Video: Fifteen years in the making - how Norwich author wrote and published a children’s book for his daughter’s 18th birthday gift

Author Doug Vallgren and children at Nightingale First School enjoying Doug's book, Rupert the Dinosaur, which he has had printed for his daughter Sophia's 18th birthday. Picture: Denise Bradley Author Doug Vallgren and children at Nightingale First School enjoying Doug's book, Rupert the Dinosaur, which he has had printed for his daughter Sophia's 18th birthday. Picture: Denise Bradley

Thursday, March 6, 2014
6:30 AM

What do you get for your daughter’s 18th birthday?

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Rupert the Dinosaur by Doug Vallgren, and illustrator Karl Newson, which Doug has had printed for his daughter Sophia's 18th birthday. Picture: Denise BradleyRupert the Dinosaur by Doug Vallgren, and illustrator Karl Newson, which Doug has had printed for his daughter Sophia's 18th birthday. Picture: Denise Bradley

It’s a dilemma that millions of puzzled parents have wrestled with. And it’s a fair bet that few, if any, have matched the gift handed over by Douglas Vallgren.

For the doting father put pen to paper to write a book - based on the story that he invented for Sophie when she was three.

The retired insurance worker recruited the help of artist Karl Newson and after a nine-month collaboration they brought Rupert the Dinosaur to life and are now on their second print run.

The quirky tale prompts children to think about evolution as it follows the story of generations of dinosaurs.

Author Douglas Vallgren (right) published the book Rupert the Dinosaur for his daughter Sophie (middle) as an 18th birthday present, with the help of illustrator Karl Newson (left).Author Douglas Vallgren (right) published the book Rupert the Dinosaur for his daughter Sophie (middle) as an 18th birthday present, with the help of illustrator Karl Newson (left).

Mr Vallgren, who used to work at Aviva and lives in The Avenues, Norwich, said: “Sophie used to have a favourite book and after the 100th time of reading it I remember saying ‘oh no, not that again’.

“She challenged me to make up a story myself and so I did and I kept telling that story.

“Then last year I thought, what do you get an 18 year old for her birthday? I didn’t want to get another laptop, or a phone that could get broken or a camera that could get lost.

“I wanted to get something special rather than the usual driving lessons.”

The 58 year old decided it would be easiest to publish the book himself, and use Norwich printer, The Really Useful Print Company. Norwich’s Jarrold and The Bookhive are among local outlets which are now selling the book, and the pair hope to collaborate on another three Rupert the Dinosaur books.

He said: “Sophie’s birthday was last August and the book went down really well.

“With the encouragement of family and friends I decided to look into seeing if I could get it published. As Sophie is also just finishing her A-levels I thought it would be a good thing for us to work on together and to share the business experience with my daughter, who is helping with the marketing.”

The project was also a step into the unknown for illustrator Karl Newson, who Mr Vallgren found through the Beast! Norwich illustrators group.

Mr Newson, of Magpie Road, said: “It was definitely a learning project for both of us. Although I had never done it before I was confident it could be achieved. I had a collection of books on how to make picture books.”

Mr Newson, who has given up his day job at a call centre and is working as an illustrator and artist, said his sons Ben, 10, and Jack, seven, had taken an eager interest in the book, even helping by colouring in some of the drafts and giving him new ideas.

Yesterday, the author and illustrator visited Taverham’s Nightingale First School to talk to pupils about how they created the book.

Headteacher Jacqui Loughlin said pupils and staff would also be donning fancy dress for World Book Day today and added: “It’s about stimulating the children’s writing and hearing the stories about how the illustrator and the writer put the book together.”

Today Mr Vallgren and Mr Newson are also paying a visit to Norwich’s Parkside School for World Book Day.

■ Have you bought or received an unusual birthday present? Email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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