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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird talk about Kia Hou Taku Tou

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

Dawn McMillan is the much-loved author of numerous children’s books including I Need a New Bum!, Doctor Grundy’s Undies and the 2020 release Sir Singlet. She lives in Waiomu, north of Thames.

Ross Kinnaird is a legendary illustrator and designer whose books have been published around the world, many of them in collaboration with Dawn. He lives close to the water on Auckland’s North Shore.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the original bestseller, I Need a New Bum, and the release of a new bilingual edition, Kia Hou Taku Tou. Tell us a little about the book. DM: I’m delighted to have a te reo version. The original English language book has been translated into so many languages. It’s a thrill to know that the story has been enjoyed across the globe. The book appeals to both adults and children which makes it a good book for sharing. Readers love Ross’s illustrations. Red Pants Boy, the hero of the book, has gone on to have more adventures with the sixth book in the series now in process.

RK: I love that the book is now going to be in te reo. It is such an honour. I’m happy that the simple premise of the book lends itself to translation…the humour is universal. What was the inspiration for the original book, and how did you first come up with the idea for a bilingual edition? DM: The idea for the book was a surprise. I presume it was from the many bum cracks I’ve seen from pants too low—at the gym, on building sites, at the roadside where there is a tyre to be changed. The story wrote itself at speed while I was driving to Rotorua, self-editing all the way. There was a panic to find pen and paper when I stopped. Of course, there was a lot of work to be done on that original script but even at that early stage I knew that Ross was the perfect illustrator.

RK: The inspiration was all from Dawn. I was thrilled to be able to contribute to the visual side of things. The credit for the bilingual edition goes to the wonderful team at Oratia.

What research was involved—have you had any feedback from children? DM: There was minimal research required for the story - just a little checking on the 1960s sport coupe with regard to an appropriate bumper.

RK: No research done on my part…just decades of telling terrible dad jokes and drawing funny images.

Tell us about your artistic partnership—what makes working together enjoyable? DM: I write from pictures in my head and Ross sees the same pictures from the script. He’s amazing. We have a lot of laughs along the way.

RK: Dawn’s creativity continues to amaze me. We have the perfect partnership. I think we’re both really about 7 years old.

What do you think has made the book an enduring success, and what makes it promising for te reo Māori-reading audience? DM: The book was doing well in New Zealand but we can thank our friend and fellow writer, Peter Millet, for the international success. He took it upon himself to send a copy to the Scottish Granny. The video of her reading the story to her grandson went viral. Kia Hou Taku Tau! is already included in the te reo section of Duffy Books. I hope everyone will enjoy it. And for those of us with limited reo there’s the opportunity to learn from a familiar and favourite story. The English subtitles will help the learning process.

RK: Whatever language kids speak, fart jokes are funny. For reluctant readers...hook them with the stuff that makes them laugh and the love of reading is set.

What is the best book you have read so far this year and why? DM: A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville. It was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. She magically weaves fact and fiction to share the life of Elizabeth Macarthur, the wife of a notorious early Australian settler. I was with Elizabeth for the whole journey of the book.

RK: Bill Bryson’s The Body. I love how he explains complicated processes with simplicity and humour.

What’s next on the agenda for you? DM: I never know what story might surprise me. In the meantime, I plan to do more educational readers, and maybe another ‘bum’ book if the Red Pants Boy gets into further mischief.

RK: There may be a Red Pants Boy lurking around somewhere.

Kia Hou Taku Tou! | I Need a New Bum! nā Dawn McMillan, nā Ross Kinnaird ngā whakaahua, nā Stephanie Huriana Fong i whakamāori, published by Oratia Media, RRP $19.99


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