Meet the author
She can speak
Spanish and German
What do you hope young readers will get from this story?
Pleasure and enjoyment mainly, but I also hope that it will make them think of racism, and that although it can be subtle at times, like Leila's comments in the novel, it is still totally unacceptable.
What was one of the most amazing things you learned when you created your book?
As the story is situated in a zoo, I was required to do a lot of research work. One of the most amazing things I learned about was that some animals in the world today used to be much larger in size. For example, three million years ago, Kangaroos were twice the size they are now!
What made you start writing?
Mum (Meinir Pierce Jones) is an author, so listening to stories and writing them has always been a big part of my life. My favourite activity in primary school was picture and story time, and since then I have been lucky enough to have great teachers who have encouraged me to read and keep writing. I’d say it’s something natural for me to do. I couldn’t not do it!
Which books inspired you as a young reader?
I swallowed books when I was younger. Her are some of my favourites that definitely inspired me: Cyfres plant blwyddyn (Elgan Philip Davies), Gwe Gwenhwyfar (Welsh adaptation by Emily Huws), Gan yr Iâr (Bethan Gwanas), Llinyn Trons (Bethan Gwanas), all books by Judy Blume and Jacqueline Wilson, the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling and His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.
Which experiences in your life have influenced your writing?
Two things, the first, being Bardd Plant Cymru between 2017 and 2019. This was an absolute pleasure and the best thing about it was meeting so many children and young people, getting to know them, learning what makes them laugh and what they like to read. The second is having children myself. I've got two sons and the eldest is three and a half, which means we read a lot of stories, and seeing his fascination whilst listening to a good story has inspired me to write more. His imagination also gives me ideas!
If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would that be and why?
Hmm interesting question and a tough one at that! I'd probably pick Lyra, from the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman. It'd be interesting to see how it would feel to have a dæmon like those characters do, and to travel between worlds - this would be quite and experience.
Where did you get the ideas for the characters in your book?
During my time as a children’s poet laureate, I went to loads of schools across Wales, and in one school I met a little girl who was obsessed with animals. She was determined to write a poem about animals (although that day’s topic was something else!) and at the end of the session she came and said, "mum says I've got a special relationship with animals", and then I thought– you’d be a perfect main character! I also wanted to try to show a cross section of society in the book, so there are children from families with one parent, children from poorer and wealthier backgrounds and Sara is mixed race but living in a community that is predominantly white, like where I grew up on the Llŷn Peninsula.
What message have you got for the young people of Wales?
Anyone can be an author. Don't worry about spelling, or that no one else in your family writes stories, or even enjoys reading - if you're good at telling a tale and you enjoy it, you could be an author. The secret, I think, is reading. Go and read as much as possible, and your brain will fill up with ideas and fancy words, and the stories will flow.
Hawlfraint y llun: Póló