AN author who swapped classrooms for the countryside has turned the unexpected premature birth of an alpaca she owns into a children’s book.
Carole Burn owns the Prince Bishop Alpacas of Durham, in Headlam, County Durham, and was inspired to write Horace The Miracle Alpaca based on the baby alpaca’s fight for survival after he was born 40 days early, last summer.
The usual gestation for an alpaca pregnancy is 11-and-a-half months.
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Mrs Burn spent three days and nights in a shed with Horace and his mother, feeding the tiny animal by hand and keeping him wrapped in blankets to prevent hypothermia as he was too weak to stand, suckle or hold his own head up.
After he found his feet and was strong enough to join the rest of the herd, Mrs Burn used the scenario to write the first book in a series of five, aimed at children aged five to eight, based on a theme of ‘never give up’.
Before moving back to her native County Durham in 2012, Mrs Burn was a therapeutic programme manager at a residential special school for children in permanent care in Aberdeen, Scotland, delivering anger management and cognitive skills.
She said: “I realised we were struggling to find meaningful resources to give social and emotional guidance to children who had no social interaction with parents.
“As soon as we started looking after the alpacas, I noticed the herd dynamic was the same as that of a family.
“I thought I can combine this lack of resource with what I am seeing here to deliver a meaningful message.
“Children seem to respond well to animals.”
At certain points in each book, the reader is encouraged to stop and reflect on what is happening in the story.
Horace The Miracle Alpaca was published two weeks ago, illustrated by Somang Lee, and is on sale at Waterstones, in Durham City, and Northallerton, and through the Prince Bishop Alpacas website.
Plans are already afoot for the next two novels, which will focus on bullying and embracing differences.
Meanwhile, Mrs Burn is inviting schools and community groups to attend educational sessions at the alpaca farm and will host the first school visit, from Middleton-in-Teesdale Primary School, on Tuesday (July 1).
For information on visiting the facility, or to buy the book, visit princebishopalpacas.co.uk or call 01325-733272.