Fast Five with Jenny Cooper

  • Why did I want to be an illustrator?
I never knew you could be an illustrator, but I always drew, at home, when I was young. Then I grew up and discovered that there was a whole world of picture books for children, and even though I had other jobs like teaching and advertising, I couldn’t help being drawn to children’s illustration, because I had spent so many thousands of hours, as a child, doing that sort of art. So in a way, I had no choice, it just happened naturally.
  • What is the best thing about being an illustrator?
The best thing is when you do a picture that you are really proud of. This doesn’t happen often, usually I am disappointed in my work. But just sometimes, maybe one picture out of 10, I do something that really surprises me, astonishes me and makes me think, how did I paint something that good? When that happens, it makes all the other, average, illustrations, worth it.
  • What is your favourite New Zealand Book?
The Year of the Shining Cuckoo by Joyce West. It is not in print now, I bought it second hand and read it once a year.
My favourite NZ picture books are  probably A Booming in the Night, by Helen Taylor, or Dragor, by Philip Webb
  • What do you love most about New Zealand?
New Zealand to me means freedom and space. I didn’t notice the  space and peace and quiet here until I had travelled in Europe, where the beaches are so full you don’t have room to put down a beach towel. And I can be in the mountains in an hour, if I want, or beside a beautiful clean alpine lake. And I love our relaxed and unfussy way of life, as Kiwis are basically trustworthy and trusting of other people, and I really hope it stays that way. Doors don’t always have to be locked, and a lost wallet will probably be returned, and if you want to live in an unusual way, up a mountain or on a boat, you are free to do it.
  • What do you love most about libraries?
If I go into a library for one book, I always come out with 5, there are so many interesting things to read about. But unlike the internet, where you are alone, libraries are always full of other people. Libraries are friendly, the people are helpful, and I always come out feeling I have spent my time well, and learned something. And of course, the books are free!
Jennifer Cooper is a children’s book illustrator with a background in graphic design.  Jenny has illustrated books for Melanie Drewery, Yvonne Morrison, Joy Cowley, and Jane Buxton, among many others.  Jenny’s most recent collaboration is with the Topp Twins for their version of There’s a Hole in My Bucket and Do Your Ears Hang Low?

Picture Book Nook: Do Your Ears Hang Low sung by The Topp Twins, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Last year Scholastic NZ brought Kiwi legends, The Topp Twins, together with one of our top illustrators, Jenny Cooper, to produce a wonderful illustrated edition of the song, There’s a Hole in my Bucket.  Now, this fantastic team have come together once again to produce a very cute and funny, illustrated edition of the song, Do Your Ears Hang Low.

Based on the original song, Do Your Ears Hang Low? is a new arrangement by The Topp Twins, that ties in perfectly with Jenny Cooper’s illustrations.  I’d love to know what came first, the lyrics or the illustrations, because they’re made for each other.  The Topp Twins’ lyrics are funny and you can add some easy actions for children to sing and play along.  Who would have thought there were so many uses for big ears?  The CD of the Topp Twins performing the song (that comes with the book) is a great addition to the book and it’s that classic Topp Twins sound that we love.

I absolutely love Jenny Cooper’s big-eared illustrations!  They’re cute and made me crack up laughing.  Jenny is amazing at capturing animals, especially the wrinkled skin of the dog and the curly fur of the llamas.  The expressions on animals faces are hilarious too.  I love the shock on the dogs face as the mouse ties up his ears, the mellow look on the llama’s face, and the expression of pure joy on the pig’s face.  The animals all look so cuddly and loveable that you just want to give them a big hug.  Book Design have also done a fantastic job of the design of the book, from the layout and size of the very cool font, to the flaps and the cute end papers.

As well as the wonderful song and illustrations, you also get the added extras of some strange, but true facts about ears.  Do Your Ears Hang Low? is the perfect book for Kiwi kids with ears of all shapes and sizes.

4 out of 5 stars

Picture Book Nook: There’s a Hole in my Bucket, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

When Kiwi legends, the Topp Twins get together with one of New Zealand’s best illustrators, Jenny Cooper, you know you’re in for a treat.  Scholastic New Zealand have teamed-up these two fantastic talents to bring new life to a classic song, There’s a Hole in my Bucket.

Jenny Cooper has transformed the Topp Twins into a goat and a duck full of personality.  Henry the goat has a problem – there’s a hole in his bucket and he needs his duck friend Liza’s advice to help him fix it.  Liza makes some helpful suggestions, but she gets increasingly angry when Henry keeps asking questions.  Will they ever be able to fix their bucket?

There’s a Hole in my Bucket is a perfect combination of music, lyrics and illustrations from an outstanding team.  The Topp Twins have made the song their own and it will be enjoyed by both children and adults.  Jenny Cooper’s Henry and Liza are full of personality and you can see the Topp Twins shining through.  I love Jenny’s illustrations because of the way she shows emotions in her characters.  Liza the duck is a really good example of this, especially when she gets annoyed at Henry’s constant questions (I’m sure we’ve all felt like this at different times).  There’s a Hole in My Bucket is a perfect gift book for Christmas, but parents be warned – you and your children will be singing this song for days.