One of my favourite reads last year was Damaris Young’s debut The Switching Hour, so when attending a Scholastic event at the start of this year that showcased books being published by themselves during 2020 I heard of Damaris’ new title The Creature Keeper and have been looking forward to being able to get my hands on a copy ever since. To read this latest title by such an incredibly talented children’s author and be able to excite the children at the school I work in, my children at home, and colleagues in various capacities with the synopsis of this utterly brilliant story – and agree with them when they too have read it – is why I do what I do, and enjoy it so much. I recently got to ask Damaris questions relating to The Creature Keeper, and am delighted to share this content on my blog today as my stop on the book blog tour. Be sure to check out the additional blogs participating in this blog tour.
Can you tell us about your new book ‘The Creature Keeper’ and the inspiration behind the story?
Growing up I was very shy and I was happiest around animals. I wanted to write a story about a young girl who, just like me, feels a connection to animals, and send her on a journey of self-discovery and adventure, where she learns to find her voice.
In The Creature Keeper, Cora learns that Direspire’s mysterious owner is looking for a new Creature Keeper, and she realises this might just be the chance she’s looking for to save her parents’ farm. But Direspire Hall is a spooky place, and the strange creatures who live there are nothing like Cora is expecting. As Cora settles into her new life, it soon becomes clear that Direspire has its secrets, and that somebody will do whatever it takes to keep them…
How important is it to you to include strong female leads in your stories?
Having strong characters of all genders in children’s books shows younger readers that they can be truly themselves. It is so important to show characters who are unapologetically themselves and thrive in their own unique way.
In The Creature Keeper, Cora often communicates with the animals with a roar or a howl, especially when she can’t find the right words, and I didn’t want that to be something that needed to be changed or solved. She is as extraordinary as the magical creatures that she cares for!
Can you tell us what research you did for The Creature Keeper?
I researched lots of extraordinary creatures in our world, like the elephant, which is a keystone species. The elephant has such a huge impact on the plants and the other animals that live in the same habitat, by spreading seeds in its dung and breaking through thick foliage so that other animals can get through the vegetation. This research helped me come up with one of the extraordinary creatures in The Creature Keeper, an animal that has a whole world of plants on its back and becomes home for other creatures.
What do you want your readers to take away from the story?
I hope that Cora’s love for the creatures in the story will encourage readers to discover more about our endangered species. There are so many wonderful and magical creatures in our world that need protecting, and I hope that Cora and her creatures will inspire readers to become the creature keepers of our extraordinary animals!
The Creature Keeper is published by Scholastic and available to purchase from all good booksellers.