Tag Archives: Adventure school

A blustery day, a busy day, a brimming with poetry day in Wellington

Four things today and not much sleep.

But it was just wonderful. A warm welcome at Brooklyn School in a mini hall packed with nearly all the school. The hour and poems whizzed by and the poems we made up were delicious, inventive, playful.

20141017-192813-70093749.jpg

Next up Ngaio School to work Y5 and 6 classes with their bounding vocabularies and simmering imaginations. Again wonderful poems taking shape. Afterwards I had lunch with the group of students I had a NZ Book Council Skype session with while I listened to their polished poems. I have got used to reading poems from The a Letterbox Cat but not The Treasury yet. So many to choose from. Bernice had made a divine sandwich for my lunch with a green-goddess dressing. Just what I needed after not much sleep.

Third stop was Adventure School in Whitby where I got to visit Room 1 and see their cool popcorn poems. I even got a present made by the Lovewell
Family. A bag of homemade word biscuits to make into a poem and then eat! I have photographed the poem I made.

Final stop Porirua Library to read poems to children and parents. We even made a poem up as a gift for the library. There is an a m a z I n g librarian here and her name is Bee. She is full of the joy of books and ready to share it in her children’s section. Such a lovely, warm atmosphere. She even took me out for a cup of tea and an everything-slice (the best!).

I was sad to leave everywhere because I had such fun in each place.

But I am glad to get out a book and have an extra quiet night.

Tomorrow I am at The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie at 10.30. Come and say hello.

20141017-194034-70834105.jpg

20141017-194034-70834873.jpg

20141017-194034-70834352.jpg

20141017-194034-70834631.jpg

The Treasury Interviews: The Sharks from Adventure School interview Elena de Roo

20140925_145235_resized 20140925_145515_resized

The Sharks are a reading group in Room 1 at Adventure School in Whitby. They love to read and write and listen to stories and poems. They also love to run, swim and go on the classroom iPads. There is a photo of the whole class and a photo of The Sharks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Elena de Roo: When she was growing up Elena went to seven different primary schools all around NZ but has lived in Auckland since she was eleven. She likes chips and ice cream (far too much and occasionally together) and has a tortoiseshell cat that sits on her knee and purrs while she writes. Elena writes poems, picture books and quirky stories and has just finished a fantasy novel.

 

The Interview:

We love The Rain Train! What is your favourite book that you have written?

Just between you, The Rain Train is definitely one of my favourites too. It was the first picture book I ever had published. I was SO excited when I found out, one Guy Fawkes night, that it had been accepted by Walker Books Australia. I wrote it on a rainy night when everyone else was asleep and I wouldn’t change any of it. Brian Lovelock (the illustrator) very kindly let me choose my favourite illustration from it to keep. It was very hard to decide, but in the end I picked the one where the train steams over the viaduct.

My eldest daughter likes the Ophelia Wild series best and made me promise to dedicate all of them to her.

We like making poems that rhyme. Is it very hard to write a whole chapter book in rhyme?

Yes, it takes much longer to write it in rhyme than it would in prose, but Ophelia’s story just seemed to start off that way. And (like most things) the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve learnt to make sure I have the plot worked out first so I don’t write lots that has to be changed later. Also, going over and over a couple of lines in your head to make them sound the best you can, is a good way to get to sleep at night.

Do all of your stories rhyme?

No, I’ve written some plays, short stories and poems that don’t rhyme and I’ve just finished a fantasy novel.

How many awards have you won for poetry? Do you have one that is very special?

I’ve won three awards, but the most special was the Todd New Writers’ Bursary because this meant I could spend a whole delicious year at home writing poems.

If you wrote a book for the Royal Family, what would it be about?

That’s a tricky one. I live next door to Cornwall Park and there are lots of lambs bleating for their mothers at the moment, so maybe I’d write a book about a lamb called George who loses his bleat and the trouble this gets him into.

p.s. When I was little I loved the poem ‘The King’s Breakfast’ by A. A. Milne.

What happens if you get sick, and you can’t write?

That almost happened when I was writing Zombie Pox (in Ophelia Wild Deadly Detective). I had a deadline to meet and I was horribly behind schedule because I’d procrastinated so much about starting to write the story, and then I got sick as well. I couldn’t sleep at night because I had a horrible cough, so I ended up writing through the night and taking naps during the day for a week or two. Maybe it helped my writing because I was writing about Ophelia being sick too.

Did you have any poems or stories published when you were at school?

When I was nine or ten, I won a competition for writing a poem about the mountain near our town. It was published in the local newspaper and the prize was some movie tickets.

 

Note from Paula: Thanks for the wonderful interview Elena and The Sharks. What great questions and what great answers.  Elena has lots of poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children because she is one of my favourite poets. Her poems are good to read aloud because she really knows how to use her ears when she writes. I also love her Rain Train book because it sounds so good! Her latest book is called The Name at the End of the Ladder (Walker Books). I am taking that on my Hot Spot Poetry Tour.

22529905         51LpNDrxDRL._AA160_       1324339101015

The Treasury Interviews: Some students from Room 8 at Adventure School interview Richard Langston

 

IMG6622 IMG5720

The interviewers are all in Room 8 at Adventure School in Porirua and are aged between 8 and 9. They are in the Lions Reading Group.

Thomas Nicholson lives in Whitby, Wellington with two kittens and a little brother. He goes to Adventure School. He likes watching movies, especially How To Train Your Dragon 2.

Connor Miller lives in Wellington, NZ. He is an only child, and goes to Adventure School. He likes playing Star Wars Battlefront, and lying in bed. His favourite food is pasta.

Samuel Straachen lives in a house with two cats, a father, a mother and a sister. He goes to Adventure School and is interested in creative writing. When he grows up he wants to be an architect, or to work for Microsoft Computer Security.

Tiyani Mathur is from NZ. She likes to play on her computer. She loves black, and hates pink. She can be very noisy. In her spare time, Tiyani enjoys playing with her baby mini-lop rabbit, Elia.

Caleb Paynter lives in Whitby with his older brother, dog Teddy, and bunny named Bounce. He enjoys playing with his friends, and is mad about computer games.

Matthias Bentley is a Dr Who fanatic, who has a lot of friends. He loves to play rugby. Matthias was born in England, but now lives in Wellington. When he grows up, he wants to be an All Black.

Gemma Lovewell is world famous in Whitby for her book Our Big Box and short story ‘The Breeze.’ She loves to read, enjoys fantasy, and is completely obsessed with School of Dragons.

 

 

RL portrait shot for Waiting Room

Richard Langston

Richard Langston was born sometime ago in a small town and then moved to a big town where there was a newspaper office, a radio station, and a television station. He went to work at all three while magically producing three children and five books of poetry. His daughter who is 14 also writes poems, but does not like to talk about it.

 

The Interview:

When did you start writing poems?

I started reading poetry when I was in my twenties. I read poetry from New Zealand and then from the USA. I discovered a poem could make something happen in your head, as you read the words they became action in your head. It was as if someone had made a little film. The poem I’m thinking about is called ‘Loss’ by A.R. Ammons, and at the end of this poem you can see and feel flower petals floating off a stem. You might like to Google the poem, and see if you like it. I liked reading poetry so much I thought I would try and write some.

 

Where did you learn to write poetry?

Whatever I’ve learned has come from the poets I’ve read. I try and read a poem each day. I like to wake up and read one, and I always take a book of poems with me when I’m travelling. You can read poems so quickly – that appeals to me. You can enter a whole different world in a poem. I have had help along the way from some poets, including one of our best, Brian Turner. He showed me I needed to edit my poems, cut words out. I was using too many of them. He told me always to remember a poem is about ‘sound and sense.’

 

What was your first published poem? Was it inspired by your work as a reporter?

I think my first published poem was called ‘A Dead Dolphin Writes Home.’ I was out walking on a beach and came across the bones of a dolphin, at least I thought it was dolphin. I imagined that dolphin writing home to its mother. It was published in the university student newspaper in Dunedin, ‘Critic.’ A friend told me he thought it was rather strange. So it wasn’t inspired by my work as a reporter, but as an observer.

 

What were the best and worst things about being a TV reporter?

The best thing is you travel to lots of places and meet lots of people. It can be exciting. I’ve taken many trips in helicopters to report on the news, to plane crashes, to the grounding of the Cook Strait ferry, and even from Wellington to the Christchurch to report on the earthquake. I got to meet the Prince of Tonga and interview him in his palace. I got shot at once in a country called East Timor. That was a bit too exciting! The worst thing is you see people in distress and pain.

 

You wrote a lot of poems because of the Christchurch Earthquakes. Do you have a “standout” poem from this time?

I did write 13 poems about the earthquake. They are small poems about an enormous event. The one I like the best is ‘The No.3 Bus’ because it was about something so ordinary, yet something that could cost you your life that day. There’s another one about two survivors called ‘Two Voices.’ I interviewed the people in the poem and they told the most amazing story of helping each other survive for 22 hours while trapped in the wreckage of a building.

 

What famous book do you wish had been written by you?

The Oxford Dictionary – then I would be very well equipped!

 

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would go to Greece. I went there once and it was blue and white. Those are my favourite colours. And they had olives.

 

Do you write more for other people, or for yourself?

I write, hopefully, for both. I write lots of poems that stay in my notebook, so we could say those ones are for me. I keep them as a record of what I was trying to write at the time.

 

Which of your five published books of poetry is your favourite, or which are you most proud of?

The one I like the best is the second one, Henry, Come See the Blue because it has poems about people and summer, and about where I live, Island Bay, in Wellington. I also like one I wrote about reporters called The Newspaper Poems.

 

Did you ever learn any different languages? If so, what?

No, but I wish I had. Maori and French would be my choices. I’ve learned a smidgen of Maori working for Maori television, and working with Maori journalists. Maori sounds like tui talking – it makes beautiful sounds.

 

What inspires you to write?

A moment I want to record, or re-imagine. Writing a poem can be a lot of fun. Occasionally you can surprise yourself with how the poem turns out. Mine often come out of a mixture of memory and imagination. I recently had one published on a writer’s website about something very simple: a memory of my father (who died seven years ago) opening jars. Here it is:

 

Jars

Our mother would say,

‘This blessed thing is stuck,

can you open it?’

 

He made a particular sound

a particular grimace,

our father opening jars.

 

He would say, ‘only

a circus strongman or I

could’ve opened it’.

 

I just said that

after my wife handed me

a jar, I opened it

 

with a particular sound

a particular grimace.

Out popped our father.

 

Thank you for asking such good questions, I enjoyed answering them. Richard Langston.

 Note from Paula: Thanks Richard and the Room 8 interviewers. Richard has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Two of them are about his daughter Milly and definitely don’t have too many words — just the right mix for sound and sense!

 

 

 

The Treasury Interviews: The Lions from Adventure School interview Robert Sullivan

The Interviewers:

IMG6622

IMG5720

The Lions Reading Group is in Year 4 at Adventure School in Porirua

Thomas Nicholson lives in Whitby, Wellington with two kittens and a little brother. He goes to Adventure School. He likes watching movies, especially How To Train Your Dragon 2.

Connor Miller lives in Wellington, NZ. He is an only child, and goes to Adventure School. He likes playing Star Wars Battlefront, and lying in bed. His favourite food is pasta.

Samuel Straachen lives in a house with two cats, a father, a mother and a sister. He goes to Adventure School and is interested in creative writing. When he grows up he wants to be an architect, or to work for Microsoft Computer Security.

Tiyani Mathur is from NZ. She likes to play on her computer. She loves black, and hates pink. She can be very noisy. In her spare time, Tiyani enjoys playing with her baby mini-lop rabbit, Elia.

Caleb Paynter lives in Whitby with his older brother, dog Teddy, and bunny named Bounce. He enjoys playing with his friends, and is mad about computer games.

Matthias Bentley is a Dr Who fanatic, who has a lot of friends. He loves to play rugby. Matthias was born in England, but now lives in Wellington. When he grows up, he wants to be an All Black.

Gemma Lovewell is world famous in Whitby for her book “Our Big Box” and short story “The Breeze”. She loves to read, enjoys fantasy, and is completely obsessed with School of Dragons.

 

Robert Sullivan (Ngāpuhi)

IMG_3447

 

Robert Sullivan, is an author, poet, anthologist and teacher. He is Head of the Creative Writing Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. He has written a number of collections of poetry and has mostly recently edited an anthology of Māori poetry with Reina Whaiti (Puna Wai Kōrero). He has also written an award winning collection of Māori legends for children.

 

The Interview

What makes a poem a poem?

That’s a really good question. I think if the poet says it’s a poem then that’s a good start. Some poets write a poem as if it’s a concrete mixer churning away, and others write like they’re rap stars or hip hop artists, and others stick poems on fridges. Poems are everywhere you want them to be, and everything you want them to be.

Do you have other people who help you to write?

When I started to write I used to show my poems to friends. We started up a writing group, and then we started to publish our own journal which was really cool.

Do you use your Irish heritage in your writing, as well as Maori?

I do a little bit, mainly because I like to read some of the Irish poets and so their ideas pop up sometimes in my writing.

Do you write for a particular age group?

I mainly write for adults, and also for my family which range in age from my nieces and nephews who are quite a bit younger than me right up to my grandparents.

What setting do you need to come up with poems? Do you do your writing or thinking in any unusual places?

The best place for me to write is in my mother’s village in the Bay of Islands—I can feel close to my ancestors up there. Otherwise, I write at home in Auckland, but imagine I’m writing in the village at my grandfather’s place.

Did you ever do a job that didn’t involve writing?

I used to be a librarian—I loved that job. I also used to sell vacuum cleaners which was my very first job.

Did you always like poetry?

Pretty much!

When you started writing poetry at 18 years old, did you have any favourite poems to inspire you?

There was a poem I admired written by Nissim Ezekiel called ‘Night of the Scorpion’—I was 12, and read it out loud in a speech contest at school. That was my first understanding of the power of a poem, especially when it is read out loud.

Did you continue writing poems when you worked in Hawaii?

Yes. My book Voice Carried My Family was finished in Hawaii, plus a few other books.

What are your hobbies?

Astronomy. I have a new telescope so I’ve seen the rings of Saturn. I like playing badminton and tennis too.

What would you choose to write about, if you only got to write one poem?

The meaning of life so it would be a very long poem.

What does your writing format look like when you begin – do you plan your work? If so, how?

My poetry is organic. I get a line, or an image, and start from there—it either grows and grows, or it stays close to that first line or image. I wrote a very long poem called ‘Captain Cook in the Underworld’ and that one was planned out in three acts like a play as it was also sung like a short opera with singers and an orchestra.

What is the best thing about teaching creative writing?

The students!

Thanks Robert and The Lions for a terrific interview. Great questions and great answers.

1411441130757 1400029186996 books

The Treasury Interviews: Daniel interviews Claire Gummer

The Interviewer:

Daniel

Bio about Daniel Lovewell: Daniel Lovewell is 5 years old and lives in Porirua with his whole family. His favourite things in the world are books and cats and books about cats. He started reading when he was two years old and started writing poems when he was four. He also loves music and is going to be very famous one day.

 Claire Gummer

037 Parnell1_Maureen

Claire Gummer lives in Auckland with her partner, some chickens and a small dog. She has worked on newspapers, for publishing houses, in a bookshop and in libraries. She enjoys words, west coast beaches, bush, the back yard and blogging.

(www.EggVenturous.blogspot.com, http://www.LibraryLatitude.blogspot.com)

 

 

The Interview

How do you get your ideas?

I go for a walk and I look very hard all around me, especially at the small things.

Where do you do your work? Do you write at a desk?

I like to think I can work anywhere, and take my work with me. Sometimes I run away to a library where I know nobody. But more often I am at home in my very messy room, sitting at my desk where I can look out the window.

What was your favourite hobby when you were a child?

Having adventures on the beach and in the bush. Being an explorer.

My favourite poem right now is ‘Cat Naps’ by Paula Green. Can you remember your favourite poem from when you were a child? What is your favourite now?

I had favourite books of poems. One of them was ‘Oh, What Nonsense!’ It had a bright orange cover, very shiny, and the poem I most remember from it was about an old lady who tidied the beach: she swept it with a broom. Another favourite book was The Golden Treasury of Poetry, a bit like the new Treasury of NZ Poems for Children only less colourful. Plus it had no New Zealand poems in it!

My favourite poem now – well, I’ve found several new favourites in the Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. ‘The Sapling Tree’ by Richard Langston is one I really like: it’s long and thin just like a new young tree. And all of Sue Wootton’s poems that are in the book, especially ‘The Second-hand Tent’. Most of hers were published first in The School Journal, which is a more wonderful magazine than I ever realised.

How long does it take to turn a story into a published book?

I haven’t written a whole book, but I know a bit about getting one published because I’ve been an editor and a bookseller. It can take months or years. People think it’s all finished once the story is written, but then there is a lot of care and attention from a whole team of people, so that the story or the collection of poems looks the best it can and has as many readers as possible. Sometimes the people working on the book have arguments about it! But usually they get there in the end.

If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

I would live in a lighthouse. Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to live in the old Bean Rock Lighthouse, which is way out at sea in the Waitemata Harbour of Auckland. It still warns ships about the reef that it stands on, though nobody has lived there for ages: the light comes on automatically these days. But I like to think of living up there above the wild waves, with the smell of the sea. I’d take a boat to town to get what I needed now and then.

I would be an elephant. Partly because it would be very useful to have a trunk, but also because all that elephant poo must be really good for the garden. And it’s hard to argue with an elephant.

 

 

What a wonderful interview Claire and Daniel. I really loved reading this. You might be interested to know Claire helped edit A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and she has two poems in the book that are rather lovely.

The Treasury Interviews: The Sharks Reading Group at Adventure School interviews Janice Marriot

20140925_145515_resized

20140925_145235_resized

The Sharks are a reading group in Room 1 at Adventure School in Whitby. They love to read and write and listen to stories and poems. They also love to run, swim and go on the classroom iPads. There is a photo of Room 1 followed by a photo of The Sharks.

 

photo

Janice Marriot Janice likes to write stories, articles and poems for children of all ages.  You can find some of her stories, poems, and plays in the School Journal at your school. She has published in many different fields,  including prize-wining novels for children, gardening books, short stories in all the major magazines, radio plays, scripts for Weta Workshops, radio documentaries, songs, columns in the Herald on Sunday, and in NZ House and Garden magazine.

She lives in Auckland in a small house with a large garden, and spends most of her time playing with and learning from her grandchild.

 

The Interview

Is writing your only job? Did you ever have another job?

My other job used to be recording children’s stories and songs. I was the producer of Kiwi Kidsongs for many years. It is very satisfying for me to see these hundreds of songs having a new life now with my grandson who dances and sings to them.

 

Where do you do your writing? Do you have a special place?

I used to write in my attic, in a tiny room. Now I write downstairs beside two big sash windows.

 

Did you feel lonely when you lived on a sheep station? How did you spend your days? Did you have any sheep dogs or horses?

Yes, I shared two horses, Whiskey and Cosy.   We also had pet lambs, and there was a very angry billy goat that we had to try to avoid. He had big horns.

 

We like your poem called ‘Seek and Ye Shall Hide.’ What is your favourite poem that you have written?

Poems are like children. They are all different so you never have one favourite. I like them all in different ways.

 

How many episodes of the Wot Wots did you write?

I don’t know. You just keep writing them and only some of them make it to TV.

 

Sometimes we find it hard to finish our stories. Does this ever happen to you? Do you have any ideas that might help us?

Know what your story is about before you begin. Shape it to a big climax and a definite ending.

 

Do you think writing fiction, non fiction, or poetry is the easiest?

They are all different. Sometimes I like to tell a story so I write fiction, but sometimes I want to explain something so I write non fiction. When I want to think hard about one small event or one small feeling inside, then I write a poem.

Know what your story is about before you begin. Shape it to a big climax and a definite ending.

 

Do you think writing fiction, non fiction, or poetry is the easiest?

They are all different. Sometimes I like to tell a story so I write fiction, but sometimes I want to explain something so I write non fiction. When I want to think hard about one small event or one small feeling inside, then I write a poem.

 

Thanks Janice and The Sharks for a terrific interview. I really enjoyed reading this. Janice has two poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children.

The Treasury Interviews: Room 1 at Adventure School interviews Jenny Cooper

Jenny Cooper did the illustrations for A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children and they are just wonderful. Full of life! Shifting and changing across the book. They are gold nuggets, diamonds and shimmering gems … just what you need in a treasury box of poems. I have two interviews with her (thank you Jenny for being so generous with your time). Here is the first. We even get to see a work in progress!

20140925_145235_resized 20140925_145515_resized

Room 1 is a class of 5 and 6 year olds in Year 1 at Adventure School in Porirua. They love to do clever thinking and to play with their friends. They try hard to be RIPPER students and have an awesome teacher called Mrs Bennett. They are looking forward to Christmas.

The Sharks are a reading group in Room 1 at Adventure School in Whitby. They love to read and write and listen to stories and poems. They also love to run, swim and go on the classroom iPads.

These are the Sharks who contributed to the questions: They are all around 5 ears old. One loves swimming and running, and going on the computer. When one of them grows up, he wants to be an air rescue firefighter. One has 2 pet cats and some fish. Her favourite game is Monopoly Empire. One is mad about soccer and loves to play xBox. One day he wants to be a professional footballer. Another one loves his iPad. He also enjoys playing in forts and having adventures outside. His favourite author is Roald Dahl. He wants to be a treasure hunter when he is older. One likes to play Wii U, especially The Lego Movie. He also likes playing soccer on his trampoline. He is a great reader and at the moment he is reading a superman book. The final one is mad into cats, poetry and How to Train Your Dragon. He lives with his mum, dad, sister and cats in a house in the bush. He is looking forward to turning six.

bio pick 2013

9781775430469978014350590797817754317259781409530664978177543104697817754312449781775431954978095828888097801435037509780143504566

Interview of Jenny Cooper

We have lots of books with your pictures at our school!

Dear Room 1, thank you very much for your great questions. They were really interesting and fun to answer. I have stayed in Porirua with my husband, Fuataga Kasimani Lautusi, he became head boy of Porirua College, as maybe one of you will, one day? Your school sounds like a great school, and your teacher, Mrs Bennett, sounds great too.

Were you always good at drawing? Did you doodle in your books at school?

Yes I have drawn pictures right from a little child, and yes my books were COVERED in doodles. My favourite part of every year was doing the title page in my new school books, like ‘Science’ or ‘English’, with a big illustration. I don’t know whether you do title pages any more.

How do you make the pictures? Do you do drafts? Do you have to draw the pictures a lot of times? Do you do the background first?

This is a great question. The hardest part of doing a book is all the stuff the reader never gets to see. I have to do heaps of research, into whatever the book is about, whether that be dinosaurs, donkeys, airplanes, fish, or farming. Then I have to learn to draw each new thing. Then after reading the story many times, I have to design the characters, whether that be cartoons or realistic, funny, serious, active or thoughtful, to match the book. Sometimes I have to take photos —  like for Jim’s letters, I hired 6 models, and paid them, and hired all the WW1 uniforms and guns etc, for the photographs. Then I design each page separately, so I know whether people will be close up or far away from the reader, will the action go from left to right, how to get everything in without having people’s hands feet or faces in the gutter or behind the text. THEN I do a complete set of finished roughs, in lead pencil, for my editor to check. These roughs have every single thing there, on the page, but without the colour. I have added a finished rough, and the painting it became, below, so you can compare. (Wow! Thanks Jenny. This fascinating — Paula)

So yes, I draw each picture many many times, and I always do the backgrounds last, because I don’t like drawing backgrounds…. I am more interested in faces, and people, and movement, and showing emotion. I get tired of always drawing rooms behind the people. My favourite books are ones with no backgrounds at all.

Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 12.59.58 PM

Do you colour in every single picture? We usually do our pictures with coloured pencils. What do you use to colour your pictures?

Yes I colour in all the pictures myself. I don’t use a computer, like a lot of illustrators, I use really thick paper, tiny brushes, and water-colour paints. I love painting at the beginning of every book, but I get sick of it by the end.

How do you know what the characters will look like? Do you decide? Or does the writer tell you?

The writer usually doesn’t get to talk to me, strangely enough. I work for an editor, and yes they often say they want a book in a particular style. But I have been doing this for so long, they usually let me decide, and the text itself will tell me a lot about the characters. If the story is for really young children, I need to keep my drawings simple, and really close to the words, because the little kids are using the pictures to ‘guess’ what the words mean. With older readers I can have more fun and introduce extra characters, and funny little extra things that kids can discover. A serious book about a sad thing (like war) needs a more serious style, so I often use photos. A really stylized or cartoon figure will never be taken seriously by the reader, especially if they have exaggerated feet and hands and eyes. But cartoon styles are great for funny stories.

Does the writing or the pictures come first?

The writing always comes first, for me. The story is where all my ideas come from. Someone else writes the story, and I read it many times to figure out what the characters will look and act like.

How does the cover get chosen?

The cover is usually chosen last. When all the book is painted, by then I have a really good idea of what the book ‘feels’ like. Then I use all my ideas from that book, to design one really special image for the cover. Covers are fun because you have to do a really special job with them, and can spend a lot of time on them. For the rest of the book I am in a rush, which is annoying.

Do you get tired of drawing pictures? Do you take a break sometimes?

That is a great question! Yes I get REALLY tired, sometimes, and sometimes my painting hand is so sore from too much work, I can’t hold a paint brush. But when the book is going well, and I am happy with the characters and enjoying it, I am happy to work really long hours, because it is fun.

Are some pictures harder to draw than others? Is it hard to draw small things? What do you find the hardest?

I find backgrounds, cars, straight lines, and buildings hard. I love furry things, animals, people’s faces best. In all my years illustrating (25) I would have drawn the human hand millions of times, but I never get sick of it, it is such an interesting thing to draw. I also like working from photos, for realistic stories. If I get it right, especially the face, there is real pleasure in it.

Is it easier to illustrate a story or a poem?

They are both good, for different reasons. Stories are great because there is a ‘plot’, and things change. But I do get tired of repainting the same characters. Once I did a book about 20 tadpoles, it was 24 pages long, so I had to paint those jolly tadpoles 480 times! Poems are great because they are short, so you never get tired of the characters.

Note from Paula: Thanks Jenny and The Sharks. Thank you! This  is a gold mine of an interview — such fascinating questions and such fascinating answers. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to give such generous answers Jenny. Jenny did the marvellous illustrations for A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children so she has two interviews in this series.

 A biography of Jenny

Jennifer Cooper, one of New Zealand’s best known illustrators, has been illustrating children’s books here in Christchurch for the last 20 years. She trained as a graphic designer at Christchurch Polytechnic in 1987 and her first book was published while she was still a student.

As with most illustrators in New Zealand, Jenny is largely self taught. Her focus is on books for very young children and, in particular, Pacific Island children. Having lived for three years in Western Samoa, she has continuing ties with the islands, which lend warmth and authenticity to her drawings of these children and their world. She and her  children, Kenese and Kalia, maintain ties with their family in Samoa.

Jenny is not limited to one style but is able to choose from a number, ranging from realistic through to cartoon, depending on the theme and genre of the book.  She enjoys the variety and contrast this brings to her working day. Each new book is completely different and a new adventure.  She loves developing the different characters for each book, and begins each one thinking it will be her best, although illustration is a  complicated art and there is always a huge gap between what an illustrator sees in her head, and what she produces on the page. Jenny particularly loves drawing animals of all sorts, although she is in fact wary of almost all animals, which makes her research difficult.

She works from a sunny studio at home and loves the freedom and flexibility this gives her to garden, see friends, spend time with her partner and pursue  her many interests –  when, strictly speaking, she should be working!
Jenny has also tutored in illustration at Christchurch Polytechnic and taught night classes in illustration at the University of Canterbury. She is the 
winner of the 1991 New Zealand Post Student Stamp Design award, the 1991 Telecom New Zealand White Pages Art Award and has been short-listed twice for the Russell Clark Illustration Award and shortlisted in 2008 for the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Jenny has illustrated so many books she has lost count. Some of her better known books are Down in the Forest  written by Yvonne Morrison, The Pipi and The Mussels by Dot Meharry, Shut the Gate by Elizabeth Pulford, McGregor by Rachel Hayward,  Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific by A.W. Reed.,  The Littlest Llama, by Jane Buxton, The Reluctant Flower Girl by Melanie Koster and Peter and the Pig by Simon Grant, The Mad Tadpole Adventure by Melanie Drewery, Ria the Wreackell Wrybill by Jane Buxton,  There’s a Hole in my Bucket and Do Your Ears Hang Low, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain and Farmer in the Dell,  sung by The Topp Twins, Le Quesnoy,  and Jim’s Letter’s by Glyn Harper and Harry’s Hair by Jane Buxton, plus numerous book for Usborne Publishing in the United Kingdom. She has three Storyline Notable Book awards, including Le Quesnoy, 2013 and Ria the Reckless Wrybill in 2011.

“When I work on a book, of course I am thinking about the reader, and what they might want to see. But mostly I illustrate for myself. I hope that the things that interest me will also interest lots of children.”

“I am most interested in my character’s  faces, be they human or animal, and in capturing their emotions and the movement of their bodies. I don’t like painting backgrounds, they are too much hard work! As an illustrator, you are creating a whole world inside a book, and that can be a challenge, getting the details right, and keeping things the same all through the book. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t keep the details the same but I always worry about eagle-eyed readers catching me out, and noticing that the character’s socks change colour, or their hair gets shorter and then longer as the book goes on! Being an illustrator means that I have to keep my eyes open, and be interested in everything, because I never know when I may have to put it in a book, anything from rockets to rats to rubbish dumps, and everything in between.”

“Illustrating for children is the most wonderful job to have. I get to stay home all day, and do the thing which I love the best, which is to draw and paint. Every book teaches me something new. When I stop learning, I’ll stop illustrating.”