Pet Hates - Guest post by Sinéad O'Hart
Pet Hates – Unconventional Pets in Fiction
Guest Post with author Sinéad O'Hart
I was lucky enough recently to get an electronic copy of The Star-Spun Web, the new book by children's author, Sinéad O'Hart. It's a fantastic story, about a young girl, Tess, growing up in an orphanage, Ackerbee's Home for Lost and Foundlings. One day a mysterious man turns up and lays claim to her, Miss Ackerbee gives her the only remnants they have of her past life, an old blanket and a mysterious device, and Tess' adventure spins out from there. It's a tale of ominous guardians, old mysteries and other worlds.
I loved it! And one of the things I really enjoyed about it was some of the positive reinforcement messages it contains. From the start, Tess is interested in science. The story opens with her doing an experiment in her makeshift laboratory. She sees herself as a scientist, and I think it's so important that young girls see this kind of character and see that the sciences are as open to them as they are to any boys. Secondly, it's great to see a really positive portrayal of an orphanage, which are so often demonised in literature. The women caring for Tess in Ackerbee's genuinely care about her and do whatever they can to protect her. Thirdly, Tess has a pet tarantula. Now I have no problem with spiders, I quite like them in fact, and I know a lot of people think this is a bit strange. So I loved seeing a spider depicted in a story who wasn't a giant man-eater lurking in a damp cave or a dark forest, or a horde of sinister threats. Violet is sweet and loving and utterly adorable.
So it is with great pleasure that today on my blog I have Sinéad O'Hart, talking firstly about her choice of animal companion, and then giving us a list of some of her favourite unconventional pets and unusual double acts.
Tess has a pet tarantula called Violet. What inspired this unusual choice of companion? Do you think spiders get a bad rap? Can you sell your book in a few short lines to arachnophobic readers?
You know, I have no idea why Violet is a tarantula. As soon as Tess turned up in my head, Violet came too – and one was unthinkable without the other. I wasn’t a big fan of spiders myself, even as I wrote her, and I’m still not (though, somehow, writing Violet has made me a bit more arachno-tolerant!) I certainly have never touched a tarantula, nor do I have any desire to, but I do love Violet. I am aware that some readers might be put off by the idea of her, though, so here goes: she's not very ‘spidery', and could easily be imagined as another type of animal entirely if the reader preferred. She doesn’t do anything scary in the book, and she’s extremely lovable, so I hope that helps anyone who's not sure about reading her. When I first came up with the character of Tess I had no idea why I needed Violet too, and it only became clear later that Tess needed a pet which was quiet, easy to care for and feed, and small enough to fit on her person for reasons important to the plot. I love that Violet’s role became so important, even though I didn’t know why at first! I also really love the idea that Tess’s pet is unusual because it goes against what you’d expect of a girl character: I could easily have made Moose (Thomas’s pet) into a tarantula and Violet into a mouse, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed that nearly as much.
LIST: 8 unconventional pets and unusual double acts in fiction
Mouse and Sparrow – Mouse has a way with the terrodyls, where Sparrow can sing to the whales (from The Huntress series by Sarah Driver)
Mup and Crow (from Begone the Raggedy Witches book 1 in The Wild Magic Trilogy by Celine Kiernan)
Milla and Iggie (from Dragon Daughter by by Liz Flanagan)
Lyra and Iorek Byrnison (from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman)
Ivy Sparrow and Scratch (from The Uncommoners series by Jennifer Bell)
Christopher and the mechanical children (from TIN by Pádraig Kenny)
Lily, Robert and Malkin the mechanimal (from the Cogheart series by Peter Bunzl)
Marinka and her House (from The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson)
Thank you for visiting the BookWormHole, Sinéad, and for bringing us Violet the Tarantula
What do people think? Could you cope with a spider as a pet? What are your favourite pets in fiction?
Mine has to be Griff the Wildcat from Abi Elphinstone's Dream Snatcher trilogy, or possibly Toothless the Dragon from How to Train Your Dragon.
Let me know in the comments.
A Star-Spun Web is out now from Stripes Publishing. I received an electronic copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review, and I'm giving it five moons.