I always wanted a goat. As a child growing up in Africa, I would stare out of the window on long car journeys and see small totos with their little herds, by the roadside. That’s what I wanted to be doing, not going to school. I begged and begged, but Mum was adamant. No way was I going to be a goat girl. In the intervening years I have moved continents. I have acquired dogs, cats, children and a husband, not necessarily in that order. I have been a town planner, a conservation officer, a school dinner lady, and latterly a bookshop worker. Still no goat though.
The Mumsnet/Walker Books competition was a light bulb moment for me. I love stories, I love writing them and I love telling them, particularly to children. There is something magical about holding the attention of a class of wriggling five years olds for a few moments. Here was an opportunity to bring my goat to life.
Serai, the goat, is the one I wanted as a child. Atuki, the girl, is who I wanted to be. Together they have adventures and face danger, and learn together. Important things, like bravery and courage and kindness. All children aspire to these virtues, and if a story can help them overcome their own fears and worries then all the better.
So I wrote a story and sent if off.
When I heard I had been shortlisted I was ecstatic, more so when I heard I’d made the final ten. Much squeaking ensued. Daisy, my editor, was most helpful, suggesting places where the story could be tightened up, explaining how to strengthen the theme and refrain. Martha Anne, the illustrator, has done a fantastic job of interpreting Atuki and Serai. It’s as if she’s been delving into my childhood memories, seeing the pictures that I wrote on the page, picking up the bright fabric and patterns that I recall of African life and translating them perfectly. Her pictures tell the story itself.
Thanks to Mumsnet and Walker Books I now have my very own goat, and I am so thrilled.