Yesterday I was a green-eyed monster. I saw Michael Morpurgo’s latest novel Running Wild in the bookstores. It’s the story of a boy and an elephant who rush off into the jungle because the elephant senses a tsunami coming. Four years ago (in 2005 to be precise… as I still have all my paperwork) I researched Sea Gipsies and elephants who escaped the tsunami because of their intuitive knowledge… a sort of 6th sense. I discovered these insights while reading Ian McCallum’s book, Ecological Intelligence. Fascinated I broached the idea of a story based on this. But the tsunami had devastated too many people’s lives and it was believed to be too close to the event. Four years later out comes Running Wild!

How often this occurs… writers have an idea, and then someone else brings out a similar story! On the positive side, Michael’s book with its handsome cover and lovely endpapers, made me wonder if we’re seeing a revival of ‘jungle’. Hopefully it bodes well for frogs too… seeing that my new series is called The Frog Diaries.
In the stakes of frogs versus vampires, it’s a no-brainer as far as popularity goes. Yet geckoes, chameleons and mammoth Madagascan moon moths were great draw-cards with 9 & 10 yr olds in the butterfly tent at the Natural History Museum this summer. And recently at the Saatchi Gallery it was the photograph of the toxic looking Blue Poison Dart frog (dendrobates azureus) that had a ring of children around it. Is this a trend? Will the jungle book return? I’d like to think so.

‘New jungle’ mixes nature with suspense and adventure. What’s not terrifying about the Golden Poison Dart frog (phyllobates terribilis) from the rainforests of Colombia, that’s capable of killing 10 to 20 people with its poison? A single gram on an envelope would kill anyone licking it.

So I’m playing herpetology and writing my Frog Diaries and soon to be Frog Blog. I’ve hunted down reed frogs in the Okavango Swamp (in reality often) with a frog-trafficking, dynamite-throwing villainess and I’ve trekked (in my imagination) the rainforests of Madagascar to track down its ghostly lemurs and Golden Mantella frogs and found much more… secret distilleries of ylang ylang flowers and modern-day pirates too.

I love doing what I’m doing. Because what does a primitive ylang ylang distillery look like in the heart of a rainforest? And how will my hero’s tree-house be suspended in the forest canopy by steel cables? Never mind plot problems and jungle-fact problems, I wake up each morning to engineering problems… and its fun. Fun because I love doing what I’m doing.

My frog stories join the dogged drafts of a few maniacs seeking new encounters. And if there’s to be an encounter with the world (and ourselves), then it’s up to us maniacs to do it. The root meaning of the word enthusiasm is enthosiasmos which in Greek translates: to be filled by the gods. I hope you are all filled by the gods this morning!

Book recommendations:

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