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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Linda Jane Keegan talks about Kororā and the Sushi Shop

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Linda Jane Keegan loves to spend time outdoors. She has hiked long distances, tries to identify everything she finds, and takes ocean dips in the winter. Her background is in ecology and outdoor education.

Linda Jane’s first book with Scholastic, Things in the Sea are Touching Me! was shortlisted for the NZCYA Book Awards and selected as a Storylines Notable Book. Linda Jane talk to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Kororā and the Sushi Shop.

It's a fun rhyming story following the real life adventure of a little blue penguin who tries to make a nest under a sushi shop in downtown Wellington. It was a story that really just told itself; after reading about it in the news it seemed like the perfect story to make into a picture book. It feels very New Zealand to have a book about wildlife turning up in cities or suburbs.

What research was involved?

It's so easy to access news articles online so I read a few different ones about the penguin antics to build a mental picture of how and when the events took place. I also contacted the constable who came to the scene and the person who worked at the sushi shop to make sure they didn't mind having their likeness recreated by the illustrator.

What was your routine or process when writing this book? How did you work with the illustrator?

I drafted the story in imperfect rhyme in order to focus on the narrative while still having some sense of cadence. I came back later to work on the rhyme and rhythm, which is harder than you might think. I give a lot of credit to my partner - a drummer - who helped me keep to the beat. That is my number one tip for writing picture books in rhyme - find the percussionist in your life! Scholastic's editing team worked with me to tighten up the rhythm, and after a few more changes from their editing team, it was ready for Jenny Cooper to do the fantastic job of bringing the story to life. My input to the illustration was really only to give accurate information on the kororā diet. Otherwise it was up to Jenny to work her magic, and I love what she's done.

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

Wellington, by the Muttonbirds

What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?

As a parent and previously an environmental educator, I hope it encourages a love for wildlife and the natural world. I hope they learn a little something about kororā. Most of all I hope it fosters their love of books and reading.

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

I always struggle with choosing favourites, but one of my favourites this year so far is Matariki Around the World, by Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am very excited to say that I have a third picture book due to come out in 2023! Although I didn't plan it that way, it's another ocean-themed story. Other than that I am working on other picture books.

Scholastic New Zealand


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