The Dodo Made Me Do It!
22nd Aug 18

The Dodo Made Me Do It!

We asked author Jo Simmons to tell us about her latest book, The Dodo Made Me Do It (Bloomsbury), in which ten-year-old Danny makes an unexpected discovery during his boring summer holiday.

Danny really doesn't want to spend the whole of the summer holiday in the out-of-the-way Kinoussie in Scotland with his gran.

Nothing ever happens in Kinoussie, and the only people who live there are old, and weird - except for ten-year-old Susie, but she always has her head inside a book...

However, things look up when Danny sets off to reach a small island looking for treasure - but what he actually finds brings unexpected - and very funny! - problems.

We asked author JO SIMMONS to tell us about THE DODO MADE ME DO IT:

Q: Why did you decide to set The Dodo Made Me Do It in Scotland, and is Kinoussie based on somewhere real?

A: The beach and island in the story are totally based on a beautiful place we stayed at on the west coast of Scotland one summer. We were in a converted cart barn and you could walk through the woods down to the coast where there was a very private, lovely beach with a little island just offshore.

Unlike Danny's experience of Kinoussie, this holiday in Scotland was one of the best we ever had, so I have a very strong affection for the west coast of Scotland. Kinoussie itself is made up though.

Q: Your character, Danny, isn't really looking forward to spending his summer holiday in damp, out-of-the-way Kinoussie....What's the worst place you've had to spend a holiday?

A: As a child, probably at home! My mum used to run the village shop and so she worked all summer and my dad would be at work too. I remember being horrifically bored and spending a lot of time watching rubbish daytime TV with my brother, with the curtains drawn to keep the sun off the screen.

Q: Danny ends up finding (spoiler!) a dodo during his time in Kinoussie. What made you decide to make it a dodo?

A: I wrote this story originally as a serious, sad tale of a grieving child who discovers a dodo to fill the gap in his life after his dad dies unexpectedly.

In this reworked, funny version it had to be a dodo for that sense of wonder and magic, and the quest to teach him to fly was obviously a big challenge, as dodos are supposed to be flightless (and extinct!).

Q: Did you need to research dodos? In fact, how much do we actually know about dodos?

A: I did research them, and read lots of fantastic accounts of Dutch sailors finding them (and eating them - they don't taste good apparently!) in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

I learned that they're related to pigeons, and about what they ate and how they looked, from the colour of their feathers to their size and weight.

There are preserved dodo skeletons and those contemporary accounts to fill us in on what they looked like and how they behaved.

Q: How did the relationship between the (grumpy and demanding) dodo and Danny develop?

A: Danny had to learn that he couldn't just treat this wild animal as a cute pet who was at his bidding, and who would instantly turn his holiday into a cool adventure.

He then had to learn that the dodo was homesick and needed help, and once he did, they were on the same page. Before that, his failure to understand the dodo leads to lots of funny incidents.

Q: If you could meet an extinct creature, what would you want it to be? Would you be any better looking after it than Danny was with the dodo?

A: I'd love to see dinosaurs - but maybe not look after them. Pet T-Rex? No thanks!

Q: Kinoussie is full of wonderfully eccentric characters - which of these did you enjoy writing the most?

A: I love Moira Storm with her doomy predictions of bad weather.

Q: The book is also very funny with Danny facing some unexpected problems and awkward situations. How hard is it to write funny books?

A: I've always set out to write funny books. (You'll have to ask my readers how funny the actually are!) I really think children love and respond to funny fiction.

In the book, I like the final scenes, when the dodo is about to launch himself off the lighthouse, and everyone is weeping and in bits down below, because Roddy Aye's singing is so beautiful.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write and what are you writing now?

A: I like to write in my little study at home, and then maybe reread what I've written in a cafe - for a change of scene.

I'm currently working on a new title for Bloomsbury that will come out next July - again, domestic comedy, with some daft, unlikely twists in it.

My husband Steve is a good critic. He reads all my manuscripts before I send them off to my editor Zoe, who is my absolute best critic.

Q: What's your favourite escape from writing?

A: Running, working at my allotment, walking my dog, seeing my friends, watching rubbish telly with my kids and scoffing ice cream at the same time.

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