Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Patrice Racine

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A Friendship Begins, by Patrice Racine

Children's author Patrice Racine talks to Open Book about his wildly successful series The Adventures of Cosmo the Dodo Bird: Our Hero of the Environment, first published in Quebec and now available in English through Tundra Books. Find out why he chose a dodo bird as the hero for his series, how he encourages young readers to engage with environmental issues and why his family sometimes wonders what planet he's disappeared to.

Open Book:

Tell us about The Adventures of Cosmo the Dodo Bird: Our Hero of the Environment.

Patrice Racine:

A communicator by profession, I gave life to Cosmo following some reflection about the planet and the future for my children. Originally, I wanted to create a project that would convey positive messages to young people concerning the environment and biodiversity. So I designed a likeable, engaging character that would seduce children as well as the whole family.

OB:

Why did you choose a dodo bird as the hero for this series of short novels for kids?

PR:

Cosmo is indeed a dodo. He is part of a unique species of birds that actually lived on Earth. During a time not so long ago, he and his fellows creatures lived only on a peaceful island, isolated from the world known of man: Mauritius.

Approximately 300 years ago, only a few years after the arrival of the first sailors on the island, the dodos almost all disappeared ...

The dodo became an ideal symbol to represent the human impact on the environment and biodiversity.

OB:

Do you have a favourite book in the series?

PR:

The Quest of the Last Dodo Bird is my favourite, because this adventure chronicles the origins of Cosmo and the human impact on the environment and biodiversity. This adventure also communicates a message of hope, courage and perseverance.

OB:

The Adventures of Cosmo the Dodo Bird books introduce young readers to a number of environmental problems. How did you go about presenting these important issues in a way that would appeal to your audience?

PR:

Through entertainment, the Cosmo books need to transport young people into adventures filled with intrigue, humour and twists in the plot. It is by living the overall experience that the reader is challenged to reflect on environmental and biodiversity issues.

OB:

What is it that you love about writing and illustrating books for children?

PR:

I like entering into a world created from all of the pieces of Cosmo's quest. I always have the feeling of being there and being a witness to the adventure. All that is left is for me to tell the story and to illustrate the most representative images from what I have seen. At the end of each big adventure, I thank Cosmo for having made me live through such an experience.

OB:

What books did you read as a child that have stayed with you?

PR:

All of the adventures of Astérix the Gaul.

OB:

Do you worry that with all the distractions of technology, children may be less inclined to get into books?

PR:

I think that, above all, I create stories for children rather than just making books. In my eyes, Cosmo is a hero of modern times and I think that his stories can also be carried over into modern media and the new technologies that interest children.

OB:

What distracts you from writing, or gets in the way of a productive writing day? How do you get around this problem?

PR:

When I think about it, it’s really very difficult for me to get out of a story once I have immersed myself in it. When I am conceiving a story, I really am transported into another world. Sometimes, my family calls my name and I don't hear them, as if I were on another planet with Cosmo!

OB:

Who are your favourite children's authors and illustrators?

PR:

The authors of Astérix, Albert Uderzo for the illustrations and René Goscinny for the texts.

OB:

What are you working on now?

PR:

The next Cosmo adventure, which is expected to be released in January 2012.


Originally published in Quebec, The Adventures of Cosmo the Dodo Bird series were incredibly popular with young readers. Now readers in English Canada can enjoy them as well: Cosmo's adventures in The Chain Reaction; The Climate Masters; A Friendship Begins; The Great Illusion; In Search of the Jewel; The Mysterious Substance and The Quest of the Last Dodo Bird are now available through Tundra Books.

For more information about The Adventures of Cosmo the Dodo Bird please visit the Tundra Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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