“I spent Monday and Tuesday climbing volcanos with gorillas and it’s taking me a while to get used to being back here,” Lauren St John warned her audience before starting her talk. Arno Bryant reports.
Coming from anyone else this disclaimer might be more surprising, but given the incredible life Lauren leads, it seems to strike the parents and children at Kitson Hall as remarkably unextraordinary.
Lauren was raised on a game reserve in Zimbabwe, surrounded by animals including her now notorious pet giraffe, Jenny. She then moved to the UK where she wrote a number of non-fiction books while working as the Sunday Times‘ golfing correspondent.
While Christmas shopping in 2004, she was struck by the inspiration for her first children’s book, The White Giraffe.
“Out of nowhere, an image of a girl riding a giraffe popped into my head and right there the whole story just came into my mind, even the girl’s name; Martine.”
After scribbling the idea down, she thought she’d leave it to turn into a picture book someday, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the girl on the giraffe. She finally allowed herself to start writing the book and found that “it just poured out of me… the whole book was finished in a month.”
Although it would take Lauren more than a year to find a publisher, The White Giraffe was a big success, scooping up a number of awards.
She has since written four more books in the series, launching a career as a children’s author. Her Laura Marlin Mysteries follow the curious adventures of a young orphan from Cornwall.
Throughout her books, there is a strong theme of environmentalism and animal conservation, both issues very close to Lauren’s heart.
“Animal conservation has been my passion,” Lauren, who also works as an ambassador for the wildlife charity Born Free, explains. “Growing up on an animal reserve, me and my family would rescue lots of wild animals.
“My generation hasn’t done a good job of looking after the planet and it’s really critical that children grow up wanting to do something to make things better. What I find beautiful about writing for children is that they are so naturally compassionate and caring towards animals and we all have to nurture that love of the environment so they’ll continue it.”