you so much for the lovely books, Leo was absolutely delighted
to receive them and is enjoying them already. We will certainly
look forward to Dinosaur
in Danger. Yours, Cherie Blair.”
is surprising to get a personal, handwritten note from a busy
woman who is a modern mother of four, barrister and Prime Minister’s
wife. Her extraordinary schedule was revealed in an exclusive
interview with Marie Claire in September 2003 – now infamously
remembered as ‘Lippygate.’
opening photograph shows Cherie in the den of their 11 Downing
Street residence. In amongst the ‘untidy’ clutter of 3 year
old Leo Blair’s toys is a book shelf, tucked under the stairs
stuffed full of children’s books. Her children are definitely
readers. The titles of Thomas The Tank Engine and Bob the Builder
all over the UK could see that the first toddler born to a British
serving premier for 150 years, did not have to find his place
amongst solemn leather bound statute books - he has his own
space and is entertained by the same fare as any other British
the foot of the stairs, prominently on display in front of the
wooden trains and next to a teddy bear, is the large ‘big book’
edition of The
Hunter by Paul Geraghty.
Random House, the publishers of the book, Realised that The
Hunter was a hit with the Blairs, they took the
opportunity to send Cherie Blair some additional books.
Cherie or Tony choose this book? A year prior to this
interview, Tony Blair, after only a handful of official visits,
declared he had a “Passion for Africa.” This book is just that
- a reflection of the author’s love of Africa.
enthusiasm comes from his innate affinity with his native South
Africa and all its four-legged inhabitants. In his childhood
all the creatures in his garden and the neighbouring river were
named and carefully observed.
was published in 1994 and short-listed for the Kate Greenaway
Award for illustration and it won the Earthworm (Friends of
the Earth) Award.
is the story of Jamina, a young girl in the African bush, who
wants to be a hunter and then discovers first hand the consequences
of poacher’s actions.
illustrations in the book capture the light and colour of Africa
in all its vibrancy, the ominous grey pre-storm sky, the muted
afternoon haze, all the colours of an African dusk and the moonlight
bathing the animals at night. This was in fact the vision that
gave rise to the book.
initial inspiration came from a trip I made when I was 17 to
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. I was with my best mate and
we were lucky to be in the park during the full moon. We went
to a hide one night at dusk.”
We were watching the hippos wallowing in the watering hole.
As it got darker everyone got quieter and suddenly everyone’s
binoculars were focussed on the tree line just beyond the clearing.
A very large black shape was emerging from the silhouette of
the trees - a lone elephant - that trumpeted loudly to announce
its presence. The hippos imitated the sound of a blunt saw on
wood and left the water. This elephant was there to clear the
watering hole and then from the tree line another black mass
appeared as a whole herd of elephants came to drink. All at
once this fantastic white light of the full moon rose above
the tree line and bathed all the elephants in silver,” said
later, this memory from his African experience, with the working
title of ‘Elephant Girl’, was developed into a story in the
dark, cold days of an early February in Ireland. “The funny
thing is that I always end up writing stories about places when
I am somewhere else. I don’t get diverted or distracted by the
details, leaving me with the powerful essence of the experience.”
did all the drawings out there, in Ireland and then sent the
presentation dummy to my publishers from the only fax in the
village post-office, which was run by three girls, all called
Helen.” The book took two years to write and illustrate.
his illustrations, Paul uses his own photographs and good reference
books to ensure the accurate representation of his animals.
Jamina was drawn from a composite of photographs of three little
girls, who he asked to act out the story to capture their attitudes
purpose of his books is to “ raise awareness of nature and the
environment in the minds of young readers, by telling them the
life-cycle and habits of the various animals in the hope that
they will want to take care of nature, later in their life.”
Paul surprised that it was this particular book that had received
this inadvertently perfect product placement opportunity? No.
“It seems to be the book that appeals most to the teachers and
is often used as part of the curriculum in schools.” Perhaps
the book appealed to the Blair’s passion for Education, Education,