Althea Braithwaite

My story so far ….

As a child, I liked writing stories, and also organising others into writing for "my newspaper". However I never expected it to be my career. I loved photography, and hoped to go to college to study it. Circumstances made that impossible, and instead I became a secretary, and eventually ended up running a printing company.

My first books were the result of a silly conversation. My first husband was away for a couple of weeks, learning to operate a new printing machine that we were buying. Talking on the phone one evening, I said I was feeling bored, so Mike suggested I write a book. When I asked what about, he said "a giraffe". When I asked where to begin, he answered "in the middle". A silly conversation, but at the print works the next morning, I came across a box of strips of yellow paper. It made me think that if I were to draw a giraffe in black on yellow paper, it wouldn't need to be coloured in. So I wrote a story about the friendship between a giraffe and an ant, the first illustration being the middle of a giraffe's neck. I was really enjoying myself, and next I found a box of strips of grey paper, so I wrote a story about an elephant called Benjamin.

My main character Desmond came about because I have a carving of a dinosaur that I bought at an exhibition. He's carved out of oak and looks very miserable. I decided that if you were a dinosaur living many millions after your proper time, it might be difficult to make friends, and you would be sad and lonely.

About a year later in a crazy moment, we decided it would be fun to print and try and sell my books, this led on to our starting the publishing company Dinosaur Publications. Our son Duncan was born in 1968 and at that time there were few factual books for very young children. I learnt that if I told him about something before it happened, such as having an injection, he was stoic and accepting. I started to write books to explain new situations. I gave him Hospital (written 1973, updated in 2000) before his tonsillectomy, and he was totally calm about going into hospital, but later complained that his throat was sorer than I said it would be! Over the years I have written a large number of books to help children cope with new situations or difficult problems. I always enjoy doing the research with children; they tell me what is important.

I am no longer a publisher, we sold Dinosaur Publications to Harper Collins in 1984 and for a while I wrote for other publishers, while having time to travel. My husband Edward and I spent two-and-a-half years in Europe in the 90's, and in 2000 we had 10 months travelling around Australia. The majority of my books are now out of print, but if you are looking for a particular title I may be able to supply it. I have very few of the original titles left now, and need to keep a copy or two as I am now a grandmother!

In the autumn of 2003 I acquired a kiln and started another venture, working with glass, fusing and slumping it to make dishes, as well as making fused glass windows to commission. It has quickly become an obsession, with new ideas buzzing in my head all the time.

desmond the dinosaur oak sculpturecover of book desmond and the monsterscover of book hospitalblue glass dishstained glass window Shouldham