Devin Fan Event Q&A

Thank you to Devin Fan, author of The Barnabus Project, for taking the time to answer questions from our audience after our event on September 1st. Watch the recording of the event by visiting our "For Kids!" events page and scroll down to past events.

How did you come up with the names of the different animals?

Devin: Hi Cassia!  Actually coming up with the names for the creatures was similar to coming up with a name for a pet when you get a new pet.  You have to come up with a name that you think suits their personality and is fun to say.  For me sometimes I just like the way something sounds.  Barnabus is a funny example.  There is a church on Danforth Avenue that I always pass when riding my bike that is called St. Barnabas Church.  I always just loved the name for some reason, so when I created the character I just looked at him and said "Barnabus".  I think I spelled it with a "U" because it reminded me of Barnum and Bailey, the circus names.

Why was the ‘secret lab’ a secret from the public, when the Perfect Pets store is not a secret?

Hunter that's a great question.  That's the kind of question that a writer asks, to make sure everything in their story makes sense.  Maybe you are a writer!  The reason the lab is secret is because the scientists are trying to keep the ways that they have of creating the creatures a secret, or other companies might steal them.  Also, people might not want to shop at the store if they saw all of the creepy stuff that was going on in the lab.  If you saw what was going on in the labs where they design fast food you might not want to eat that either!  Finally, Project X (the big green monster with tentacles) clearly isn't a pet, so what were they making him for??

Why are the pets perfect if they all look so silly?

Well Madeline, I actually like the way the Failed Projects look more than most of the Perfect Pets.  However, people sometimes like the way silly things look.  If you look at a lot of toys you'll notice they mostly have giant eyes and bright colours.  One reason is that for some reason human beings naturally prefer things that look like babies!  However, I agree with you sometimes things end up looking silly when people take something natural and try to make it look perfect.  Sometimes people end up looking silly when they try to make themselves look perfect too!

I think your book is very inspiring and wanted to know if the reason you wrote it was based on your life or just giving a good message?

Thank you William, I'm so glad you found it inspiring.  You know in a way it was based on not just my life but that of my brothers too.  My family is Eurasian meaning we are half Chinese and half European, and long ago when I was growing up that was not common at all and we faced a hard time sometimes because of other people's opinions and actions.  I think the message that I hope you got from the book is that you came into the universe exactly as you were meant to be, and not to judge yourself based on what other people think or see.  All Barnabus' creators could see was that his eyes were too small and that he wasn't fluffy enough.  Could they also see that he was brave and resourceful and compassionate?  Which are the qualities that matter?

Wow, beautiful story. Thank you. How did this idea begin for you?

Thank you so much Loretta, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!  Actually the story started long ago when I was daydreaming about what my perfect pet would be.  I really wanted a miniature elephant that I could pick up and also play with, but realized for him to be that small he'd have to be genetically engineered.  Mixing him with a mouse made sense because they're small and also I thought it was funny because elephants are afraid of mice.  Once I had that idea I drew a picture of him sitting on a box of OXO cubes and Barnabus was born.  This was years and years ago, and recently we started to talk about him again and build his story.  My brother Eric found the original cut-out drawing of Barnabus 30 years after I drew him, hiding in the bottom of a pasta pot!

What is the most unusual pet you've ever had?

Evan I have had so many unusual pets, that’s a hard one!  When I was growing up my dad said I could keep whatever I wanted as long as I took care of it, so my room was full of aquariums with all kinds of creatures in them.  I had a mudpuppy, all kinds of newts, crabs, and every kind of fish.  I also love insects and had a pet scarab beetle and a pet praying mantis and a really cool red and white shrimp named Harvey Christmas.  Probably my favourite though was a Porcupine Puffer fish named Sweetpea.  Sweetpea was more like a dog than a fish, he would get so excited when I came in, he would wag his tail and spit water up at me, if you can believe that!

Which "imperfect pet" resembles your brothers the most?

What an original question!  William I would have to say that my brother Terry reminds me of Stick Two (the blue guy with the big nose), not because Terry has a big nose but because he always has a kind of concerned expression on his face.  Eric would have to be Quirt (the blue guy with the orange belly and bumpy head), not because Eric has a bumpy head but because he stands like Quirt and his eyes remind me of Quirt too!  I hope this won't offend my brothers!

Georgia says the Owl one was her favourite.  What is its name and mix?

Hi Kimberly, I'm glad she likes him, his name is Lowell and he is part lion and part owl.  I have some bad news though, he likes to eat mice!  Maybe you could talk him into eating something nicer.

Where does one buy an axolotl as a pet? Also, do you know children’s author Jess Keating? She would be very interested in this news.

I love the cover of Jess Keating's book, that is indeed a cute Axolotl!  They are actually readily available because despite their rarity in the wild, they breed readily in captivity hence the colour variants and albinos that you commonly see in the pet trade.  The medical community is also breeding Axolotls because they have miraculous healing abilities and can grow back severed limbs etc. I know that Big Al's regularly stocks them.  They are also pretty easy to care for.  One personal word of warning, do not keep them with your pet fire-bellied newt named Isaac Newton because they will try to swallow him whole!  That was pretty traumatic but I rescued Isaac in time so he was okay.