26 January 2010

Imaginative graduates succeed as children’s authors

Roy the Eagle

A talented pair of University of Sheffield graduates have carved out careers as children’s authors, after penning a unique series of books that have proved a hit with youngsters.

Kate O’Sullivan, 23, and David Harfield, 24, have worked together on a series entitled Oddtails, which tell the story of individual animal characters that go against the usual stereotype.

The books, which are aimed at five and six year-olds, feature Roy the ‘short sighted’ Eagle, who wears glasses for hunting, Milly the asthmatic Cheetah and a vegetarian grizzly bear named Kate. The aim behind the tales is to teach children the importance of accepting individuality, as despite being teased for being different, it is the characters’ unique features that help them save the day.

The books, which were the brainchild of Kate during her third year of an International History and International Politics degree at the University, began taking shape after the pair graduated in 2008. After contacting the University’s Enterprise Centre for help with their idea, they were offered an initial grant of £250, followed by a later grant of £750, which enabled them to get an artist on board for illustrations, fund printing costs and set up a website.

Over the next year, Kate and David, who now live in Shepherd’s Bush, London, took the books into schools in the UK to see how well they would be received and sent them to publishers, before getting signed by publisher Loose Chippings.

The first book in the series, Roy the Eagle, is now on sale in Waterstones and Amazon and the budding literary stars hope to have it on the shelves in smaller shops over the next few months.

Kate O’Sullivan said: “We live in an increasingly cosmopolitan world, yet children are still teased and bullied and feel left out. The books not only represent positive attitudes to disability, something that is scarce amongst young children's literature, but they also give facts about the animals and the environment. We’re thrilled with the book’s success and the grant was essential, we couldn’t have done it without it.”

David Harfield, who studied Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, added: “I never envisaged this would be what I’m doing now but I just think the book’s message of teaching children to accept individuality and disabilities is quite important. Even if one child feels happier about who they are then we will have accomplished something very special.”