THE GOLDEN HARE: An interview with Paddy Donnelly

THE GOLDEN HARE: An interview with Paddy Donnelly

It’s no secret that that I’m a HUGE fan of Paddy Donnelly, so I’m thrilled to welcome him into The Reading Realm today to talk to me about his brand new picture book The Golden Hare!

Before we sit down in The Reading Realm and start chatting about your book, what’s your drink and snack of choice?

A strong coffee and a Curly Wurly please!  

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about your new picture book The Golden Hare?

This is the sequel to my other picture book, The Vanishing Lake. Meara wants to see dinosaurs, sharks and other incredible creatures, however she’s disappointed as all the ‘thrilling’ animals are out of reach for her. Grandad tells her of the mythical, shape-shifting, golden hare who can jump to the moon in two and a half leaps. With Grandad’s nature journal in hand, they go in search of the legendary hare, and discover the magic of the natural world along the way. But will they ever find the golden hare?

How is The Golden Hare similar to The Vanishing Lake? How is it different?

Like the first story, this one is also inspired by something real, and quite unbelievable from back home. It’s based on the golden hares of Rathlin Island. These striking and almost mythical creatures were the catalyst to take my characters off on another adventure. This one is more focused on the magic of nature, but in a similar way to the first story it blends the mythical and real world together, so you’re not really sure what’s real and what’s not by the end of it. It’s up to the reader to decide for themselves! In this one there are also hidden hares to be found along the way in the illustrations. There were a few hidden things in the illustrations in the first book, but this one takes it to the next level!

I was surprised to discover that the Golden Hare is a real animal! What can you tell us about it?

Yes indeed! I included a facts page at the back of the book (as I did for The Vanishing Lake too) which gives some information about the real, amazing creature! On Rathlin Island, which is close to where I grew up, there are Irish hares, but due to a mutated gene, occasionally a hare will be born with golden fur and blue eyes! It’s the only place in the world for this special type of mutation. They are very rare and hard to spot, but I’ve heard from locals that there are two on the island at the moment!

The book is full of beautiful facts – a real celebration of nature! What research did you have to carry out? What was the most interesting thing you learned?

This was a lot of fun! I was (and still am) obsessed with the natural world, and animal facts, so it was tough to choose which things would make it into the story. I look into a lot of nature books, and online research. The immortal jellyfish is maybe the most fascinating. The Turritopsis dohrnii, if injured, can revert back to an earlier stage in its life cycle, heal itself and then grow up into a fully grown jellyfish again! And jellyfish have been around for 500 million years…so potentially there could be a 500 million year old jellyfish out there somewhere!

The illustrations, as always, are stunning and cinematic. I’m sure it will be hard to choose, but do you have a favourite illustration in the book?

Hmm, that is a tough one. I think either the night-time spread, or the jellyfish one might be my favourite! Can you spot the hare…?

Now, as you know, my three-year-old son LOVES another story of yours called Dodos Are Not Extinct, which is full of lots of hidden dinosaurs and extinct animals. It’s a real joy to see in The Golden Hare lots of other hidden images and clues to find! Would you say hiding things in picture books is a bit of a habit of yours? If so, why?  

It seems to be! I loved working on Here Be Dragons and Here Be Giants with Susannah Lloyd, which really employed this type of storytelling. I love to add another layer to my illustrations, and certainly I’m always thinking about re-readability (especially for parents such as yourself who have to read Dodos for months. Sorry!) and having hidden things in the illustrations helps with this. It really worked in this story as the hare represents the magic of nature, which was always with them throughout the story. They just needed to look closely at what was all around them!

I wondered if Meara and Grandad might return for another story? Do you have any thoughts or ideas about what they might get up to next?

Ooh, maybe they will! I have some ideas, so watch this space.

Finally, can you describe The Golden Hare in three words?

Hidden, Nature, Magic.

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