This week the unicorn is excited to welcome another animal muse to this blog. She might not have a glittery horn, but she does have four legs and a curly tail... and she belongs to the talented Miriam Halahmy, both poet and author, here to talk to you about her new book HIDDEN
Over to you, Miriam...
As soon as I started writing for children, I started putting dogs into the story. It was a chance to revisit an important part of my childhood. I grew up with dogs and I have not been able to keep pets in adult life. But I still have a strong affinity with dogs and cannot pass one without having a conversation and a pat.
My mother trained as a nurse in the Navy in WW2. Our dogs always came from rescue centres and she would nurse them back to full health. All the kids in the street would bring birds with broken wings and sick pets to my mum because they knew she had a magic way with animals.
My favourite dog was our blue roan cocker spaniel, Trudy. She was so ill when Mum rescued her, she had to be fed on raw egg and milk. But gradually she regained full health. Blue roans are so called because the mixture of black and white on their fur blends together to give a beautiful blue sheen. Trudy was a full pedigree so Mum had her Kennel Club registered and her pedigree name was Deborah Blue Angel. (Muse: That sounds almost like a unicorn’s name!)
When I started to write for children I found that spaniels were automatically finding their way into the story. In my first children’s book, "Peppermint Ward", a story of children with cancer, ten year old Sam has a golden haired spaniel called Mumbles.
Therefore in my first teenage novel, "Hidden" (Meadowside 2011), I decided that Trudy would have a starring part.
The main character in "Hidden" is Alix, a fourteen year old girl who lives down the bottom of Hayling Island, opposite the Isle of Wight. She is training for a local Marathon, so she and Trudy go running on the beach most days.
Alix’s home life is going through a dip and she feels that Trudy is the only person who really understands her:
Trudy looks up at me with her gorgeous spaniel eyes, puzzled at the loud voices and I whisper to her, “I have to do everything round her, it’s so not fair.” I bury my face in her soft coat and wonder how things got so bad. Trudy starts to lick my face and calms me like always.
More and more people begin to find out or suspect something is going on, including Kim, Alix’s best friend. When she agrees to go with Alix to meet Mohammed she asks if Trudy is coming too:
“Of course, she’s chief refugee spotter!”
“Well let’s hope she doesn’t spot anymore,” says Kim grimly.
Alix has to dig very deep to find the courage to hide Mohammed. She has to lie to the police and her mum and she feels enormously guilty. Without Trudy by her side this would have been an impossible time for her. Alix’s Dad has run off with another woman, her beloved Grandpa is dead and Mum is helpless and needy. Samir also has a difficult story as an asylum seeker himself and then there is Mohammed’s terrifying experiences. Throughout Trudy remains faithful and true, comforting Alix when she is wet and cold and dispirited and sticking by her when she falls out with her Mum and the mean girls at school.
Trudy was a beautiful, calming and courageous muse for "Hidden". She races along the beaches with Alix and never lets her down. Every young person could do with a faithful dog like Trudy by their side to negotiate the tricky moral, emotional and physical paths towards growing up and becoming independent.
"Hidden" is the first novel in a cycle of three set on Hayling Island. A minor character in the previous novel becomes the major character in the next. The next two titles, "Illegal" and "Stuffed", will be published in 2012.
Thank you very much, Miriam! The unicorn is now off for a gallop along the beach, keeping an eye out for blue beach huts...
You can find out more about Miriam's books on her website and blog: