Great Yarmouth grandmother’s cast of animal characters delight young readers
12:37 12 January 2013
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2013
HUMPHREY Hippo and his cast of animal friends have risen to fame, after they were brought to life by a Great Yarmouth grandmother.
For Sue Ellis, 65, has achieved her lifelong ambition of becoming a published author after a chance meeting at her son’s wedding.
Her collection of 14 poems - called Humphrey Hippo and Friends - features fun adventures with Humphrey, Bertha Pig, Duncan Dragon and Grace Giraffe among others.
Sue has always been a writer, but said while she was raising her family there was never time for it to be more than a hobby.
But after an introduction to a publishing contact at her son’s wedding last year, things fell into place.
“I spoke to them and they liked the poems straight away,” revealed Sue, who lives next to the Elizabethan House Museum. “It all took off from there. It feels amazing - who would have thought it.
“It’s my dream come true and it just came to me out of the blue.”
The mother-of-three, who lives with husband Dave, 68, not only penned the poems but did the illustrations and is making clay figures of the animals for Humphrey’s future outings.
And it all came naturally to Sue, who is secretary of Yarmouth writing group Quill, and a member of Broadlanders Art Club.
She said most of her writing is done while watching the TV, and it took nine months from meeting the publisher to being published - on December 5 last year.
“The poem comes first then I do research about the animal then adapt it,” explained Sue, who uses Susie as her pen name. “There’s research into how it looks - you can’t just invent it. I draw it the way I like it drawn.”
Her poems are best described as moral tales that children can relate to, such as porky protagonist Humphrey getting stuck in a bath and requiring help from his friends.
“There are little lessons to reassure children about things like going to the doctors,” added Sue. “I like to think I’m getting through to children.”
In another poem Billy Elephant must learn a new circus trick when he stands in at the last minute, and Bertha Pig escapes from her farm.
And Sue said she has started to build a giant ‘Humphrey Hippo Land’ out of chicken wire and papier mache after curious youngsters started to ask where Humphrey is from.
The grand vision will feature woods, safari park, circus, farm and an area for baby dragons - and further books are in the pipeline, possibly featuring photos of the figurines instead of watercolour and gouache paintings.
“My family are all really proud of me and pleased and are congratulating me,” said Sue. “All the grandchildren are waiting for my book.”
Sue has been writing since she was a teenager, and has dedicated the book to her late aunt Freda who inspired her to use her talent - telling her she “must always write”.
Humphrey Hippo and Friends by Susie Ellis is available from www.waterstones.com priced £16,99 in hardback and £8.99 in paperback.
Sue will be reading her poems to children at Yarmouth library on February 21, from 10.30am. Invitations have been sent to local schools.
Sue has thanked all her family and friends for support, and has hailed Kirsten Ash-Powell at Draigon Farm Publishers for helping her become a published author.