Patricia the Hippo was originated as an idea on a trip to Uganda with the Jinja Educational Trust. After the release of the first books, we realised there existed the huge potential to create learning posters that were linked to Patricia. This culminated in an alphabet chart that featured many of the animals found in Uganda (and who Patricia might have encountered in her adventures).
For something a little more playful, and again to stimulate learning, we created a prototype snakes and ladders game with artwork based around Patricia.
Of course the key to unlocking the learning bug is to get somebody interested in the topic. In the stories, Patricia faces challenges in terms of geography and the environment. These kind of issues face the modern world so it is not a coincidence that storms create havoc and destruction in our story just like in the real world. We cannot stop storms but we can surely live in a bit more harmony with the natural world. There is no sense in seeing the destructive power of storms and then thinking that as humans we can overcome the power of nature.
The new stories with Elmo carry on the themes explored with Patricia, but from a slightly different perspective. Elmo is a hippo who is expected to live like a human. There is of course no better way of understanding something than having first hand experience. Whether you believe in lake spirits or earth spirits we have to see nature as a metaphor for an earth that is simply being exploited by humanity. There will of course be consequences.
The environment, understanding animals and learning how to live in the company of each other are big themes in both the Patricia and Elmo stories. Hopefully, that doesn’t take away from the idea that you can have an enjoyable adventure story. So, like Aesop's fables, there can be a bit of learning or reflection in our actions and the interaction of the characters in these books. They are meant to encourage thinking and engage the reader. Everything is not perfect in this world we have created and unfortunately people do drift out of the story for various reasons. We therefore experience the transient nature of life and the importance of making the most of what you have when you have it.
A Patricia Diorama made from Paper Mache
On a recent visit to an art gallery in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, David Jackson discovered the work of highly-talented papier-mâché (or paper mache) artist Annie Stothert. He was enthralled by a model titled 'The Nidd Newt'. After purchasing another paper mache model of a Christmas elf, depicted assembling children's toys at a work table, David approached Annie about creating a unique paper mache diorama of Patricia the Hippo.
Using "The Mask" (Patricia the Hippo's first adventure) as a primary source of reference and inspiration, Annie applied her considerable creative energies to produce a stunning piece of work.
The diorama is some 3 feet in length and features a scene of the lakeshore with the jungle behind it. Patricia, our heroine, is modelled wearing the wooden mask. The other characters in the book; Frederick the crocodile with his distinctive red eye; Humphrey and the other vervet monkeys trapped in wooden cages; the hapless guards; are all rendered beautifully. There are other small intricacies such as lizards and insects on the crates, a snake coiled in a tree, and various animal heads protruding from the leaves of the jungle.
New Elmo Stories
After writing ten books about 'The Adventures of Patricia the Hippo at the Source of the Nile', author David Jackson has turned his attention to a character that went missing in book three only to reappear near the end of the ninth book.
David decided it would be fun to explore what might have happened to Elmo after his encounter with some humans on the way to the 'Sacred Place'. This enabled him to create some brand new stories with all new characters.
You can read about the journeys of Elmo in the book "Being Human" and it's follow-up tale "Mistaken Identity". A third adventure titled "Iron Mask" is currently being written.