Author Pippa Goodhart talks about bookish characters in an amazing guest-post.
When one of Bill’s experiments goes badly wrong, and his father loses his job, Bill sets out to make money selling fossils. He finds something amazing, something which might make him a fortune, but is the world ready for the questions raised by Bill’s discovery?
I delighted to have Pippa Goodhart on the blog to talk about bookish characters and Bill’s thirst for knowledge. Thank-you Pippa for your time.
The Facts Behind the Fiction
By Pippa Goodhart
How is it that spiders know how to build complex webs, but flies don’t know to avoid those web traps? Why is the earth layered into different kinds of soil as you dig downwards? Why are there so many fossils of sea creatures found so very many miles from the sea? How can there be rhino fossils in an island nation thousands of miles from Africa? What happened to the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures which are no longer around?
My story’s main character, eleven-year-old Bill, wants to find answers to all sorts of questions. His nurseryman father has some answers, and, like Bill, enjoys chasing those questions with ideas. But then Bill meets young academic Robert Seeley, real-life assistant to the great Victorian professor of geology at Cambridge University, Professor Sedgwick, and the world of research into scientific and theological matters opens to him.
Bill is also trying to work out answers to the questions he has about himself and his family.
There are so many stories in which the main character is bookish in a literary way, meaning stories and poetry rather than books about how things work. That’s perhaps not surprising when those who write books are naturally bookish and sympathetic to such interests. But the world is full of so many different kinds of interest, and actually fiction can be a very effective way of imparting knowledge and enthusing interest in science and history and so much more. I’ve always loved stories which give practical information about things which are new to me. I reckon I could just about build a log cabin and tap maple trees for syrup to be boiled into molasses from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books!
I am not an expert on pre-history or fossils, but I knew the questions I wanted answers to, and I hope they are questions that readers will also want answers to. Because those answers come in the form of fairly brief conversations within the developing personal story of Bill’s life, they are necessarily brief and, I hope, accessible. I had advice from the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge which holds the fossils used in my story, just to be sure I wasn’t getting the historical and scientific side of things wrong.
My hope is that, as well as enjoying the up personal and who-dun-it mystery sides of this book, children will also pick up Bill’s habit of really noticing and questioning the world they live in. As Dad says,
It turns out that the biggest question of all in this story is about Bill himself.
The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip)