Animal-Friendly Children's Book Delights
Fran Hodgkins writes books that teach awareness of and kindness towards animals
Children’s book author Fran Hodgkins tells us about her newest book, Who’s Been Here? A Tale in Tracks, and talks about her award-winning writing career. Fran’s books exemplify the importance of being kind to animals, and she hopes children will learn from their example.
Q: In your new children’s picture book, Who’s Been Here? A Tale in Tracks, you tell the story of a golden retriever named Willy who leads some children to find and identify various animal tracks in the snow. Why did you choose a golden retriever as the chief character in this book?
Fran: When I was younger, my family had a golden retriever named Murphy, and he was just a great, fun dog. He was very good with the kids, my nieces and nephews, but had a huge bark. For all the time we had Murphy, we never had a UPS package delivered — the driver wouldn’t knock at the door, but just slide it onto the porch and run for the truck.
There was a real Willy, by the way. He was my husband’s dog. Another wonderful character. He’d wait for my husband to leave the house and then climb up on the couch to sleep. One day my husband caught him. Willy slinked off the couch with a guilty look on his face.
Q: Two of your books — Andre the Famous Harbor Seal and The Cat of Strawberry Hill — are dear to the hearts of mid-coast Mainers, since they are set here and feature loveable animals. What do you like about Maine as the scene of animal-centered stories?
Fran: Maine is full of great stories, because of the great people who make them happen. Take the story of Andre, as an example: That seal and his “person” Harry Goodridge had a remarkable bond, and made a wonderful subject for Andre the Famous Harbor Seal. Mainers are also big-hearted, as evidenced by Dana and Violet Burton, who opened their hearts — and the Strawberry Hill Inn — to a stray kitten. That story was a natural.
Q: You have spent your career writing children’s books about animals and animal rescue. In fact, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) presented you with the Henry Bergh Award for your book, The Orphan Seal. Do you feel you have a mission to help children care for our animal friends? If so, what qualities does this develop in children?
Fran: I don’t know if I’d call it a mission, exactly, but I do know that kids learn by example, whether that example is in a book or in their own homes. Studies have shown that children who have grown up with animals tend to be more gentle and empathetic than children who have not.
Of course, most children love animals, and so that makes my job easy! Kids love animal books, too, no matter how old they are.
Q: Who’s Been Here? A Tale in Tracks is your fifth title with Down East. What do you like about working with us, particularly in regard to books about animals?
Fran: I love the fact that so many of the people who work at Down East are real animal people. They and their families are involved in animal causes, and several Down East employees adopted dogs that had been left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. I think we share the same core values when it comes to animals and their part in our lives.
Who’s Been Here? A Tale in Tracks is illustrated by Karel Hayes and published by Down East. For more information or to order the book, click here.
- By: Rosemary Herbert