The Inspiration Behind DEREK THE FLYING DODO by Vanee Apoolingum

Please welcome author Vanee Apoolingum to Frog on a Blog. Vanee stopped by to share a little about the inspiration behind her new book DEREK THE FLYING DODO.

DEREK THE FLYING DODO is my first children’s book that has just been published! It is an exciting adventure story for 5-7 year olds about friendship, having the courage to be different, and never giving up on your dreams. Since my book has been published, two questions that I have been asked regularly is why did I do it, and what was my inspiration?

Derek cover

So why did I decide to publish a book? Well, since having my two sons, bedtime reading has always been a precious moment in our day. We all get to wind down and lose ourselves in wonderful and magical children’s books and stories we make up together.

Picture books such as Spinderella, Hello Mr Dodo!, Little Dinosaur’s Big Adventure, and Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon have all got important messages about friendship and having the courage to be different. All the illustrations in these picture books are vibrant and colourful and are great at drawing in young readers! In addition, the adventures that the characters share in those books are truly magical. Just over a year ago my boys said I should write one of our stories down, so I decided, why not.

Inspiration has come from past and present experiences, which have shaped my story one way or another. Whilst I have been living in London for over 17 years, I was born and brought up on the paradise island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The Dodo was native to this island and famous for its inability to fly (as well as being extinct!). It has always fascinated me, but growing up, there were hardly any children’s books about this bird. So naturally, when I first decided to write a book, I wanted to base my main character on the Dodo. Even though there are now some picture books on the dodo, the theme has generally been around extinction of the bird or the fact that it can’t fly.

However, I wanted to bring a little bit of magic and fantasy to my readers – hence making Derek the Dodo fly!

flying dodo

The locations in my book were also heavily influenced by my upbringing in Mauritius. Growing up, I was incredibly lucky to be surrounded by Mauritius’ natural beauty. The luscious white sandy beaches, crystal blue water, dense rainforest, and some of the most beautiful botanical gardens gave me the perfect inspiration when writing my book. I was immediately drawn to my childhood memories, all the places I spent so much time in and where some of my best memories still are. Mark Twain very rightfully summed it up when he said “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius”!

Mauritius illo

The themes of friendship, having the courage to be different, and dreaming the impossible were influenced by my 6 year old who was assessed as Gifted a few years ago. When he first started school, he was very different to his peers and struggled to connect to other children. However, he always knew he was different and very readily and strongly embraced that.

So there you have it, why I wrote my book and what my inspiration was. My hope now is that children reading my book will be transported into this magical story and share the thrilling ride with this wonderfully unique Dodo, and, just for a little bit, dream that the impossible can happen!

Vanee A photo

Vanee Apoolingum was born and raised on the paradise island of Mauritius. Growing up in exotic surroundings plus childhood stories about the flightless dodo provided her with the inspiration for Derek the Flying Dodo.

For the past 17 years she has swapped warmer climates for the milder (and wetter) weather of London. In her very limited spare time, thanks to her two young boys, she enjoys reading, writing and baking with her children.