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Interview: Melinda Szymanik talks about Sun Shower

Melinda Szymanik is the author of a number of Scholastic picture books, including BatKiwi and There are No Moa, e Hoa; Sharing with Wolf; The Song of Kauri (2015 Storylines Notable Book); Fuzzy Doodle (international White Ravens selection) and The Were-Nana (2009 Children’s Choice winner). She has also written junior novels, including A Winter’s Day in 1939 which won the LIANZA Librarian’s Choice award. Melinda lives with her family in Auckland. Melinda talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Sun Shower.

The Clouds think Sun and Rain would get along really well, but no matter what they try the two refuse to meet each other. Finally, the Clouds take matters into their own hands with interesting results. This is a story about misjudgements, about jumping to conclusions and friendship. But it’s also a little bit of an insight into the science of weather and weather-related phenomena, and their essential relationship with our planet.

What inspired you to write this children’s picture book?

Before I studied English Literature at University I studied science, earning a Masters Degree. I very much enjoyed learning a lot about the science behind everything we see and experience around us, from sport to weather. So, when I had an idea for a story about whether the sun and the rain could ever be friends, here was a fantastic opportunity to also include a little underlying message about the science behind it for young readers.

What research was involved?

I didn’t need to do too much research as this was knowledge I already had from my previous studies, and from always being interested and curious about the world around me. But I will say it involves physics, chemistry, and biology working together.

What was your routine or process when working with the illustrator, Isobel Joy Te Aho-White?

I always think that if I have done my job well, the text will provide all the information the illustrator needs. And art is not my area of expertise so I wouldn’t be the best person to comment on what the illustrator is doing. So, just as the illustrator doesn’t get involved when I write the text, I don’t get involved when the artist is at work on the illustrations. I know if we had questions for each other we could easily ask them, but we didn’t have any for this book. Izzy Joy is a terrifically talented illustrator, and not only did she bring my text brilliantly to life in pictures, but she also added so much more to provide a rich experience for the reader. I am thrilled with the results.

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

Singing in the Rain, Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow

What did you enjoy the most about writing this children’s book?

Writing the ending. It felt very satisfying and uplifting. I always really enjoy having fun with the language too – trying to find the best words that not only tell the story but that also best support the central themes and ideas, and that help make it a joy to read. I’m always aware that these books are often shared by children and adults so I’m always wanting to make it a good experience for both.

What do you think children will take away from reading this book?

I hope they see that sometimes the judgements we make about someone before we actually know them can be wrong. And that sometimes, even though we can be very different, that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. And I hope they also see that we need the sun and the rain.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Let’s just say there was chocolate and champagne involved.

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

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I am writing a verse novel at the moment, and I wanted to understand the form a bit better. I could not have found a better example. The Poet X is a clever, compelling teen novel that impressed me greatly.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m not quite half-way through the verse novel project I was working on during the writing residency I was on in Shanghai over September and October – I’d really like to get that finished. It’s about a young teen who has all the voices of her ancestors in her head, advising her and commenting on everything she experiences and does. While in Shanghai with her family she comes to realise some of her ancestors are hiding something in her family’s past and that is having consequences for her family now. It is only by unearthing the truth that she will lay some family ghosts to rest and provide closure for both those in the past, and in the present day. So, it’s a bit mystery, a bit history and all verse.

Scholastic NZ


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