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About Sarah Moller

Tell us about yourself. Who is Sarah?

I was born and grew up in South Africa until I was 9 years old when my family decided to move back to North Yorkshire in the UK. We were sad to leave but excited to move back as we have family in Yorkshire. We still share fond memories of our life back in South Africa everyday.

Growing up in South Africa meant we would spend our weekends outdoors in the sun, sailing, having big braais (BBQs), climbing trees and exploring. When it was stormy weather my brother and I would play indoors building Lego, build dens and play fight...a lot! My brother and I could easily turn a game of hide and seek into a wrestling match.

The idea of Alex Alligator & Friends is borne from my experience of moving from South Africa to England, UK and starting a new school at a young age. I found it difficult to describe to my new classmates what South Africa was like. This is why Alex Alligator has a magic map - he can take his friends to anywhere in the world. If I'd had a magic map I could have shown my new friends what South Africa was like. With Alex's magic magic he can travel with each of his classmates to their favourite place to visit friends and family around the world. 

Starting a new school at a young age is a big transition. I empathise with those moving to a new place and wanting to make friends. I hope the story of Alex Alligator & Friends encourages children to welcome new friendships and help those as they adjust to new beginnings. 

When did you become an Author?

Being an author is new to me, I didn't start out as a writer. I studied Graphic Design at university and enjoyed 3D animation, brand design and website design. I graduated as a graphic designer working in this profession for a few years, then I moved into digital project and product management in 2009 delivering technology projects. My creative side has been fuelled by the creative digital projects I worked on with teams but in recent years I felt a growing desire to make something of my own. 

The story of Alex Alligator had been developing in my imagination over years. I actively started to bring it to through story writing 8 years ago inspired by children's books and animations. I have since attended courses to learn about teaching Phonics, contextual learning, different learning paths, methods to teach reading and how to support children with English as a second language. We learn in different ways and therefore aim to write stories that consider children's differences.  

Seeing children smile as they read Alex Alligator & Friends has brought a whole new level of joy, creativity and energy into my life. 

What means a lot to you?

I value spending time with my family and visiting friends & family around the world. I enjoy encouraging individuals to develop their ideas and nurture their interests/ hobbies. I absolutely love spending time with children, hearing their wild and wonderful stories and imaginative ideas- we can learn a lot from them. 

How do you know Jo?

We were delightfully introduced by our creative friend, Leanne Pearce, who is a portrait artist and studied illustration with Jo. We share a huge passion for children's stories and illustration, and have wild imaginations so this is why Leanne suggested Jo and I work together on my Alex Alligator & Friends story. Thank you, Leanne!

What is it like working together?

Fun!!! Jo is an extremely talented human and inspirational to work with. Each time one of her illustrations for the book flashes up on my phone in a text I'm so excited to look at it. She always hides little details which are my favourite thing to find.  Jo is also a wonderfully kind and thoughtful person. She's full of life which beams through her work.  

Why did you want to create this story?

Alex Alligator is a part of me. He wants to help his new friends visit their family around the world and learn about their lives. He also wants to try every sport and hobby under the sun. I hope the story may encourage children to explore interests and new hobbies, and to learn about their classmates, particularly those that are new. Through this story, children learn about families, friendship, geography, animal habitats, hobbies, helping each other and importance of diversity and overcoming challenges together.  It means a lot to me if this story encourages children to welcome one another.

What do you like most about the book?

The unique personality traits of each animal character and how they have been brought to life through Jo's illustrations. This has been the most enjoyable part of the experience so far. Researching animal traits, listing what hobbies match their traits and seeing Jo draw postures and positions, face expressions and movement to depict these has been very exciting. Jo's creativity in each drawing is a joy to see.

What surprised you while working on the book?

Learning interesting facts about each animal, such as how alligators are nocturnal, otters keep a stone for life and moose like swim! I wanted to learn their animal traits so that I could match hobbies to their traits e.g Alex Alligator loves astronomy, Ollie Otter loves juggling, Mo Moose loves a good swim. 

What do you hope to happen when this book is launched?

I hope children enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed making it. I also hope it excites and encourages children to learn different hobbies and to be open to meeting new people from around the world.

Why do you think this book could have a positive impact?

It is a story that reflects today's world. Travel is common place now and we are becoming more open about sharing our experiences. I hope it will help children to celebrate the importance of family, their friends and sharing their experiences about where they are from. Respecting one another's differences and being helpful to one another.

What's next?

Writing and illustrating the next books in the series. There are 26 characters in Alex's class, one for each letter of the alphabet. The next storynook is about Felix Fox,who takes Alex Alligator & Friends to Italy to find the best ice cream 'gelato' in the world.  The following book is about Betsy Bee who shows Alex her mum's hive in Yorkshire in England and how she loves to breakdance and beatbox! Then it's Dilly Duck, who takes Alex to visit his family in Denmark who learns they all love flying and singing in the rain. We look forward to many adventures with Alex Alligator & Friends. 

Read Jo de Ruiter's interview here