Flight of Fantasy

dappled annie and the tigrish coverKia ora! On the cover of my book Dappled Annie and the Tigrish you can see the tigrish flying. You can’t? Are  you sure? Check out the word ‘Tigrish’ …. anything there?

Ah yes, the tiger stripes (they’re lovely to stroke too when you hold the cover), and what’s that slipstream effect  on the page, wooshing silkenly past the ‘grish’ of ‘tigrish’, in front of Annie and into the hedge? That, my friends,  is the tigrish.

There are illustrations inside the book, too – by illustrator Annie Hayward – but nowhere do you see the lovely  tigrish. Not even a peek. Okay, maybe a feather. You see Annie  Hayward and Gecko Press and myself decided  we’d prefer to leave the reader to imagine the magical, glowing  tigrish all for themselves.

When I started writing Dappled Annie, I knew I wanted to have a large magical creature in it. Why? Because I  love characters like the Luck Dragon in Neverending Story and Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  And because my daughter, Issy, loved the dragon in Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider, and because I know so    many young readers like my niece Libby and goddaughter Daisy who love love love stories with animals in  them, and even better if the animals are kind, magical creatures  that befriend the main character who might be  called  Issy or Libby or Daisy or Annie …  all well and good, but there don’t seem to be enough of such stories.

So somehow, as happens when you write, the tigrish appeared in my story. I can’t even remember how I came by the name. I guess he brought it with him. I didn’t intend for him to fly, but when I was talking to Annie Hayward about him (we talked a lot as I wrote the book), she said, ‘Of course he flies.’

Annie’s like that, she lives in the world of the imagination, and flying, magical creatures are as real to her as her pet dog, Ruby. In fact, I started writing Dappled Annie because I saw a painting Annie did of some magical hedges, and then it seemed absolutely right to call the main character Annie.

So should the tigrish fly? I didn’t even have to think about it. Of course the tigrish flew! And what fun it was to write. Not only do people love big, kind, magical creatures in stories, they also love when anything and anybody flies! Think of characters like Peter Pan and Mary Poppins … and on to the Luck Dragon and beyond.

I had to think hard about how the tigrish would fly – would he have wings all the time or just when he flew? how would he take off from the ground with them? how would the children hang on? what would they feel up there? what would they see? This is the fun of being an author, answering questions that only your imagination can answer.

I am going to invite a bunch of children at Wellington’s Capital E to give it a go over the holidays with me. I’m running a writing class on October 9 called Flight of Fantasy where 8-10 year olds will work with me to invent their own flying creature and write a story around it. I am very very excited about this. Read about it here. 

Meanwhile, here’s a taste of the tigrish taking off for the first time, with Annie (9) and her brother Robbie (4) on his back. They’re scared because they don’t know what’s happening. The tigrish has run through Annie’s garden and is leaping over the fence into the field beyond  … and beyond that are the Giant Woods …

Landing on the other side of the fence, there was no heaviness or jolting—the tigrish just seemed to glide into the grass, and the grass let him in.

Annie leaned over to see, and when she did, she tipped slightly and her hands slipped, and Robbie gripped, and she had to sit up quickly to keep balance. She held more tightly to the fur. That’s funny, she thought, is it softer? It was thicker around the shoulders, anyway, but now it was as if her hands were sinking into a feather quilt. She stared at the golden back with the slashes of black across it like black crayon, and the way the fur fell away in long sweeps, flaring out on either side of the powerful shoulders like…she cried out. Wings! The tigrish had wings!

The great creature tensed its muscles and released them, and two enormous dappled wings—muscle by muscle, feather by feather—unfolded. Then the tigrish leapt forward—no, lifted off into the afternoon.

“Fly-ing!” yelled Robbie. He sounded excited now.

Annie shut her eyes. She could feel the air rushing past and around her like the windy days when she walked the hills with her dad. And she could feel the muscles of the tigrish tense and release each time the wings lifted and fell. Such a strong wide back.

Flying! Was there anything else like it? Slowly, she opened each eye.

 
%d bloggers like this: