packaged in different groupings to appeal to different audiences. This is our first book, but we do hope Silly McGilly becomes a name synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day fun. The way Christmas has Santa and his elves, Easter has a beloved bunny and a basket, St. Patrick’s Day has Silly McGilly. It is our plan to write more stories about Silly McGilly’s adventures. We’d love it to become a series and product line. In fact, we are in the planning stages of a Christmas Book.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with Silly McGilly?
V.C.: The knowledge that children are reading with their parents and enjoying the fun and excitement that Silly McGilly’s tricks bring to the whole family. We are all about spending time with our kids, unplugging and making memories. Silly McGilly provides a fun way to do just that. We are also delighted how teachers around the country have embraced Silly McGilly as an education resource in the classroom. Students can’t wait to go to school during March to see what Silly McGilly has been up to in the classroom.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the book and/or toy industry?
V.C.: There has never been a better time to be an author. With the proliferation of social media and self-publishing options, there is a lot of opportunities for authors to make their own path; having said that, it’s a very competitive field. If you believe in your product, keep pushing to get it out there.
M.M: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
V.C.: On March 6, 2016, we will be doing a book signing at the Belmar, NJ St. Patrick’s Day parade. Check out our Facebook page for updates on future book readings and appearances.
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To learn more about “Silly McGilly” visit his official website and Facebook.