Suzy Cato is a beloved New Zealand children's entertainer and TV personality, and is best known as the host of Suzy's World and You and Me, as well as hosting a YouTube channel, Suzy & Friends’ Treehut TV. Suzy talks to NZ Booklovers about The Kauri Family.
What inspired you to write this song and book?
This book started as a song collaboration with dear friends Arthur Baysting and Peter Dasent who had originally released the song in Australia as The Gum Tree Family. When the decided to bring the song to NZ they approached me about collaborating on the lyrics.
What research was involved?
Arthur and I shared our wish list of native NZ creatures and ended up with a song about 10 minutes long! The trick was whittling the characters down so we could fit them all into a 24 page book. The next challenge was to provide sets of clues that would not only make the creatures easy to guess but also provide extra information, where possible; the Tuatara’s “spikes on it’s back… a million years old… has a third eye” is a good example.
What was your routine or process when writing this book/song?
Peter is an expat, who is based in Australia now, but he visited NZ several times during the writing process. Some of the other songs on our EP took 3 years to finalise! This song only took two visits and a few good cups of tea. We’d gather in Arthur’s lounge, around his upright piano and sing and write, then move through to the kitchen table for some sustenance (Arthur’s wife Jean makes the best chicken sandwiches ever!) before heading back into the lounge to create again.
What did you enjoy the most about this project?
Arthur and Peter are an award winning song writing duo. Their passion for their young audience was so heartening and so in line with all that I do as a performer/presenter. We had so much fun creating this book and I look forward to releasing our EP in 2021. This was the first book Craig Fletcher had ever illustrated, but when Scholastic NZ contacted me about creating a book from the song I was very keen to have Craig be a part of the team. As it turned out, I was able to work far more closely on the illustrations than I might normally, which was a wonderful experience, as I got to watch the characters come to life.
What did you do to celebrate finishing up on this project?
Dearest Arthur left us before the book was published but we were thrilled that he got to see several of the page layouts before he passed. We celebrate the book every time I perform the song for an audience or the music video is played on YouTube. Arthur’s aroha lives on in this work and in all the songs he created before this. And as the book was released during Lockdown Craig and Peter and I are still to enjoy that glass of bubbles… hopefully one day soon.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
The EP of songs that were created with Arthur and Peter has yet to be released, so that’s an wonderful big project for 2021; along with a few other exciting things that I look forward to sharing as they all come to light.
Scholastic New Zealand