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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Karen McMillan talks about The Quokka Logic and Baking Book


Karen McMillan writes fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, and her books have been published in 10 countries. The Quokka Logic and Baking Book is her 21st book, part of the popular Elastic Island Adventures series for children, published by Duckling Publishing. Karen talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about The Quokka Logic and Baking Book.

This is a fun baking book for children, with recipes by Mrs Quokka and her son Jase the Quokka. By popular demand, Mrs Quokka also shares some of her quirky quokka logic – fun sayings that will bring a smile due to being so illogical.


It’s a little bit retro and a little bit modern, and it includes cakes, loaves, muffins, biscuits, slices, small treats and desserts.


What inspired you to create this book?

Quokka logic is part of many of the Elastic Island Adventures books, where Mrs Quokka has quirky sayings that she uses to barter for things that she wants. She is a bit of a celebrity in this fictional world for these sayings, even though they are quite nutty. But children love quokka logic, and many have written to my publisher asking for a Quokka Logic book. We loved the idea but thought it was too niche to be successful – only people who have read the books would know what quokka logic was. But then I was looking at my mum’s handwritten recipe book, which I’ve had since her death more than 25 years ago, and I wondered about doing a quokka logic and baking book for children. I also had a handwritten book from my nana to look at, which made the project multi-generational! My publisher loved the idea, so I got to work!


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I spent most weekends for a year baking from these two special books, as well as a few recipes given to me by other family members and friends. The recipes were well-tested and worked beautifully, but not all the recipes made The Quokka Logic and Baking Book. My mum and nana were amazing cooks, but I’m not so great in the kitchen – but I figured if I could bake the recipe, so could a child. The ones that didn’t make the book from my mum’s handwritten book were the ones that were a bit too complicated. And some of Nana’s recipes didn’t make it, as a few seemed to have a gallon of fruit – different times!


My husband, family and friends tasted all the recipes as I baked each weekend. Now I think about it, we have more visits than usual each weekend during this time…


For the recipes that we all thought worked for children, I then went about styling and taking photographs. So much fun! The baking is deliberately ordinary, and there are no bells and whistles when it comes to the finished result. I want children to be happy that their baking will look similar, not them comparing to some photoshopped marvel that is unachievable. But I hope kids will like the styling, as it’s deliberately fun and child-friendly.


If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I think we’d have to go with ‘If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake’ by Ethel Merman and ‘Eat It’ by Weird Al Yankovic.


What did you enjoy the most about creating this book?

Baking these recipes and being transported back in time with memories of my mum baking. As there are no photographs, none of the recipes in Mum’s handwritten recipe book seemed familiar when I read them. But when I baked them, I immediately remembered them, taking me back in time to the tastes and delicious smells in our kitchen in the house where I grew up. Baking these, I could even remember the way the sunlight slanted into the kitchen, the joy of being able to lick the bowl, the delicious aromas, and the desperate wait for the latest baking to cool down enough so my sister and I could sample!


I also loved doing the styling and the photography and selecting the quokka logic to go in the book. By the way, the recipes are coded. So the ones from my mum and nana are by Mrs Quokka, so these are quite retro. And the ones from friends and other family are by Jase the Quokka and are more modern.


What are your three favourite recipes from the book, and why?

It is hard to choose just three, but if I had to, I’d say the following:


I love Mrs Quokka’s (my mum’s) Fudge Slice. It’s so easy to make, and it was one of my favourites when I was a young girl.


I also love Jase the Quokka’s (a friend’s) lemon cheesecake. I didn’t think I could make cheesecake, but this is crazy easy to do, and soooo delicous!


And for a super yummy but easy dessert, I had a ball making Mrs Quokka’s (my mum’s) Easy Peasy Pineapple Dessert. It’s something a little different, and everyone who tasted this loved it!


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I read so many books that I love. I was fortunate to be able to read a proof copy of Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth, which is coming out a little later in the year. It is completely unputdownable, and such an emotionally compelling story, as well as being both dark and funny at the same time.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Something completely different, a historical novel set in 1890s Dunedin. It will be published by Quentin Wilson Publishing next year, which is very exciting.


More info about Karen’s books at www.karenm.co.nz


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