Katrina Germein Dances Up A Thunderstorm

photo-on-26-02-14-at-9-53-amKatrina Germein is a well-loved children’s best selling author and early childhood teacher. She has received Highly Commended and Notable Book Commendation awards in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and from the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Three of her books have also featured on the popular children’s programme, Play School.  Some of her titles include the acclaimed ‘Big Rain Coming’, the hilarious series, ‘My Dad Thinks He’s Funny’, ‘My Dad Still Thinks He’s Funny’ and ‘My Mum Says the Strangest Things’, as well as beauties like ‘Somebody’s House’ and ‘Littledog’.
Already a hit in our household, her latest book, with illustrations by Judy Watson, is a sheer whirlwind of energy; it’s  ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’.    

pages-from-thunderstorm-dancingA family day at the beach suddenly turns bleak, and a little girl makes a quick dash for cover. While the thunderstorm charges outside, it is inside where the riot is raging. The girl hides whilst her daddy and brothers whizz and howl like the wind, puff like the clouds and zap like the lightening. Poppy thumps as loud as the thunder, and Mummy is the pounding rain. It’s a romping, swinging and rumbling commotion…
Until Granny’s piano music shines a gleaming ray of sunlight. What could the little girl be once the storm has settled?
 

‘Thunderstorm Dancing’ is beautifully rhythmic, with the perfect blend of rollicking onomatopoeia. Every word takes the reader into each lively scene. You can’t help but feel the beat, and it will most certainly get you to your feet! Katrina Germein says as a child she enjoyed acting out stories through dance…
”I felt as though part of me was there again as I was writing ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’.
Her language is dynamic, and text perfectly placed to reflect the movement of the story and pictures. Judy Watson’s mixed media, including inks, washes, pencils and digital media, and varied perspectives create for a visual festivity on every page. She also cleverly utilises a mix of orange and blue colour tones that depict the vibes of chaos and calm.
 

This whole book is just breathtaking…literally. The sweeping illustrations by Judy Watson really pull us along for the ride, and Katrina’s text sings and dances off the page; getting us marching and stomping and clapping along. It has huge teaching and learning potential in the areas of the arts and environmental studies. ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’ is fast paced, delightful and energetic. Preschool children will be roaring for more.  
Allen & Unwin 2015.

I’m absolutely delighted to have had the opportunity to delve into Katrina Germein‘s writerly mind, and discover more about the wonderful ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’.

thunderstorm-dancing-cover-lores-1Congratulations on the release of your newest title, ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’! What was the inspiration behind this story?  
This story has been a long time becoming a book but the text was written in a frenzy over a couple of days. The rhythm grew in my head and verse by verse I scribbled down the pages as they came to me. I remember writing some of it at the service station and some of it on a café napkin. I’m not sure of the exact inspiration but as I wrote it, I was holding a memory of music classes at primary school. Our teacher, Mrs Vaughn, used to play the piano and call out a story while we romped around the room and danced our own actions.  

This book is such a fun, active story that is perfect for promoting dance and dramatic play. As a teacher, do you have any other great teaching and learning ideas for children to engage further with ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’?  
I’m glad you said that Romi because I do feel that it lends itself to creative expression and like I said, it played out like a performance in my mind as I drafted it. I think most teachers and students will be able to springboard into their own ideas. There are connections to creating music with household items and children could easily act out their own actions for each of the storm elements, or even choose music that they think represents the different pages.  

Clapping and body percussion is always fun. The children in this clip use basic percussion instruments to illustrate the weather with music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DYEucGZTF0 Rainbow ribbons and scarves would work well too.  It’s all about allowing the children to experiment and express themselves with music, art and drama. I guess I’m hoping that students can have fun with the language and rhyme, as well as appreciate the emotion of the story and engage with the sensory themes – maybe some messy art, like foamy storm clouds.  

Storms are a great way to get children talking too. Everyone has a storm story they can share through discussion or writing, drawing and other art. I’ve been collating art ideas on my pinterest board here. https://www.pinterest.com/KatrinaGermein/thunderstorm-dancing-by-katrina-germein/ (And Judy Watson shares some of her original sketches here https://www.pinterest.com/judywatson98284/judy-watson-thunderstorm-dancing/)  

Family is another theme that could be explored.    

You’ve written ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’ in exuberant poetic prose, different to the jokes and funny phrases seen in ‘My Mum Says the Strangest Things’ and ‘My Dad Thinks He’s Funny’. Did you find one style more challenging than the other? Do you have a preferred style of writing?  
Different stories lend themselves to different styles. I enjoy experimenting with various approaches within the picture book genre. Thunderstorm Dancing is my third rhyming book and I love rhyme. I also like simple prose.  

dad-and-mitch-10-alt-1Judy Watson’s illustrations perfectly compliment the rollicking nature of the text. How did you find the collaborative process with her?  
Judy’s artwork is amazing. I have had so much fun seeing the story grow into a beautiful picture book.  

You’ve been paired with a number of amazing illustrators, including Tom Jellett, Bronwyn Bancroft and Judy Watson, amongst others. Have any of these artists really surprised you with how they’ve represented your words?  
No major surprises. You never know how an illustrator will approach a text and watching the illustrations materialize is all part of the fun. I guess there are little surprises along the way but I’ve never been completely flabbergasted or anything shocking like that.  

Somebody’s House’, ‘Littledog’ and ‘Big Rain Coming’ have all been featured on Play School. How did the producers approach you and what was your reaction to the news?  
Having books read on Play School is the absolute best. The show is well respected because it is created with children in mind – it’s about the kids. Early childhood professionals choose the books and consideration is given to what children will enjoy and engage with. So it’s about as good as an endorsement as any children’s author can hope for. (It also means people send you lovely exciting messages every time the episode is repeated and they catch it with their children.)  

What is it about writing stories for children that makes you happy?  
Writing makes me happy and I seem to write for children. I don’t know. It’s just what I do.  

What advice can you offer emerging writers wanting to succeed in producing great picture books?  
If you want to write picture books then your time is best spend reading and writing picture books. Read lots and lots of contemporary picture books (not the ones you remember from childhood). Read them out loud and read them to children if you can. I think you’re best off reading picture books themselves, rather than books and articles on how to write books – although sometimes that can be helpful too. Write and write and write. Be prepared to reflect and redraft. Not everything will work but the more you write the more chance you have of writing something great.  

What’s next for Katrina Germein? What can your fans look forward to seeing from you in the near future?  
(Fans! I’m not sure that I have any of them but thanks for suggesting that I do.) I have a few projects up my sleeve but I’m always reluctant to share too much unless I have the signed contract in my drawer and right now I don’t. I’ll be sure to post the news on Facebook when I can share. For now, I’m just excited about having a beautiful, new, book about to hit the shelves. Yay!  

Yay, indeed! Thank you so much for answering my questions, Katrina!  
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Katrina Germein’s website is great for finding information on her books, writing tips, teaching notes and her blog:
www.katrinagermein.com
Follow Katrina on Facebook, and view photos of her recent book launch:
www.facebook.com/KatrinaGermein

Follow Katrina’s boards on Pinterest:
https://www.pinterest.com/KatrinaGermein/

Magical Moments for Mum – Mother’s Day Reviews

Dear Mums, whether you begin it with burnt offerings and flowers in bed or embark on a 24 respite from the usual onslaught of bickering and demands, you are celebrating Mothers’ Day because you are part of one of the most magical clubs in the world. The following assortment of picture books, all out now, encapsulates that magic. They are in equal parts cute, absorbing, whimsical and funny.

 

How I love youYoung children under five are well catered for. How I Love You by Anna Pignataro (Scholastic Press, March 2014) oozes tenderness and charm. What it lacks in narrative depth is more than compensated for by the understated beauty of Pignataro’s glorious illustrations. Children will enjoy mimicking the high-lighted prose as they visit a diverse collection of Aussie animals at bedtime, each revealing by their actions just how they love their mummies. Sweet and perfect for bedtime togetherness.
Mummy You're Special to MeSimilar in design and content is Laine Mitchell’s and Kim Fleming’s, Mummy, You’re Special To Me. (Scholastic Australia, April 2014). Again this is less of a story and more of an exploration of the divine diversity and uniqueness of mummies all over the planet.
Little Giraffe thinks his mummy is super special because she’s ‘kind’ and ‘strong as a knight’. As he navigates through life, he discovers a universe of other mummies each with their own special qualities. My favourite encounter was sipping tea with Little Camel’s hip and groovy Gran.
Some of Mitchell’s rhyming verse felt a little off key at times but Fleming’s adorable, multi-technique illustrations were special enough to send me right back to the beginning to enjoy it all over again.

Hootie the CutieHootie the Cutie (New Frontier Publishing, April 2014) by Michelle Worthington and fresh newcomer to the children’s book scene, illustrator Giuseppe Poli, could as easily be enjoyed by dads and grandparents but deserves special mention here, because what mum does not welcome a little dragon magic in her day?
Worthington weaves a winsome, whimsical woodland tale about an owl, small in stature but large in heart and spirit, and brave beyond all measure as it turns out. Poli completes the very pleasing tapestry with illustrations that will enchant the pants off you.
Hootie the Cutie reminds us that sometimes loving (our children) is about allowing for growth and letting go while simultaneously showing pre-primary aged children that independent thought and actions are qualities that can shape and strengthen who you really are. Highly commendable.
Jam for NanaNanas are high-profiling a lot these days and little wonder when grandparents make up the highest proportion of informal childcare in Australia according to (AIFS)* statistics; so Deborah Kelly’s and Lisa Stewart’s, Jam for Nana (Random House Australia, April 2014) is destined to be a generational crowd pleaser.

This picture book delights on many levels; from its dustcover-covered, recipe-book shape and size to its comforting unrushed rhythm and wholesome narrative. It is a book you’ll want to treasure, or at least share with your little one and their significant grandparent. Told from a little girl’s point of view, it highlights the special bond between her and her grandmother and centres on her desire to recreate ‘real jam’ for her nana.
It reminded me of a time in my childhood when backyard apricots tasted like ‘the warmth of a hundred summers’ too and life was full of substance so pure and thick and wonderful, you could ‘hold it upside down and shake it’. Stewart’s divine illustrations and Kelly’s shared pancake ritual make this one very special picture book.
Nurturing and snuggling are all well and good but bringing a smile to mum’s face is perhaps the best thing you can give her. My Mum says the Strangest Things, (Black Dog Books, April 2014), is guaranteed to have her LOL in no time flat. In fact, I can barely get through it (with my Miss 8) without crippling waves of laughter washing over me.
ThMy Says the Strangest Thingse Katrina Germein and Tom Jellet team that gave us My Dad Thinks he’s Funny and My Dad Still Thinks he’s Funny, train their humorous cross-hairs on mum’s idiosyncratic refrains this time, with deadly accuracy. For adult readers, the sweet irony of mum’s idiomatic expressions is difficult to ignore and impossible not to relate to: ‘when mum’s tired she says everyone needs an early night.’ Love, love, love it! There is something here for every member of the family. Older primary aged kids will be rolling their eyes and trying not to laugh. You’ll be taking stock of the next ‘strange thing’ that falls out of your mouth.

 

So, however you end up spending Mothers’ Day, make sure you take a moment or two to share it with the little people who gave you the reason to read picture books again in the first place (and linger longer in bed for at least one day of the year). Happy Mothers’ Day!

* AIFS.gov.au viewed Feb 2014.