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The birds of Lori Doody's picture books

Posted by Michelle Porter on

Two mallards, an improbability of puffins, a goose, and a chicken: there’s a story attached to each of the birds Lori Doody imagines into her children’s books.

The Puffin Problem

Doody said she was inspired by the horror-thriller film The Birds (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) when she created the first of two bright and funny bird-based children’s books, The Puffin Problem.

“What would happen in if St. John’s was filled with birds? But you can’t have a scary picture book, so I made them cute birds,” Doody said.

Mallard, Mallard, Moose

The greylag goose who lived with the ducks at Quidi Vidi ten years ago is the same goose who takes the mallards under her wing in Doody’s newest book Mallard, Mallard, Moose.

“I would see this goose now and then, a greylag goose. He was the only one of his kind and he was not native to here. People called him Michael and you would see him with a mallard duck and ducklings. He would police any territorial disputes,” she said.

Doody said she saw another Greylag goose in the area again the week after Easter, following a strong wind that had probably blown the bird off course.

The mention of the menacing chicken in Mallard, Mallard, Moose reveals one of Doody’s deepest childhood fears. “I’m actually deathly afraid of chickens,” said Doody, recalling the chickens at her grandparents house in St. Mary’s Bay.

The chicken appears on just two pages in Mallard, Mallard, Moose, but the mallards, like Doody, are a little afraid of the feathery puffball.

The sighting of a couple of mallards one summer started the book.

“My kids and I were on Torbay Road and we just saw two ducks by a Tim Horton’s. Then the next day there was a moose in our neighbourhood. My son who had just turned eight asked ‘why do animals come into the city?’ I had to explain sometimes it’s for food and sometimes they get lost. And the book just kind of developed from there. In this case they’re just trying to find a home for some ducks who won’t leave them alone,” she said.

Birds who don’t belong

In each of Doody’s books, the birds are out of place at first, and each story finds a different solution to this problem of belonging. That theme, too, has roots in Doody’s life.

“My mother isn’t from St. John’s and she always felt that divide. And I’d always go back and forth from St. John’s to St. Mary’s Bay, so I was very aware that I was from town when I was visiting my cousins and my grandparents. So maybe there’s a little bit of that mixed in,” she said.

  • *a group of puffins: a circus, a parliament, or an improbability
  • a group of ducks (in the water): a raft, a team, a paddling
  • a group of geese: wedge, gaggle, plump
  • a group of (terrifying) chickens: a brood, or a peep