Thursday, 09 May 2019 An interview with Just Like You author Sarah J. Dodd

Blog | Children's Books

Sarah J. Dodd is a writer, mum and ex-teacher with a creative mind that has produced the hugely popular Legs and The Lion Picture Bible. In Just Like You she follows the story of a young meerkat, Miki, as he tries to make friends with his new neighbour - Raffa the giraffe.

Just Like You is all about getting to know new friends, overcoming differences and learning to celebrate each other's unique quirks.

Here Sarah J. Dodd talks about how the book came about and describes some of the perks of being a writer. She also introduces us to Raffa herself!

What inspired you to write Just Like You?

While I was writing Legs, I grew very fond of Miki the meerkat – he’s cute but also curious and a bit naughty. So I wanted to write another story for him. I thought about all the issues that young children face in real life, and decided that making friends is one of the most important. I tried to imagine the most unlikely friend I could for Miki, and came up with Raffa! She was very excited to be in this blog, as you can see...

What do you hope children will enjoy and learn while reading Just Like You?

I hope it will help them to realise that it doesn’t matter if someone looks different, sounds different, eats different foods or lives in a different way than you. Usually there’s a lot more that is the same about two people than is different, and you can be friends with anyone. I have good friends from different cultures and it’s really interesting to find out about them and see life from a different viewpoint.

You’ve worked with the wonderful illustrator Giusi Capizzi before in your book, Legs, did you enjoy working with Giusi again on Just Like You?

Oh, yes - she has captured Miki perfectly because he’s not just a fluffy little bundle of sweetness. You can see his thoughts and feelings in the way she draws him. In Legs there were lots of other animals featured, and children love matching the legs with the faces – that wouldn’t be possible without such wonderful illustrations. In Just Like You, my favourite picture is where Miki is sitting on Raffa’s head looking out at the lights of the city at night. It’s exactly as I pictured it in my mind.

What does your writing space look like?

It’s mainly my dining room table, which also happens to be where my family eats and my children do their homework! So when they get home from school, it has to be cleared. I’m surrounded by the usual clutter of a busy home, but I have a lovely big window to stare out of when I’m thinking. Sometimes I go to a local library to write because there are no distractions there… except thousands of lovely books!

Quite a lot of a writer’s time is taken up with thinking up the stories before any words are written down. I find that walking is a great way to create ideas and work through them – and many of my best ideas come during long bubbly baths or pushing small children on swings. With Just Like You, I wrote the first part of the story quite quickly but I couldn’t figure out how to finish it. Then one night I was lying in bed when it suddenly came to me. I didn’t want to disturb anyone by switching the light on, so I went to the bathroom and scribbled down the ending of the story by torchlight at 1am!

What are the best bits about being a writer?

Too many to count! I love it when a story idea comes along and gives me a fizzy feeling in my stomach – that’s when I know it’s a good one. Sometimes, when I’m writing a longer book and I get stuck, it can be very frustrating, but somehow the answers always pop up at some point, as though my mind has been working on the problem even when I’m not aware of it. It’s like magic really, and those are probably my favourite moments.

Another great moment is when I first see the illustrations to go with a new picture book. Up until that point the pictures have only been in my head, so it’s thrilling to see them for real.

I also love going out and meeting children on school visits. There’s nothing like a bit of meerkat madness and a few games and songs to put a smile on everyone’s face!

What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?

When I write, I’m imagining a parent and child sitting down and reading the book together. So one of the most rewarding things is to read reviews or blog posts where a parent writes that one of my books is their child’s favourite and they read it every morning. That’s what it’s all about, really – bringing something of joy or comfort to a child.

Writing The Lion Picture Bible was also rewarding because sitting down to read the Bible can be quite daunting for a lot of people. It’s a privilege to be able to give readers, young and old, the chance to experience some of God’s stories for themselves.

Just Like You is sure to be a fun and encouraging read for children navigating one of the most challenging and exciting parts of life: making new friends! You can pick up your copy here, and learn more about Sarah J. Dodd here.