Canadian Academy Award nominee Terri Tatchell has released her first book, Aye-Aye Gets Lucky, in a series of stories aimed at bringing attention to lesser-known endangered animals. The book is the first instalment of a three-part series that is designed to raise awareness about the importance of protecting these species and to encourage young readers to not judge or fear others based on appearances or reputation.
Tatchell is best known for her screenplay work on the Oscar and BAFTA-nominated sci-fi thriller ‘District 9’ for which she received the Bradbury Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2009. She has continued her success in the screenwriting and film world with other notable projects including the 2015 movie ‘Chappie’.
We recently had a chance to check in with Tatchell about the debut of her first children’s book.
How did you decide you wanted to write a series of children’s books about lesser-known endangered animals?
TT: Animals and children’s books have always been at the top of my passion list and when I realized there were endangered animals I’d never even heard of it was time to get writing! They deserved to be known, loved and rooted for and the best place to start is with kids.
Tell us about Aye-Aye?
TT: Aye-Aye is an incredibly unique nocturnal lemur who has a bad reputation in Madagascar. Legend has it, the mere sighting of an Aye-Aye is a death omen. The only way to break the curse is to kill the Aye-Aye. This isn’t doing a whole lot for helping with conservation. He really needs help turning his luck and reputation around.
What surprised you when you were researching this animal?
TT: Aside from the ghastly legend, what surprised me most about the Aye-Aye is that he uses echolocation to find his food. That and the fact that he is the largest nocturnal primate.
There are two other books to come in this series. What will they be about?
TT: The second book in the series “Pangolin & Dik Dik” is about a little Pangolin, oblivious to the fact that he is the most trafficked mammal in the world. He is convinced he is old enough to leave his burrow and see the world. When his mother disagrees, the naughty pup waits for her to fall asleep and sneaks away. Outside, he meets a mischievous Dik Dik who is eager to show him some fun. However, DIK DIK’s idea of fun isn’t necessarily Pangolin proof and Pangopup finds himself in more and more danger as their explorations of the African landscape take them further from his burrow.
The third book “Okapi Loves His Zebra Pants” is about the reclusive Okapi who meets a chimpanzee who laughs at his striped legs and calls them zebra pants. Okapi fights humour with humour and pretends he doesn’t care, but the seed is planted, and he soon finds himself questioning the very stripes he used to love. What choice does he have but to set out in search of this zebra animal and see for himself if he has in fact accidentally taken its pants.
Writing books for children is not necessarily as easy as it sounds, what can you tell us?
TT: Having written R-rated science fiction films (District 9 and Chappie), taking the leap to children did feel a bit intimidating. I wrote the first draft to entertain myself and then went back and edited it with children in mind. Specifically, the death omen had to go! I really wanted its themes to translate to the playground but what really amused me was I didn’t actually have to change anything there. Adults aren’t really that different. We still need to learn about kindness, empathy, second chances and believing in ourselves.
Part of the proceeds from the sales goes to charity. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
TT: Actually, all of the proceeds go to charity. Every penny earned from “Aye-Aye Gets Lucky” will go towards a charity working to save the Aye-Aye.
Also accompanying the book are tips for educators and parents on the website, can you tell us more about that?
TT: The website is a huge part of the Endangered and Misunderstood series. We have teacher’s guides, activity sheets, fun facts for kids and hard facts for parents. I have an amazing team working with me and had the luxury of input from an elementary school teacher on the curriculum side and on the social emotional learning side, I had an elementary school counsellor (my mom) help out!
Link here: www.endangeredandmisunderstood.com.