When I first met up with my editor, Pauliina Malinen, I'd been wanting to write and draw a book about dinosaurs, and she had the idea of adding the 'police' element to it; her son loves cops-and-robbers stories, and she could think of hardly any recent books on the theme. Part of me thought, Yay! Fun action adventure! And part of me felt nervous. There have been a lot of horrifying police stories in the news lately (such as this one), about police taking advantage of their power and abusing or killing people. I wondered, are nice grandmas really going to want to buy a police story as a gift for their grandkid, or are people going to shy away from the theme? I thought, well, I can just focus on the dinosaur side of thing and brush the police element under the carpet when I try to promote the book. Hmm...
But then I had second thoughts. Actually, we NEED stories about police who are better than the ones in the news stories. Kids need to realise that police brutality isn't the norm, and if they want to be a police officer, they don't go into it to beat up people but to look after the community. If kids only hear stories of police shooting tasers at people, it won't draw the kind, caring ones into the profession when they grow up, just the bullies. Bad police officers need brought to justice, but good stories about good, professional police offers are important, too.
Dinosaur Police isn't an 'issue book'. It's a fun romp, with chases, and construction equipment and a Pterodactyl air squad. It's something I hope will get kids excited so they can go play Cops & Robbers inspired by this kind of story. The baddie T-Rex isn't an evil mastermind, he's silly, and very naughty when he gets over-excited and hungry. But his actions cause a lot of damage and problems for the community and he needs to be stopped.
The Dinosaur Police have a history with Trevor the T-Rex: he's been naughty before, and so they know what works with him, even though they still make mistakes. When they catch him, they don't send him to jail, he ends up doing community service to make amends for his crimes. But this is a lively picture book, and I hope kids will like to see the creative way the mayor comes up with a work plan for him!
My studio mates and I actually work right next to a police station - close enough to holler out the window if we need them - and we've often heard their sirens and seen them in the station eating their little pots of yoghurt. Our building is the former police station, but it wasn't equipped for modern policing, so it's full of artist studios now. In fact, the building itself doesn't have a very nice history - bad things happened in decades past, particularly to black people - and I'm glad it's not used for that any more.
The building even still has the old jail cells. Here's Gary Northfield and Viviane Schwarz in one of them. They often get used now for art installations and one's rumoured to be haunted.
When the three of us first moved into the studio, we called our studio the Fleece Station, because it was in a police station and we were all making comics about sheep at the time (Vern and Lettuce, Derek the Sheep and The Sleepwalkers).
And animal police pop up at the end of Vern and Lettuce. So it wasn't all that surprising I came out with a book about animal police. (And dinosaurs are very cool animals.)
Here's a new banner for my public Facebook page, if you'd like to add me there and get updates. And I hope you like the story!