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Interview: Tania Norfolk talks about Look! said the Little Girl

The written word has long been a part of Tania Norfolk’s professional life, working in research and education, but it’s through creative writing that she finds the joy of sharing how she sees the world. Tania lives in Nelson-Whakatū with her husband and two boys.

Tania talks to NZ Booklovers about Look! said the Little Girl.

Tell us a little about Look! said the Little Girl.

We follow a small girl and an old man taking a walk together and sharing the world around them, she through her big eyes, he through his large ears. So-called 'ordinary' things become magical: a ladybird, a tiny turtle in fancy dress; a scarf, a dragon's tongue. It's a celebration of the senses and the wonder in the everyday.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by the special relationship between the very young and the very old - the natural affinity they often have with each other in sharing the present moment, sharing the immediacy of their senses - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting. I loved the idea of showing this relationship and using it to highlight the small things around us, the sound of cicadas, leaves in the wind, reminding us these everyday things are in fact full of wonder and beauty. The story also celebrates the way young children love to guess and name things.

What research was involved?

No particular research, other than go for rambling walks and viewing the world through a child's eyes!

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

It was a process of playing with different ideas, words and senses and then working and refining the text so that it had a rhythm and flow I was happy with.

How did you work with the illustrator Aleksandra Szmidt?

Aleksandra was given the completed story to illustrate by Scholastic. We didn't work directly together, though I did get the opportunity to give some feedback and was very happy with her illustrations. I think she's beautifully captured the gentle essence of the story.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

I really enjoyed being in the present moment with this story, focusing on what is magical about the different things the pair encounter. I enjoyed creating that sense of excitement and joy between them.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I actually wrote this story a few years ago. It sat quietly for a while, as stories sometimes do, before I returned to it and put it out to publishers. I was thrilled when Scholastic got in touch to say they loved it and wanted to publish it.

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

A children's book I purchased this year that I love is Alte Zachen (Old Things) by Ziggy Hanaor and illustrated by Benjamin Phillips, published by Cicada Books. It's about a boy who patiently accompanies his grumpy old jewish grandmother through the streets of New York to assist her with her grocery shopping. As the story progresses you get more and more of her history revealed. Their relationship is wonderful. My favourite adult novel this year so far is Catherine Chidgey's The Axeman's Carnival (Te Herenga Waka University Press). She's such a clever writer and I loved how she weaved in both humour and a looming sense of danger via the magpie's voice.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I have a number of new picture book stories written that I'm hoping to get published. I also recently completed my first novel for adults which is currently under consideration for publication. I am now playing with ideas for a second novel, and have also lately been enjoying writing a range of short stories.

Scholastic New Zealand


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