It is often said that the best fiction comes from stories
that really happen. Lucy Dobkins found that to be true when she wrote her latest
book, Daddy, There's a Hippo in the Grapes. The basis of the story came
from a little-heard news report about how the Kenyan government had declared a
need for farmers to clear portions of their land to dedicate to the production
of grapes. The report stated that despite government orders, the farmers could
not produce enough grapes to support the country's thriving wine business
because zebras, birds, giraffes, monkeys, and especially hippos were
ravishing the vineyards.
Dobkins began considering the story and how it might be
entertaining for children. So she checked into the background of the news report
and researched the “Kenyan dilemma.”
Everything was going very smoothly and really the book
was turning out to be a lot of fun until I had gotten all the jungle animals
into the vineyard. Then I hit a snag. Despite all the research I'd done
regarding the grapes, the animals, and Kenya, I was not any better at
finding a solution for getting the animals out of the vineyard than the
government officials and farmers in Kenya.
Eventually she called upon Kent Newton, animal curator of the
Rio Grande Zoo. Together they discussed the problem facing the Kenyan farmers.
She watched the animals closely and asked questions about their behavioral
patterns until she could finally come up with a plausible solution to rid the
vineyards of the jungle animals.
Lucy Dobkins always takes an interesting approach to writing
her children's books. With titles such as China Run, Murder in
Mexico, and The UFO and the Japanese Cowboys, we assume that Daddy,
There's a Hippo in the Grapes is the only one she used first-hand research
A former teacher, counselor, and principal for the
Albuquerque Public School system, Ms. Dobkins has twenty-five years of teaching
experience behind her that account for her creativity and ability to keep
children's interest. She holds a master's in guidance and counseling and a
doctorate in education administration. She enjoys her retirement in the
southwest, where she continues to write for children and is an active member of
the Society of Children's Book Writers and the Mystery Writers of America.