2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Yvonne Morrison

Yvonne Morrison’s book Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), illustrated by Donovan Bixley, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Picture Book  category. Little Red is also on the judge’s finalist list. She and Donovan collaborated last year, on the Children’s Choice award-winning The Three Bears (Sort Of).

Yvonne is a zookeeper, swing dance instructor, former school teacher, and children’s book author of such bestsellers as A Kiwi Night Before Christmas, A Kiwi Jingle Bells, Down in the Forest and The Three Bears (Sort of).

  1. I remember last year, you were struck by the idea for The Three Bears (Sort of) and wrote it very quickly. Was it more difficult following this up with another fairytale-inspired story – How did this come to you?

I used to be a primary school teacher, and I was visiting an ex-colleague who asked me to read Three Bears (Sort Of) to her class and conduct a follow-on writing lesson for her staff to observe as professional development. I used Red Riding Hood as a model of how to alter a fairy tale, and then the children had a go at doing their own. When my publishers suggested a follow-up to Three Bears, it was natural to turn to Little Red, as I’d already had a head-start. Once you really start thinking about the original story, the ideas flow. Why DOESN’T Little Red notice the wolf isn’t Granny right away? And how DOES a wolf swallow a Granny whole?

  1. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

Really, it was a breeze. I simply supplied the manuscript, my editors queried a few things (and rightly so), I tidied up some bits, and then it was good to go to Donovan Bixley for the hard part –  illustrating! I think he faced some considerable challenges in this book – we had discussions about how gruesome the drawings could be… it’s not easy to convey swallowed grannies and slit-open wolves in a tasteful manner, but Donovan achieved it!

  1. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

To be honest, I didn’t try all that hard. I tend to write books that amuse myself, and hope that by not talking down to children, they will pick up on whatever level of humour they are ready for. I also hope that the adults reading my books aloud are also amused by the stories, since they may be hearing and reading them frequently. Donovan helps in this by providing clever illustrations that work on all levels.

Incidentally, I also slipped in my own personal ethical philosophy by having the wolf end up at a wolf sanctuary. I’m always hoping that little things like that might lead to a teachable moment, or spark a classroom debate, and get kids thinking about such questions as the nature of good and evil – is a carnivorous wolf evil simply because he seeks to eat humans? I would like to think that both Little Red and Three Bears are encouraging questioning and skepticism in young people.

  1. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

I haven’t this time. At this point, I have a book dedicated to each of the people I love, and now I’ve run out of people!

  1. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

The first fractured fairy-tale I read is still my favourite. It’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka. I also like anything quirky, like It’s a Book by Lane Smith, and of course my fellow finalist, I Am Not A Worm! by Scott Tulloch. I am pleased that publishers are becoming more open to non-traditional manuscripts and hope that this trend continues!

  1. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

I can’t choose just one thing! Here’s four: dancing, because it keeps me fit, lets me listen to great music and brings me joy; travelling, because it teaches me about different cultures and gives me new experiences to draw on; helping animals, because animals think and feel just like we do but are unable to speak for themselves, so I choose to be their voice; and eating, because food is awesome!

I am about to embark on a new adventure that will combine three of these things – my husband and I have just got a job in Vietnam managing a centre for endangered primates. We will be helping with rescues of gibbons, monkeys and lorises destined for the pet or traditional medicine trade and rehabilitating them for wild release. We will be living on an island in the jungle! And of course we will be seeing lots of South-East Asia and eating some amazing food.

Hopefully this adventure will fill me with fuel for writing too!

___

If you want to know more about Yvonne, check out her website here: http://www.yvonnewritesbooks.com/mybookskids.html

For reviews of Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), check out the Booksellers NZ review here: https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/book-review-little-red-riding-hood-not-quite-by-yvonne-morrison-illustrated-by-donovan-bixley/

And my review here on the blog.

This is day seven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Earlier today I posted Donovan’s answers to the illustrator’s interview for  this title and you can find that interview here – https://bestfriendsarebooks.com/2015/06/30/2015-new-zealand-book-awards-for-children-and-young-adults-interview-with-donovan-bixley/.  Yesterday’s feature was I am not a Worm, by Scott Tulloch, whose interview can be found here: http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/2015/07/nz-book-awards-for-children-and-young_2.html.  Monday’s feature will be our third picture book, Doggy Ditties from A to Z, by Jo van Dam and Myles Lawford will be covered back on Thrifty Gifty http://thriftygifty.blogspot.co.nz/.

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Filed under 2015 Children's Choice Award, 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, awards, book awards, books, children, children's fiction, New Zealand

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