Dear Komodo Dragon
By Nancy Allen DEAR KOMODO DRAGON is a picture book. Leslie plans to be a dragon hunter when she grows up. When she and a Komodo dragon become pen pals, they send a series of letters back and forth. The wise-cracking dragon adds a generous helping of humor to letters that are chock full of accurate Komodo facts. Leslie learns not only about Komodos, but also about the dangers they face. As their friendship builds, Leslie discovers that the dragon has been attacked. Can a future dragon hunter help the world’s largest lizard? This book focuses on the life of Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. Humor and fantasy combine to blend natural science with story. Young readers will gain a better understanding of the dangers faced by these wild and wonderful animals. The story pushes the idea that everyone can make a difference in the world. The work of one person can have long-lasting effects on the animal kingdom. How long does it take to write a book? Developing the idea, researching, and writing DEAR KOMODO DRAGON took about two years. When I visited the Louisville Zoo, I saw a Komodo dragon named “Big Man.” At nearly eight-feet long, he lived up to his name. This king of the lizards wagged a long, yellow tongue and shuffled every step. A close look and a bit of imagination conjured my first instinct: write about this animal, whose ancient ancestors dated back millions of years. The species had staked its claim on planet Earth and held tight. A story had to be in there somewhere. I wrestled with the idea of how to write about this amazing animal in a way that had not been done. A few days later, I talked with a group of young students about what they enjoyed. One young girl said she loved to receive letters, but almost never did. The others echoed her, voicing the excitement of receiving their own mail. The two ideas—Komodo dragons and letters—simmered, scrambled, and stuck together. Out popped a brand new idea: a book about a Komodo dragon pen pal. Once I figured out the structure—a series of letters—I began brainstorming and outlining the plot. Since I knew almost nothing about Komodo dragons, I spent a lot of time researching facts. I gathered a basket full of information. From that, I selected the most interesting facts that would appeal to the readers. Each book is different and the amount of time to write varies. What part of writing a book is the most fun? For nonfiction, or in the case of DEAR KOMODO DRAGON, a fic-informational (fiction with facts) book, a large amount of research is required. I love to learn new things and searching for fun facts is a treasure hunt. I may find ten facts that I reject; then find a keeper, a real jewel. It’s exciting when I find a fact that adds interest and/or humor to a manuscript. The first draft is always messy, full of holes, and in great need of help. I usually begin the “help” part, also known as revision, with cookies (chocolate chip) for inspiration. I actually enjoy revision. The cookies probably have a lot to do with that positive mindset. Each revision polishes the work, and I do several revisions. These take weeks to do, even for a picture book. The overall goal for this book was to write a story kids enjoy reading. Period. If I enjoy writing it, they’re more likely to enjoy reading it. If they enjoy reading, they’re likely to read more. A secondary goal was presenting an appreciation and respect for nature, which are timeless and appropriate themes for a picture book. Where can your book be purchased? Any bookstore can order it. It’s also found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target on-line, and other outlets.