A big hello and welcome to author and illustrator Paddy Donnelly, who joins us in #TheRealm today to talk about his funny, fabulous new book DODOS ARE NOT EXTINCT!
Welcome Paddy! Can you tell us about your new book Dodos Are Not Extinct and what inspired it?
Thank you for having me on The Reading Realm! Delighted to be here to share my latest author illustrated picture book with you. It’s called Dodos Are Not Extinct and follows a band of supposedly ‘extinct’ animals, who have actually not died out at all, but are just in disguise. It’s got sabre-toothed tigers, dinosaurs, mammoths, dodos and a bunch of other extinct animals, all hiding out in various silly ways. We have dodos in tuxedos to blend seamlessly in with penguins. Sabre-toothed tigers growing moustaches to hide their massive teeth. And mammoths just shaving off all their hair to hang out with regular elephants. As a kid I was fascinated by extinct animals, and I still am! I love dinosaurs, so I tried to come up with a silly story that would allow me to illustrate a bunch of things I love to draw.
How would you say it’s different to your other book The Vanishing Lake? How is it similar?
It’s quite different. It’s a very silly tale with animals in various disguises, whereas The Vanishing Lake follows the relationship between a little girl and her grandad and their imaginations. The illustration style is a little different too, as I used bold colours and plainer backgrounds for Dodos Are Not Extinct, so as to highlight the characters. Whereas the textured landscape in The Vanishing Lake was a big part of the overall look and feel. However, it does share a few things with The Vanishing Lake as both stories involve blurring those lines between reality and imagination. Oh, and there might just be a particularly hairy extinct species of animal in both books…
Was it difficult to balance the blend of humour with the non-fiction aspect of the book?
I did toy with the idea of having this book having a more serious side – talking about endangered animals and how humans are causing the climate crisis and extinction of so many animals. However I decided to fully lean into the fun, silly side in the end. I think this book can be a fun introduction to the whole idea of extinct animals and the wonder of the natural world. And then hopefully kids will become interested in finding out more about the wide variety of amazing animals we have on the planet and what we can do to protect them. Once I decided this book was going to be full-on silly, it opened me up to the visuals of quaggas pulling on stripey trousers and pterodactyls using watermelons to pretend to be pelicans. However, on the back pages I’ve included a few real animal facts on the different species of animal featured in the book, and a little advice on how we can help endangered animals. So it does bring kids back to the real world a little in the end.
Do you have a favourite spread in the book?
Ooh, that’s always tough to choose. I think this one with the mammoths shaving off their hair and hanging out with the regular elephants is pretty fun. I loved slipping in details like one of them putting on suncream, and the various hairstyles. As you can see my sketches are pretty rough, however the layout didn’t change much from rough to final art.
What do you hope young readers will take away from your book?
I hope they will first of all have a few laughs at this one, but more importantly I’d love for it to open up kids’ minds to the whole world of extinct animals. There are just an endless number of interesting extinct species to discover once you start looking. Even just take one species like the elephant and go look at how many amazing different types that used to walk around on the earth, with amazing tusks and trunks. So, I’d love for it to kickstart some kids into checking out a few books on dinosaurs from the library. And in the long run hopefully they would take a real interest in discovering the wonder of the natural world and caring for it.
Can you tell us about one children’s book you’ve read recently which you’d recommend?
I recently read another Dodo themed book called ‘The Dodos Did It!’ by Alice McKinley. It’s brilliant! Alice clearly has the same love for these amazing birds that I do. There is a lot of mischief in this one, and tons of hidden details to spot in the illustrations on the second, third and tenth reading!
Finally can you describe Dodos Are Not Extinct in three words?
Silly animal mischief!