Growing up in Ireland each and every night Emma-Jane’s Mammy and Daddy told her “a story about Johnny Magory”.
These ‘made-up’ tales were usually derived from whatever sort of harm and devilment EJ had got up to that day and she couldn’t wait for bedtime for her mother to read a book and her father to tell her a story about what Johnny had done too!
Based on the old Irish rhyme “I’ll tell you a story about Johnny McGory. WIll I begin it? That’s all that’s in it!”, her father’s storytelling ensured EJ and her siblings went to sleep excited about their next “adventure” in the morning.
EJ spent her childhood outside, where she was happiest. EJ was an expert tree-climber, ditch-jumper and field-runner.
Some may have called her a tomboy; she called herself a wild ninja-warrior he-man, dinosaur-loving girl who was a “world champion” tree climber and animal whisperer!
Not a lot has changed in three decades (well maybe the humility!)
Amongst animals and trees is still where she is happiest.
The birth of her first daughter Lily-Marie inspired her to jot down a few of her daddy’s stories on one of the many sleepless nights! 12 years after that, her mother encouraged her to ‘do something with the stories’ as it was approaching her 30th birthday. With no aspirations for becoming an author, Emma-Jane self-published her first story ‘Johnny Magory in the Magical Wild’ purely for family and friends, whilst working full time in Bord na Móna. The team in her office told her they also knew the ‘story about Johnny McGory’ from their childhood… Much to EJ’s shock as her father had her and her siblings convinced that he himself had invented the rhyme!
The buzz of creating her first book had EJ hooked and she continued to self-publish more adventures whilst working full time in some of Ireland’s biggest corporates as the popularity and word about the books organically grew and spread.
She eventually left her HR career in the corporate world to pursue her passion full time in April 2019. Johnny Magory Business was established and has gone from strength to strength.
Purpose: To inspire parents and children to connect with nature.
Vision: To educate children globally on Irish heritage, wildlife and culture.
Johnny Magory (and Emma-Jane) have taken part in programmes such as Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s Acorns 5 and DCU Ryan Academy Female High Fliers.
Johnny Magory Business is evolving from simply a book series to becoming a brand for all things children, outdoors, exploring and Irish heritage, wildlife and culture.
From the moment EJ scribbled down her first story about Johnny Magory way back in 2004, she envisioned a TV animation series and making Johnny the Irish Dora the Explorer. In March 2021, Screen Ireland awarded the business development funding to begin making that dream a reality. EJ and the team are working with Elk Studios in Dundalk, Co. Louth on bringing Johnny Magory to TV screens across the globe.
Oscar Wilde once said “I am not young enough to know everything.” So collectively, in Johnny Magory Business, they think the team’s young enough to cover most of the bases!
The team work from the converted shipping container (complete with roof top terrace for the odd sunny day) in Ballynafagh, Co. Kildare.
Amanda Delaney – Administrator & Book-Keeper
Amanda’s favourite thing to do as a child was playing in the cornfields making houses.
Her favourite thing now with her own children is hiking and walks especially in Bray, Ticknock and Glendalough. They also love sea kayaking and surfing.
Amanda’s favourite wild animal is a deer.
Emma-Jane Leeson – CEO.
Emma-Jane’s favourite thing to do as a child was climb trees, pretend she was a ninja-warrior and “talk” to animals, especially her ponies, dogs and cats.
Her favourite things to do these days with her family is still climbing trees, walks outdoors in their wellies; and preparing and devouring tasty picnic feasts.
Emma-Jane’s favourite wild animal is a hare.
Melanie Cross – Social Media Executive.
Mel’s favourite thing to do as a child was to build tree houses with her big brother and play with her many cats.
Her favourite things to do these days is still playing with the cats, especially Boots, and long walks in nature.
Mel’s favourite wild animal is a fox.
Each story educates children on different areas of Irish heritage, wildlife and culture.
Johnny Magory in the Magical Wild was the first book published in the series about the little boy who’s a few years old; usually good but sometimes bold! This book was inspired by Ballynafagh Lake which is beside where EJ lives… Truth be told, she thinks she owns the lake and spends time there every day. EJ wanted to capture the day-to-day imagination a child has to use when they spend the day playing outside. Be it in their garden, park or local playground, she believes the games and stories a child invents are incredible and should be encouraged
Johnny Magory and the Game of Rounders followed next. Johnny Magory and his dog Ruairi sneak off to have a brilliant game of rounders with all his animal friends; when he’s supposed to helping his Mammy and Daddy foot the turf! This was inspired by the Bog of Allen where EJ spent a large portion of her youth around her Nanna’s house with her cousins. They would jump bog holes for the day then would all line up in their Nanna’s garden as she hosed the bog mould off them! GAA Rounders was another huge part of EJ’s childhood and she wanted to encourage children to play the game.
The third adventure is Johnny Magory and the Wild Water Race. Inspired by the Grand Canal in Ireland. Johnny’s little sister Lily-May is introduced in this book and see’s Johnny having a boat race with his animal friends. The grand canal played a big role in EJ’s childhood; she learned to swim in it!
Johnny Magory and the Forest Fleadh Cheoil is the fourth story in the series and is illustrated by EJ’s childhood hero, Don Conroy. The story was inspired by Donadea Forest in Ireland which is a large decidious, native forest. EJ wanted to capture and promote two important elements in this books; the Irish love of music and her own love of climbing trees!
Johnny Magory Joins the Irish Legends was written during the first lockdown of 2020. Emma-Jane virtually wrote the book with the help of her funniest, lifelong friend Sean Óg Moore from Prosperous, Co. Kildare. Sean was 11 at the time and having their weekly meeting kept them both motivated during a very uncertain time. The book is all about Ireland’s amazing legends and sees Johnny and the family heading off on a ‘staycation’ around Ireland to complete a mission: “To make sure Irish Legends have their stories heard”. Meet Fionn MacCumhaill, Queen Medh, Oisín and Niamh, Brian Boru and Finegas whilst visiting some of Ireland’s best known heritage sites.
Johnny Magory and the Farmyard Féasta was released in April 2021 although it was written many, many moons ago! EJ has always had a fascination with farming and wanted to write a story that captured bout the native Irish farm animal breeds and also traditional farming food and crops. The book features a nod to her beloved Ballynafagh, Co. Kildare featuring the famous church ruins in one of the spreads. It also features her own parents (Val and Angela) and her neighbour (Jim) in the illustrations as Granny and Grandad Magory thanks to Kim Shaw. It is the ultimate book for little farmers and those with dreams of growing into big ones!
Ode to a Tomboy was released in May 2021 to much acclaim seeing EJ on the couch with Tommy Bowe and Karen Koster on Virgin Media’s Ireland AM. It was her first non-Johnny Magory picture book to self-publish and a very personal one at that. EJ wrote the snappy rhyming book, with beautiful illustrations by Emma Healy, to empower your girls to be, do, have and pursue ANYTHING they want to. The follow-up ‘Boy’ will be released in 2022 with a powerful message for young boys.
Foul Faeries is the first chapter book for slightly older fans of Johnny Magory, the first not written in the iconic rhyming for which the brand has become known. During the making of the Forest Fleadh Cheoil, Don Conroy suggested to EJ that she should challenge her writing abilities and write for older children in chapter format. This story was completely fueled by inspiration and written in a single day. EJ thoroughly enjoyed letting her imagination run wild and not being confined to the format of suiting younger children. Illustrated by Sally-Ann Kelly, more chapter books will be released in 2022.
Johnny Magory Books are official partners to CMRF Crumlin with a percentage from the sale of every book going directly to the charity.
Emma-Jane is available for interactive workshops with children. These events involve reading the stories and encouraging children to engage with nature through various props and activities. Her writing workshops are also very popular with children and adults alike. In our new world, all of the workshops are now online.
Click here for more information on the virtual workshops.
Please email to arrange bespoke events.
Please get in touch if you have any recommendations on another adventure for Johnny based on your own experience.
Click here to find out more on the books.