A New Fun Crocodile Book for Kids – and how to write one!

Much loved children’s author, Katrina Germain and illustrator, Tom Jellett have a wonderful new book due out next month!

Shoo You Crocodile! is a fun, raucous tale for imaginative young readers and small, brave adventurers. The story offers space for discussion around play, real and imagined stories and families can use the book to play their own make-believe monster games and learn about rhyming words. The book also teaches young readers about working together, being brave, facing challenges and problem solving. (from the publisher) Little Book Press 

Katrina says, The story was super fun to write. Escaping invisible crocodiles is like dodging molten lava; it’s an imaginary game that is played universally by children. I had the idea for this story while watching a group of children play in the sandpit. They were pretending that crocodiles were coming to get them. The book has noise and action with themes of imagination, teamwork and courage. The rhythm and rhyme is lively and there are crocodiles on the loose! What could be more fun than that?

As with every picture book I write, I want to appeal to both adults and children but my primary focus is the kids. Hopefully, young children will love this one because it’s playful with amusing elements of danger. As it was inspired by pre-schoolers exploring ideas together (creating a game about overcoming danger) it’s not about what adults want to tell children; it’s about what children want to tell themselves. There’s also something about crocodiles that intrigues young readers and always draws everyone in.

If educators and parents would like to use the book for other learning experiences there are opportunities to explore language and rhyming words. The main themes include working together, being brave and facing challenges with friends. The illustrator, Tom Jellett, has set the story in a museum, which adds additional, rich layers of meaning to the story. Families could spend ages examining the pictures and pondering the artefacts in the artwork. The book would be great to read before or after a visit to the museum.

THE WRITING PROCESS

What were the challenges of writing a story like this featuring a scary creature in a book for young children?

Great question! Books and play are wonderful ways for children to explore scary situations in a safe manner that makes them feel powerful. (There’s always a happy outcome at the end!) Tom Jellett’s entertaining art perfectly creates the right atmosphere. The crocodiles are running around on their two back legs so they’re not overly lifelike. The story is dramatic and suspenseful but the crocodiles never actually catch the characters or touch them; the children in the story successfully frighten the crocodiles away. The book has a child narrator and the tone is upbeat and energetic. I think all those thing help.

Can you give us 5 tips on how you wrote this book?

I tend to use different processes for different books but this one went something like this…

  1. Let children be the inspiration.

Observe and listen to children. Think about what’s important to them and what ideas they’d like to explore.

  1. Make it fun!

Do this through the use of captivating characters, action and drama and interesting language; use onomatopoeia, rhyme and colloquialisms.

  1. Edit and polish.

Rewrite and rewrite till your story is tight. (SHOO YOU CROCODILE is just under 200 words.)

  1. Trust the illustrator.

Don’t attempt to explain every aspect of the story in the written text. The illustrator will create a visual narrative that completes the story.

  1. Trust the readers.

Don’t spell out themes and messages in a boring, laborious way. Tell an engaging story and let readers discover aspects that interest them. If your book is authentic, layered and interesting readers will find ways to enjoy it.

Thanks Katrina for sharing these great tips.

Katrina Germein is a best-selling picture book author. Published worldwide, Katrina’s book Big Rain Coming has remained continuously in print since it was first published in 1999. Her popular title My Dad Thinks He’s Funny was Highly Commended in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Thunderstorm Dancing is among many of Katrina’s CBCA Notable Books to have featured on children’s television programs such as Play School. In 2019 Katrina received the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award for Let’s Go Strolling. Katrina is an ambassador for Raising Literacy Australia, a Books in Homes Role Model and a Premier’s Reading Challenge Ambassador. New titles in 2020 include Tell ’em! and Shoo You Crocodile! Katrina holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She continues to teach part time.

You can find out more about Katrina at her website.

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – REVIEWING vs EDITING SKILLS

Tuesday Writing Tips is back here today! I’m so excited because my writerly friend, Claire Saxby is visiting  RIGHT NOW to talk about her gorgeous new book baby.

Today is the day that Claire Saxby’s There Was an Old Sailor, and my Tuesday Writing Tips blog tours cross over. This is a first for me and my blog, so I hope you enjoy the journey with us.

I’m reviewing Claire Saxby’s beautiful new book, There Was an Old Sailor, and I’ll be talking about reviewing vs editing skills. Claire has a reviewing tip of her own which I’m sure you’ll find useful.

But first, she agreed to answer a few questions for us.

1.    What is your favourite sea creature in the book?

I like the way the squid swirls through the pages, but I think my favourite in the book is the ray, with his green and spots. He looks as if he’s planning to keep himself as broad as possible to try to avoid being swallowed. He doesn’t look panicked, just resolute.

2.    What is the worse thing you ever swallowed?

Ooh, you’ve brought back memories of my early childhood. I did like to chew things. I swallowed several plastic eyes from toy cats and other toys. All with no ill effects!

3.    I believe this story is a real favourite in classrooms. Can you tell us why?

I think it’s because of the absurdity of it, the idea of a sailor being able to swallow all these sea creatures. Children also enjoy the rhythm and soon join in. It also doesn’t hurt that I take in a three-dimensional sailor with a wide open mouth, and a set of the sea creatures for him to ‘swallow’.

4.    Do you have any tips for new authors interested in doing classroom visits?

Moo. Perhaps in private. I was once told to ‘moo’ before any classroom visit. It does two things. It helps to warm up your voice and the very act of mooing tends to help break through nervousness.

And this might sound obvious, but read your book to them. Even if they’ve asked you to talk about your process or story writing, they still want to hear an author read their story.

NOW FOR THE REVIEW OF THERE WAS AN OLD SAILOR

Okay, I’ll admit right from the start that Claire is a writerly friend of mine, but that has nothing to do with how much I love her new picture book, There Was an Old Sailor.

It’s based on the well-loved There Was an Old Woman who swallowed a fly, but this aquatic version puts a whole new slant on things, and has a happy ending.

The rhythm of the text moves the reader along at a cracking pace, but it’s the action and descriptions and the amazing drawings by Cassandra Allen that make this picture book such a wonderful addition to any library.

Okay, so what the sailor does is actually a bit icky (although kids love icky) but his kind eyes and jolly demeanour brought to life by Cassandra Allen make him totally endearing.

This book is full of humour, and text and illustrations that will enthral young readers. It also introduces them to the amazing creatures that inhabit the sea. The Old Sailor is a great character and the resolution is satisfying for the reader. It’s a great book for the classroom – especially for those grades studying sea creatures.

My favourite bit:

There was an old sailor who swallowed a shark.

It must have been dark when he swallowed the shark.

MY TIPS ON REVIEWING vs EDITING SKILLS

In my experience, editing skills and reviewing skills are not that different. That’s why it can be so useful for a writer to review other people’s books. It teaches you what to look for…what are the things you like/dislike in what you read?  What draws you as a reader to a story.

The similarities I see between reviewing and editing are that both require you to look at:

  • Does the opening grab the reader’s attention?
  • Does the story maintain reader attention?
  • Are the characters well drawn?
  • Is the dialogue realistic?
  • Does the story appeal overall?
  • Is the voice unique and appealing?

These are all questions worth asking yourself when you are editing your own work.

CLAIRE’S TIP ON REVIEWING

You don’t have to love a book to review it favourably. Imagine the target audience for the book. Will it satisfy them? Let that guide the review.

It has been so much fun having Claire visit us today.

You can also catch up with Claire at some other great blogs on her tour:

Monday 8 February: Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children <http://www.sallymurphy.blogspot.com/>

Tues 9 February: Dee White’s Tuesday Writing Tips <https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/>

Wed 10 February: Dale Harcombe’s Read and Write with Dale http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale/>

Thurs 11 February: Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s books <http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com/>

Fri 12 February: Lorraine Marwood’s Words into Writing http://lorrainemarwoodwordsintowriting.blogspot.com/>

Sat 13 February: Mabel Kaplan’s Tales I Tell <http://belka37.blogspot.com/>

Sun 14 February: Sandy Fussell’s Stories are Light http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/>

Our Tuesday Writing Tips tour continues next week at Sandy Fussell’s blog where we’ll be talking about what writers need to read. Hope you can join us then. Here’s the itinerary for the Tuesday Writing Tips tour:

DATE BLOG TOPIC
2ND February 2010 Claire Saxby’s bloghttp://letshavewords.blogspot.com Writing Picture Books – Leaving room for the illustrator.
9th February 2010 Dee White’s bloghttps://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

(That’s here:-)

Reviewing ‘There Was an Old Sailor’Reviewing vs Editing skills.
16th February 2010 Sandy Fussell’s blogwww.sandyfussell.blogspot.com Writers Need to be avid free range readers
23rd February 2010 Robyn Opie’s blogwww.robynopie.blogspot.com How to make your story longer – adding layers.
2ND March 2010 Angela Sunde’s blogwww.angelasunde.blogspot.com More about Point of View – head hopping.

Thanks for dropping in Claire. It has been great to talk with you about your beautiful new picture book,
There Was an Old Sailor.

The Tuesday Writing Tips blog tour continues next week. If you have a writing question, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)
P.S. Don’t miss tomorrow’s post at https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com It’s all about How “NOT TO” Scare Away Publishers and Agents”.

CLAIRE SAXBY IS VISITING MY TIPS 4 YOUNG WRITERS BLOG “TODAY”!

Sheep+Goat book cover

Claire Saxby is visiting my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com today to talk about her wonderful new Picture Book; Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate….and how she comes up with names for her books and characters.

Drop in and say, ‘Hi’.

Dee

SANDY FUSSELL VISITING AUTHOR

Sandy from websiteTomorrow, author Sandy Fussell will be visiting my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com to talk about her latest Samurai Kid’s book, Monkey Fist.

In a very special post, we’ll also be talking to Niya Moto, the story’s main character.

Drop in and see us tomorrow.

Dee

Monkey Fist cover