Dinosaur Douglas Books
(How a cheeky dinosaur is helping young children look after their health)
I am a children’s author with over 35 books, published by various publishers. including Walker Books, OUP, MacMillan and Hachette, translated and sold around the world. I became author/publisher a few years ago, after I met Kate Barnard, Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.
Kate told me that almost one-third of five year olds and half of eight year olds have fillings or missing teeth caused by decay, and the most common cause of hospital admission in primary school children each year is dental decay and infection; 26,000 children aged five-nine needed emergency dental surgery last year.
Kate wanted an inexpensive book that would make children realize the importance of brushing their teeth. It needed to be available to as many children and parents as possible, including people on low income and those who didn’t go into bookshops.
Kate and I met many times and Dinosaur Douglas and the Beastly Bugs took shape, finally becoming a fun, rhyming story about a cheeky dinosaur.
Alex Godwin, international artist and street painter, who had painted the streets of London, Berlin, South Africa and beyond, had long wanted to illustrate a children’s book. I sent her the story. She sent back some sketches. We loved them.
Why did I choose to self-publish this book?
Having worked in publishing as editor and commissioning editor of children’s and adult books, I was aware that no publisher would commission a book about teeth, written in rhyme, with an unknown illustrator. Most picture books are beautifully produced hardbacks with international appeal; they become paperbacks once they have proved to sell well as hardbacks.
Publishers usually send picture books abroad for printing as it’s less expensive. I wanted to keep the project local. A friendly Hammersmith printer advised me on format, paper quality, spine, cover and print-run, keeping costs to a minimum.
With the aim of getting the book into all local nurseries and reception classes, I approached local businesses for sponsorship. A dentist, architect, chemist, hardware store and others were interested. An estate agent challenged me, “If you are doing this for the local community, why isn’t the council backing you?”
I had already approached the council several times, without success. Now I had one more try. My proposal bounced from one councilor’s office to another and finally landed on the Senior Public Health Officer’s desk – and I received a phone call.