The world needs hippopotamus magic

August 8th, 2020The world needs hippopotamus magic

CLAIRE Clifton grew up on Enid Blyton books – Noddy and Big Ears, Book of Brownies and most especially, The Magic Faraway Tree.

It was the early 70s and life was a lot simpler. Younger kids believed in fairies and magic and built cubby houses and made, and probably tasted, mud pies. Books didn’t have ulterior motives or agendas, they were just good stories with lots of wholesome adventures and happy endings.
Fast forward to 2020, and Claire was looking for a few presents for her granddaughter, Audrey, set to turn three in June. Wandering around the shops, many months earlier, Claire spotted a little plastic hippopotamus and thought Audrey could add that to her farm animal collection. Next was a wooden doll with blonde hair – just like Audrey.
The two toys spent the next few months sitting on Claire’s computer and every time she passed by she wondered about them. Could Audrey sit on Hippy? And if yes, could Hippy actually be a grounded but magical flying hippopotamus?
Claire, an abstract artist of some note, but new to writing apart from a manual on how to relocate a house, realised she needed a third character. Cue in the golden-tipped glass echidna sitting on top of her fridge, a gift from Australia Zoo from friends she had collected mail for while they were on holiday – and the new children’s book trio was complete. Princess Audrey, Hippy and Master Spike, who between them solve Hippy’s confidence issues with flying, and then head out on a few adventures of their own.
Claire, who moved to Glenlyon 18 years ago with husband Brian, from Geelong, said the book, The Magical Flying Hippopotamus, happened quite organically.
“I used to sit down and think what happens next, and it felt like I had gone back into childhood a bit, because bad things might happen in a child’s book back then but there was always a resolution.
“They were always tales of overcoming your problems, courage, friendship and never giving up – and I think the main thing was believing in your dreams. I wanted something, really just for my grand-daughter, that was simple and magical and fun with positive life affirmations. I am really a bit tired of authors who write stories about farts.”
The book is illustrated by Claire’s daughter’ Kiara’s boyfriend, Gerard Horvat, who just happened to be sitting at their table one day drawing visual novels, or cartoons for grown-ups. “I said to him ‘hey, you don’t want to have a go at a hippopotamus, do you?’ And his illustrations were perfect – a really simple organic style.”
Claire said she originally just printed a few copies for her family but interest from others led to a short print run of just 200 for the book, which suits children up to about eight. She is also keen to do a public YouTube reading of the book in four parts with all the voices “otherwise there is no point”.
“I just wanted to put out the message to kids that you can have whatever you want, you just have to work out how to make it happen, that is the hard part and the fun part. Kids need a bit of escape, especially now, and the whole world could do with a bit of hippopotamus magic.”
Next up is a book for her grandson Lonnie “to make it fair”. Audrey and Lonnie’s parents Jonathan and Kerstin are, naturally, the king and queen, and Lonnie’s title is only fairly prince, to match Princess Audrey. Claire is also busy, halfway through, writing her own life story, something she hopes her family, right down to great-grandchildren and beyond, will read one day.
“I would love to pluck a book off the shelf and find out what my great-grandmother did in her life, what school was like, what her first job was…
“But, you know, I don’t really know what’s next and that’s probably one of the good things. I am just having fun doing what I am doing right now.”
For a copy of the book, with a price of $17.50, email Claire at Brewster_claire@hotmail.com and check out selected outlets in the region.
Link: www.ebay.com.au/str/Abstractions-Art-for-the-Soul
Words: Donna Kelly | Image: Kyle Barnes

This article is supported by Hepburn Shire Council’s COVID-19 Community Support Grants.

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