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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Norah Wilson talks about the Run, Rabbit / E Oma, Rāpeti series of books

Norah Wilson is originally from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and after several years teaching in Brussels, Belgium, she settled into life in Aotearoa in 2011 with her Kiwi husband, three kids and a sweet, giant puppy.

Norah has been telling stories through her teaching and motherhood for many years, but it wasn’t until her third child was born that she decided to write them down.

She began by writing, illustrating and self-publishing two books, which were a total labour of love. Norah currently lives and teaches on Auckland’s North Shore. Norah talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about the Run, Rabbit / E Oma, Rāpeti series of books.

The little books in the E Oma, Rāpeti series are about a determined little bunny who finds himself engrossed in a variety of engaging situations. In each story, there is an impetus for those around him to yell, “E oma, Rāpeti!” In Te Wā Tākaro (Playtime), for example, his teachers ask him again and again if he needs to use te wharepaku (toilet). The answer is, of course, no! He has too much playing to do. You can imagine that after a certain number of times saying no, the answer will eventually be yes- and he needs to get there quickly. E oma, Rāpeti!

What inspired you to write these books?

When my youngest child was 3, she was obsessed with Anika Moa’s version of the song Oma Rāpeti. It was on repeat in the car. Though I am not from New Zealand, I became well aware of how loved the song is here, and I loved it too. When it was time for her birthday party, she asked for everything Rāpeti. So, I got the bunny clothing, the bunny toys, made the bunny cake, but could not find the Oma Rāpeti books. I knew I had to make them- for her, but also for all of the others who know and love the song so much.

What research was involved?

I was very careful about not wanting to take something from a culture and language that is not my own. I did a lot of searching for who sang the song originally, how the song has changed over the years and what it means to generations of New Zealanders. I knew my stories were my own, but that the inspiration came from the song. So, I made the decision to give my proceeds from these books to the people doing the mahi, my local Kōhanga Reo.

What was your routine or process when writing these?

Because I do also enjoy illustration, I see the stories as a whole, like a little movie in my head. Once I came up with the concept of the bunny needing to run for a particular reason, there was a sort of recipe for the books that formed. I brainstormed different reasons why our little bunny may need to run. I was inspired by my own children’s lives and their experiences. I was, and still am, in the stage of parenting where I need to ask my little one if she needs the toilet roughly 7-8 times before it’s a yes. Art imitating life!

How did you work with illustrator Kimberly Andrews?

First of all, I was beyond thrilled to learn that Kimberly would be illustrating the books. I have been a fan of hers for a while and feel very privileged to work with her. Our editors at Scholastic NZ handled everything for us. There was not a lot of back and forth- Kimberly nailed it right away. She understood what these books needed and exceeded any expectations I had.

What did you enjoy the most about writing the Run, Rabbit / E Oma, Rāpeti series of books?

I just love imagining what this little bunny gets up to. He’s every little kid I know, wrapped up in bunny years and curiosity. I hope children will make connections with him and enjoy the stories. What did you do to celebrate finishing this book? Three of my girlfriends came around with a bottle of champagne when I got the news of publication. With a full time teaching job and three kids, that’s about all I had time for- but it was perfect.

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

I felt very accomplished when I read The Luminaries this year. It was on my list for a long time and well worth the time it took me. I am always learning new things about my adoptive home, Aotearoa. It certainly gave me more insight. I must say, I also enjoyed reading Eep! written by Joke Van Leeuwen and published by Gecko Press, to my class. It was so wonderfully weird and fun to read aloud.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

Three more E Oma, Rāpeti books have been accepted into the series and I am looking forward to their release. I have a growing kete of stories that I submit here and there and hope that more of them can make their way into the hands of children and their whānau.

Scholastic NZ


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