Friday, May 20, 2011

Dinosaurs In Your Backyard!

Helen Rundgren is an award-winning , lizard-loving Swedish children's writer. Her first book with Tulika- Stone Eggs- is about Indian dinosaurs! This one of its kind book combines fact and fiction and introduces the reader to little-known dinos like the adorably scary Rajasaurus and many, many more. Here’s Helen talking to us about her love for reptiles and the making of Stone Eggs.Order your copy here or here!

 Many of your titles are about dinosaurs.  When and how did you become interested in them?

I am not sure. This interest has been growing for many years but I know that IF I had read more about them as a kid, I'd have been stuck. I loved all animals and wanted to be a scientist, a zoologist. And I did, I became one! But then I did other things. But I would have been a palaeontologist if I had just known the job existed. I am sure.

Do you have a favourite dinosaur? Why?

For some reason I like the long ones. The real sauropods, like Diplodocus and Barapasaurus. Bigger than big and longer than long. I like the shape. Like huge strange giraffes, tipped down, with the long tail in the air.. What if they had patterns like them? Or dots?

How did you make the Indian connection and write a story set here? Did
you face any difficulty in placing the story culturally?

Long story, but I went on a trip to southern India with Swedish writers. There we met Sandhya from Tulika and we started to talk. We met here and there in the following years in different projects and talked a little about one of my dino books. Could that be something for Indian children? Then I read in a newspaper about dino eggs found in India. There we go! I could write a completely new book, about Indian dinosaurs for Indian children. That’s fun! I really liked the idea - and it gave me the opportunity to study the subject.

How did you do your research for the story?

I read all I could find. There isn’t too much. I wrote down a list of the dinosaurs and tried to make a map and then I contacted a well known palaeontologist in India. I found his name in the scientific papers I read. He helped me with all my questions.

You are a former zoologist. Do you have interesting pets at home? Tell us
a little about them!

Helen and Alice
Oh, actually not too many right now but I have had some over the years. Katinka, the Green Iguana, who lived a free life in a tree trunk in our living room. Igor the naughty 1.5 meter Iguana who escaped and frightened our neighbours for weeks. Valdemar, the African monitor I rescued as a baby. He gave me a lot of trouble trying to find him a new home before he got dangerous. Emil the cute little chameleon who I filmed and made a short children’s program about. He sadly died when his food, a cricket, stung his long tongue. The most friendly and lovely one is actually the one I have today. Alice, the Bearded Dragon. She is named after Alice Springs in Australia from where I guess her relatives came. She is a lovely fellow. 

Valdemar, the African Monitor

But I have even had pets other than reptiles: two cats, a dog, turtles, salamanders, toads and frogs. Normal stuff - or more or less normal.

 Have you hunted for fossils and found any?

Yes, a little.  I have been out with diggers in the field. Then you help if you can. I have been at dinosaur digging places filming for television in Canada, Australia and China. In Canada, they found an Allosaur cheek and a lot of teeth that day. I have just found small pieces hanging around but that is thrilling too.

Have you got any interesting responses/questions from children to/on your
dinosaur books?

My first Tyra Tyrannosaurus book is written for quite small children and I have heard about several sleeping with it like a doll. That book is about the fact that you cannot be to sure about how they look, their colour and so on, and that subject has made many children stand up and say:
- But are you sure about that!? Were they green or grey? I think they were pink with red spots!
I have got a lot of nice pieces of art sent to me!

Are you working on a new book currently? Tell us about it.

Yes, two about – dinosaurs.One with babies and one about dino tracks. But my last book was about different animals and their different kind of hearts. A Snail's Heart.No dinosaurs.
I am even working on one about senses, working title: Best Nose of The World.

 Is there anything else that you wish to add?

I love dinosaur tracks. They talk about the animal’s life back then. Footprints, skin impressions, dino dung and egg shells… I hope I can come to India one day and see dinosaur eggs in the field!


  1. Hej Helen! What fun! Our very own dino stars! Sandhya

  2. Sounds awesome! Look fwd to this book!

  3. Loved the way Helen described the different personalities of her reptilian pets.:)

    I think one of the fascinating things about dinosaurs as far as children are concerned is that we do not really have any knowledge of their actual colours, and are just extrapolating those of present day reptiles to them. Of course they could have been pink with red spots! Or orange with violet stripes!

    Great going Tulika books. Any wonder why you are a favourite publisher in these parts?


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