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Two Dogs / Mercury

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Interview with A Little Horse Called Pancakes author, Candice Noakes-Dobson

Pancakes cover           Candice 2017


Candice Noakes-Dobson, author of the heartwarming children’s book, A Little Horse Called Pancakes, talks to us about the inspiration for her journey with Pancakes and what she plans to do next.


Tell us briefly about your book. 

The first book in the series, A Little horse called Pancakes, introduces us to this little miniature horse who nobody valued as he was too short and too fat. This is until he strikes up a friendship with a little girl called Anna B. The two of them, with the help of all the animals on the farm, work hard towards a performance at a vaulting show and earn the respect of those who once were very mean.

The second tale, A little Horse called Pancakes and the Big Mountain Fire, is based on real events that took place during the devastating wildfires in Cape Town in 2015.


Why did you want to write this book?

The first book was to have a little memoir of what happens at the farm and to raise funds for South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA). I had no idea that it would have such a strong following.

The second book was strongly driven by the passing of my friend’s husband, Darrell Rea, an extraordinary helicopter pilot and firefighter. He was involved in fighting the fires of 2015 and was a wealth of information during this very traumatic time. He would fly over the farm and give us updates on whether we needed to evacuate, wind conditions and the spreading of the fire. A month after the fire Darrell passed away in a helicopter crash, fighting a fire in Bainskloof. He had a 7 month old son. Part of the reason for sharing this story was for his son, so that he could see what an absolute hero his father is.


Describe your creative writing process?

I am completely technically challenged! Thus, I carry a notebook around with me. I continuously jot down conversations, thoughts, occurrences and observations daily, and then the story unfolds.

Don’t laugh, I then type it on my phone, and email it to Catriona Ross who is an extremely efficient editor. As our daughters go to the same school, the next day we usually stand in the parking lot discussing changes. I then go home make the changes and then repeat for a few days.

After that I send the story to Wendy. She then sketches it out and we meet weekly to go over the illustrations. She is so in tune with the story we never really have any corrections or redraws.


What was your most challenging hurdle in publishing this book?

Is it obnoxious to say nothing? Wendy Patterson, the very talented illustrator for the Pancakes series is very experienced in the business. She guided me through the process and then hooking up with Burnet Media has been a dream.


Who is your author hero?

Firstly my dad, Professor Tim Noakes. From the day I was born I don’t think I have ever not seen him reading or writing, not that I can pretend to understand all the scientific content of his work. He just continues to produce outstanding work year after year. He has written me such beautiful letters over the years that I will forever treasure.

Being a drama teacher, I also have a fascination with Tennessee Williams, Athol Fugard, Bernard Shaw, Anton Chekhov, Sam Shepard and most definitely Shakespeare.

Not to forget a fellow graduate from UCT, Nadia Davids, who has a gift with imagery and words.


What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Alan Root’s Ivory, Apes & Peacocks. Lined up after that is Maggie Smith, and a biography by Michael Covenly. And Annabel’s bedtime reading presently is Valegro, Champion Horse by Carl Hester.


Who inspires you?

My husband, John Dobson, who is a wonderful father, talented coach and fantastic sounding board as well as author.

My parents. My mother is a guiding light and my father is the kindest most generous person, dedicating his life to the quest for the health of the human race.

My 5 year old daughter, Annabel, who lives life in curiosity and wonder. Her love for nature, the outdoors, her animals and epic adventures in the forest.


What’s your next book?

I am currently finishing writing the third installment of the A Little Horse Called Pancakes series. We ended the last book with the devastation and heroism that a wildfire caused. This time Pancakes and Anna B will have an adventure that includes the miraculous regeneration of nature, a brief look at natural horsemanship, and the meeting of a very talented little horse rider called Ella, which leads to an aquatic adventure.


What drew you to write children’s books?

Pancakes the miniature pony, who is the hero of the books, actually exists and lives with us on Sweet Valley farm as well as all the characters in the book. Pancakes is such a personality. When Annabel came along and this deep love for Pancakes developed, these little tales came about. It was a way of capturing and freezing the experiences on the farm.

I also wanted to do a project that could do good. My grandmother, aunt and I have all been involved at SARDA. It is an organization that transforms the lives of the children who ride these special ponies as well as the volunteers who so generously give of their time. When you see a child confined to a wheelchair on top of a powerful pony, they are free. They are like any able-bodied person and they can be tall and move freely. The confidence, smiles and the actual benefit of being on top of a pony as it moves is real poetry in motion. Small miracles happen daily at SARDA. There is a magic that occurs between these children and ponies.

A huge credit must go to Wendy Patterson as it is her illustrations and professionalism that made these books come alive. Without her guidance these stories would be locked in my head.

Also Catriona Ross an incredible author who so kindly guides and edits alongside me.


What was your favourite childhood book?

 Nungu and the Hippopotamus by Babette Cole. My godfather sent it to me as a gift when I was a child and I still use it as a teaching aid today. A very clever story of a hippopotamus who swallows all the water from the villages dam and how a young boy, Nungu, goes in search of this huge hippopotamus and how he manages to get the water back. The illustrations are so detailed and humorous.




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