Giles Andreae - Author of Giraffes Can't Dance

Chatting with the affable Giles Andreae whose middle name is "success". 

The man who gave us such classics as Giraffes Can't Danceand Rumble in the Junglemust be well on his way to becoming a gazillionaire by now. As well as a celebrated children's author, he's the father of Purple Ronnie, an empire in itself.

Speaking from the UK, Giles Andreae comes across as a likeable fellow who enjoys a good laugh and who feels lucky to be alive and in the position he's in now.

Issue 20Giles Andreae1Giles, an old boy of the ultra élite Eton College, who counts British PM David Cameron as one of his best friends, nearly died when he was at university at Oxford.

He was found to have Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph glands), which was diagnosed late. It took a year or two out of his life but left him with no other legacy than infertility. And it's only testament to his love of children that he now has four of his own.

Aged 20, when he was about to start chemotherapy, he insisted on having his sperm banked to give him the chance of fathering children later.

This was at a time when "test tube babies" were very much a new thing.

"I couldn't, even at that age, imagine not having a family," he says.

Now 46, Giles is the father of a son, 14, twins, aged 12, and a six-year-old.

Purple Ronnie first hit the market in the late 1980s in the form of greeting cards and, later, calendars. Giles describes it as very much university humour in the form of rhymes. "There was a lot of getting drunk and falling over and snogging.

"We used to do a Purple Ronnie calendar with 12 poems for 12 months of the year and each calendar had a different theme," he continues.

"One year I decided to do animals. But my editor read it and said, 'There's no drinking or falling over or snogging in this - it may as well be a children's book."

And that was how Rumble in the Jungle was born - an instant hit.

Since then he's written other stories about animals, because animals, which appear genderless and ageless, make very good subjects when you're trying to tell a story or use them metaphorically.

Rumble came out several years before Giles and his wife Victoria, a children's clothing designer, had their first child, Flinn. And the arrival of kids led to further inspiration - or in some cases desperation - which led to more books.

Once on a long-haul flight, Flinn, then aged three, was behaving "really, really badly", earning disapproving looks from other passengers. What could Giles do?

"I buckled him into his seat and said, 'Right, you're going to listen to this.'"

And he muddled up all his son's favourite things, including pirates and dinosaurs, and came up with something that turned into Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs.

Giles has always loved children. He loves the way they think and says grown-ups would do well to learn from them.

"I always listen very closely to my children. I love the way children look at the world - their natural enthusiasm for life and the assumption that everyone is a friend until proved otherwise." 



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