Artists and Animals: Wendy Orr and Harry
|Wendy Orr with Harry, the day he arrived|
Today I’m interviewing myself – because, believe it or not (!) I’m also rather fond of, and inspired by, animals.
|Bear, who inspired the first Rainbow Street story|
I always find animals inspiring in their attitudes to life, disability and death. When I was a teenager in rural Nova Scotia, our cat BC (Barn Cat, though he changed it to Bedroom Cat) lost his leg in a porcupine trap.I can still feel the shock and horror of finding him in this hideous device – but once he’d recovered physically, he went on to a long and apparently happy life, never seeming to mind that he had only one front leg. And a few years ago, when my dachshund Max was dying of an aggressive stomach cancer, it was inspirational to watch his decisions on conserving his energy to do only the things he most loved.
|With the lion cub who inspired A Lion Called Kiki|
In my books, of course the most recent example is the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter Series (USA and Canada) or Rainbow Street Pets (Australia.) Most of the stories were inspired by animals I’ve known: LOST! A Dog Called Bear, ABANDONED! A Lion Called Kiki were based on real animals, STOLEN! A Pony Called Pebbles was based on finding a mysterious horse and pony in a makeshift corral when I was out riding in the foothills in Colorado. And all the animals, in all the stories, have been influenced or directly inspired by animals I’ve known.
|Wendy Orr reading with Frieda|
Did you have pets as a child? We had a dachshund named Frieda who had to stay
in Ottawa with my grandparents when we moved to France when I was three. She lived in on my dad’s “Frieda’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather stories” throughout my childhood. In France we had a beautiful big basset hound named James, who died tragically in quarantine when we returned to Canada. Another basset, Jill, arrived when I was seven, and was my constant companion until I left home. I also had a guinea pig named Susie Q, and later, as a student in London, a guinea pig named Henry. My mother fulfilled her lifelong ambition of owning a horse when we moved to Colorado when I was ten; Biddy taught us all to ride, and when we moved to Nova Scotia I also had my own horse, Tala. And of course, BC. Of course my sister and brother also had pets: at one point we had three dogs, three guinea pigs and five horses.
|Wendy Orr and sister Kathy, with Jill the basset hound|
Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio