Science Book a Day Interviews Wendy Orr


Special thanks to Wendy Orr for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – Rescue on Nim’s Island

Wendy Orr grew up in France, Canada and USA. She was a compulsive reader and writer from an early age, and now writes for children, young adults and adults. Her books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards including the CBC (Australian) Book of the Year, American Library Association Book for older readers, and the Israeli March of Books. Wendy also worked on the screenplay that turned her book Nim’s Island into a 2008 Hollywood feature film starring Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Gerard Butler. The sequel, Nim at Sea, is now in production, with Bindi Irwin starring as Nim. – From Wendy’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for Rescue on Nim’s Island? What made you write this particular story?

I’d always known that a third Nim book would involve a cave, but the Emergency Cave of the first two books was too safe to create an adventure. However the second Nim film, Return to Nim’s Island, used the Natural Bridge and Glow Worm caves of Mt Tambourine, Queensland, and they were so inspiring that I had to use them!

I’ve always been fascinated by fossils, especially after I found a fossilised shark’s tooth when I was twelve. I found it when I was riding my horse in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I still find it awe-inspiring to think that where we lived, about 2000 feet above sea-level, used to be a seabed. And not only that, this shark’s tooth had sat there all those millions of years till I found it. It still gives me shivers.

#2 – What as the inspiration for the two scientists and their dastardly designs? Did you take it from real life or other stories?

Dastardly villains are a lot of fun to make up – they’re purely fiction. But of course, even though I can’t remember hearing of anyone just like Leonora and Lance Bijou, every story I’ve ever heard, and every evil thought I’ve ever had, have all been stored in my brain, just waiting to be mixed up and create a new character or story.

#3 – Nim is an adventurous young girl with animal friends and a love for her island. What ideas are you hoping to instil in young readers with such a character?

I’ve deliberately never set out to set Nim as a model for young readers, and certainly some of her adventures should not be modeled! But – at a much deeper level than the villains – Nim must have been created from my own beliefs and passions. So I would be very happy if kids gained a sense of the respect we need to have for not only our animal companions or pets, but all living creatures – even ones like scorpions that aren’t lovable or cute. The same goes for her island; we all need to actively care for the environment around us, whether it’s a small island or a huge one!

#4 – The environment appears to be a strong theme in your book. How do you portray the environment? And what research do you do to present the details of the island?

The advantage of Nim living on a small island is that we can see the whole environment, and of course it’s much more pure nature than most of us live in. But we all need to relate to the environment around us, even if we only have a few potted plants on a windowsill.

Although I’ve made up the island, I do quite a bit of research to make sure its features are possible. So for this book I read books and googled pictures of caves, underground tunnels etc, as well as talking to a rock-climber and caver and checking my descriptions with him. I wrote to a bat zoologist about the bats, and of course had lots of fun looking up all sorts of opalised fossils. As well as maps, this time I made a big model to make sure that all the new parts of the island made sense. That’s very useful to make sure you don’t water running uphill or something like that!

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

There are a couple of Nim projects in the works that I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I can tell you about the book I’m working on now. It’s very different to Nim, although it is set on islands – one fictitious, and the other is Crete. It’s set in the Bronze Age, so I’m busy studying archaeology as well as the natural environment of these islands – which was very different then to now. It’s about an outcast girl from a small island who becomes a bull-leaper in Crete. The title might be The Dragonfly’s Song (we haven’t decided yet) and it’ll be out July 2016.


Drawing created by Wendy Orr for Rescue on Nim’s Island


A model of Nim’s Island created by Wendy Orr.

[Image Credit: ]
[Image Credit: Supplied by Author]


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