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Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Interview With A Huddle Of Hippos Author, Julia Richman

huddle-of-hippos-cover          Julia Richman

Julia Richman talks to us about the ups and downs of writing the educational children’s book, A Huddle of Hippos, and her plans for future adventures.

Tell us briefly about your book. 

A Huddle of Hippos is a picture book about a young boy named Sam who goes on an African safari with his parents. I’ve used rhyming text to introduce a variety of cool collective nouns for animals in the bush. Geared for children aged 4 to 8 years, it includes beautiful, colour illustrations by Celeste Beckerling.


Why did you want to write this book? 

I wanted to write a lively story for children using rhythm and rhyme that could also teach them something fun and different. I love collective nouns! I remember them being one of the best things I learnt at school – I love how creative and clever they are. I have a whole compendium of wonderful collective nouns that has become one of my favourite reads.


Describe your creative writing process

When I come up with an idea I spend a long time planning. You have to ask yourself, how am I going to best entice the audience that I’m targeting, and how can I set my book apart from the tens of thousands of books already out there? I think about all the essential creative writing tools, like plot, characterization and writing style, so that I have a very good idea of what my story is about. And then I write it all down, and it looks like an absolute mess, so I edit till I’m blue in the face. Cut, cut, cut, till it’s pencil sharp. The rhyming adds another whole dimension and it’s not as easy as it may seem. It’s important to get the rhythm right.


What was your most challenging hurdle in publishing this book? 

I always wanted to have a book published through my husband’s publishing company, Burnet Media, and it was actually just such a rewarding experience, from start to finish, working with him, the publisher, plus illustrator and art director, all in an interactive, fun and hands-on way. I loved the process. Perhaps the challenging bit is that once you’ve finished your book, you realise that there is a lot more to do! It’s not just getting your book into bookstores and sitting back. It’s about finding your audience and doing events, storytimes, markets, school visits…


Who is your author hero? 

When it comes to children’s books specifically, Roald Dahl for his genius wit. I especially love Fantastic Mr Fox. And A.A. Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh) for the beautifully sensitive nature of his stories and the invaluable life lessons that shine through on every page. More recently, Julia Donaldson, for her brilliant imagination and storytelling ability.


What are you currently reading?

Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things and What’s Your Moonshot by John Sanei.


Who inspires you?

My husband, Tim, and my son, Nicholas. And kind, creative souls.


What’s your next book? 

A Huddle of Hippos is the first of The Sam Series, and I’m aiming to put out at least one of those books a year, teaching other fun figures of speech, such as similes, metaphors and onomatopoeia. I’m also researching for a story that can help children develop self-confidence.


What drew you to write children’s books? 

I wrote articles for magazines for years, and then began feeling like I wanted to be more expressive with my words and play around more. I completed the Get Smarter creative writing course through UCT and Penguin Random House in 2014 and really loved it. I used everything I learnt from that to put together my first book, an Early Reader for 7- to 10-year-olds called Katya’s Hairy-Tales: The Bacon Chase, which was published by Penguin Random House in November 2015.

Wanting to start a family also definitely played a role.

What was your favourite childhood book?

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

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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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