THE DODO WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY: An interview with Catherine Emmett

THE DODO WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY: An interview with Catherine Emmett

The Dodo Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a delightfully positive book, beautifully illustrated by Claire Powell. Dreamy artwork, a hopeful message about being yourself and working hard for your dreams, all wrapped up in a bouncy, lively rhyme! Today we talk to the book’s author, Catherine Emmett about dodos and writing in rhyme!

Without giving too much away can you tell us about your new book The Dodo Who Dreamed She Could Fly?  

‘The Dodo Who Dreamed She Could Fly’ is about a little dodo called Delilah who has always been told –  as we all have – that dodos can’t fly.  All the other dodos think it is pointless to even try.  But Delilah is different, she reads lots of books about aerodynamics and is determined to give it a go.  Sadly, when she does, her dreams all come crashing down around her – to hoots of laugher from Desmond and the other bigger dodos.   

As Delilah thinks perhaps it’s time to give up on her dream, her dad tells her that ‘….You mustn’t go measuring YOU, by what OTHERS think and by what OTHERS do’.  That’s the message that I really wanted to have in this book – to give little ones the self-belief to follow their dreams. 

Why did you choose a dodo to be the main character in your book? Why not an elephant or a dog?!  

Sometimes I know exactly where I had got the idea for a book from, but this one seemed to already be fully formed in my mind somehow.  I’ve always loved dodos and one of the first poems I memorised as a kid was about a dodo, so I think perhaps little Delilah has always been hidden somewhere in my heart. The history of the dodo is so sad that I wanted to write a happier dodo story – maybe they didn’t all go extinct – maybe they all flew away somewhere safe from humans instead!? 

Can you share with us your favourite illustration from the book and tell us why it’s your favourite?  

The first spread is my favourite, which is unusual, as often it’s the big money spreads at the end of a book, where the twists come in, that get the attention.  But for me that first spread just perfectly encapsulates the wistful longing of Delilah and power that our dreams can have on us.  Claire Powell has created the most delightful character in Delilah and the most beautiful world for her to live in. 

The book bounces along in a highly readable, lively rhyme! What top tips can you give to other writers who are trying to write a rhyming picture book?

I always loved writing in rhyme, but when I started, I had no metre at all – as I was somewhat devasted to be told by a metre expert that I consulted!  I had spent ages looking at it, but when that lady explained it to me it finally clicked – she genuinely changed my writing life forever.  I think because it took me time to really understand metre and get to grips with it, I can now very easily spot when metre isn’t working and more importantly WHY it isn’t working.  You need to really understand it at a syllable by syllable level and understand exactly where your stresses are and why you choose to put them there.  It all sounds very technical and dull, but my best advice is to invest time to understand metre.  It is a game changer and once you’ve got it, you’ll be able to write in perfect metre and barely even think about it.   That’s why I started running #WriteRhyme, the rhyming picture book course with WriteMentor, as I wanted to help other people find the technical information that I really struggled to dig out.  

Finally what do you hope young readers will take from the book and can you describe the book in three words?  

This book has been a bit of a heart-breaker for me. My Mam has always been a huge inspiration to me and always instilled a really positive attitude and outlook to life in me.  This was the first book that I dedicated to her as I felt like it really encapsulated everything that she taught me.  Very sadly she passed away unexpectedly in May, just a couple of months before this made it out into the world.   

My Mam really made me believe in myself and I know that not everyone is that lucky, so I wanted to write this book to tell all the little people out there to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.  

In three words I would summarise it as: Ignore the doubters!

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