New book is a tribute to Pauline’s students

Pauline Burgess at the launch of her book with Dana Williamson and Gabby McNulty.
Pauline Burgess at the launch of her book with Dana Williamson and Gabby McNulty.

Carryduff author and teacher Pauline Burgess recently launched her new book for young people, entitled ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Pauline has become very successful in the areas of children’s and teenage fiction, with her last book - Knock Back - being adopted by a number of Northern Irish schools as their class novel.

Her latest book, described by former children’s laureate PJ Lynch as a “brilliant and important new novel for young people that explores issues of family, belonging and identity in a moving and compelling way”, is a kind of tribute to all the East-European and foreign national students she has taught over the years.

The central character in the story – 13 year-old Magda – is not based on any real person, but was inspired by “all the children who have come to Northern Ireland over the last 10-15 years, and have shown the courage and adaptability to fit in to a whole new world,” explained Pauline.

“I have taught in Castlewellan for 26 years and many of the students I have had the pleasure to teach have come from Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and many other countries. This is partly what inspired the character of Magda.”

Magda is a Polish teenager who is finding her new life in Belfast challenging, and like many teenagers, she is conflicted about who she is and who she wants to be. Her family moved from Poland to make a better life for themselves, but living in a cramped apartment on the back streets of Belfast doesn’t feel like a better life to Magda. Then shiny, bubbly Sophie comes along and befriends Magda and for once it looks like she’s one of the ‘in’ girls. But is Sophie all that she seems?

Mrs Dana Williamson (classroom assistant) and Miss Paulina Rys (sixth form student) helped Pauline with some of the Polish dialogue in the book and Mrs Gabby McNulty inspired Magda’s surname and home town.

This is Pauline’s fifth published novel and she is particularly proud of this one because it deals with the whole concept of integration and inclusion; something she is very happy to promote.