Author Q&A with Richard O’Neill of Child’s Play

Richard O'Neill

Richard O’Neill inspires & reminds children of their innate talents

At BookPal, we are passionate about connecting, learning, and growing as an organization as well as with the authors, publishers, and customers we work with and serve.  We’ve recently sat down with authors of various new adult titles, and we thought it would be fun to mix it up and speak with a children’s book author! We had the opportunity to speak with Richard O’Neill, author of Polonius, The Pit Pony, about his new book published by Child’s Play — an independent children’s book publisher with a history of creating innovative, award-winning, and inclusive books for children.

Without further delay, let’s meet Richard O’Neill!

Tell us about yourself and how you started as a children’s book author.

I grew up in a traditional nomadic family in the North of England following a way of life that my ancestors had done for hundreds of years. When very young, I was chosen to be a storyteller by the elders and learned that skill with enthusiasm.

I also loved books and even though I hadn’t yet been to school, just by memorizing the words of a simple book, it ignited within me a passion for books and started me reading.

I have never stopped. I was invited to an increasing number of schools to tell traditional stories and because of the positive reaction, started to write them down. Then I received the offer from Child’s Play to publish them.

When my children were younger, I started writing stories for them. I had plays and pieces for adults published, performed and broadcast, and then after being invited to tell stories in schools, I started to write down some of my family stories, which Child’s Play wanted to publish. I’ve been writing for children ever since.

Why should parents and educators check out this new title?

Because it’s empowering, it’s all about being different and finding opportunities to shine; it also shows a different way of life, showcasing different homes yet many similarities.

What is the biggest lesson you hope kids will take away from this new title?

That whatever your background or your size, you have skills and talents that are useful. It’s just about finding the right opportunity to use them. I also hope adults will take away that positive message.

What was your inspiration for this book?

My inspiration comes from my upbringing in the coal fields in the North of England, seeing the pit ponies in the fields at holiday time and wondering why they were so docile compared to our spirited horses. I never forgot the little ponies and wanted to write a book that would celebrate the overall contribution of those hardworking and mainly unsung heroes of the industrial revolution.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

It’s vitally important that all children have access to books which show diversity of people, lifestyles and cultures. For children from different backgrounds to be able to see themselves positively reflected in mainstream literature is life-affirming.


Thank you, Richard, and Child’s Play, for the opportunity to learn more about you, what inspires you, and what you hope children will learn from your book, Polonius the Pit Pony.


Author bioRichard O’Neill was born and brought up in a large, traditional Romani family, in the North of England.  He is an award-winning storyteller and writer, who shares his original stories in schools, museums, libraries and theaters throughout the UK.  He has written two other Romani folktales for Child’s Play: Yokki and the Parno Gry, and Ossiri and the Bala Mengro. Both have received wonderful reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.

In the new tale, Polonius the Pit Pony, a pit pony meets a group of horses who pull caravans for Travelers. Enchanted by their way of life, he escapes from the mine to join them.  Due to his small size, Polonius struggles to adjust to his new job, but he’s determined not to let down his new family. Can he find a use for the skills he learned from his past in the pits? This is a heart-warming story about respect and new starts.

Child’s Play, an independent children’s book publisher, offers a diverse range of formats and experiences through reading that enrich and empower their young audiences. Their books are respected and loved by parents and educators alike. For more information, be sure to check out their site.


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This post was written by Karlyn Hixson, Marketing Director at BookPal.  She is currently reading Fear by Bob Woodward.

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