Interview: Yvonne Morrison talks about Out in the Moana
Yvonne Morrison is a zookeeper, swing dance instructor, former school teacher, and children’s book author of such bestsellers as A Kiwi Night Before Christmas, A Kiwi Jingle Bells and Down in the Forest. Yvonne is passionate about animal welfare and loves to travel the world seeking out strange and unusual species. Yvonne talks to NZ Booklovers about her new book.
Tell us a little about Out in the Moana.
Out in the Moana is a follow-up to Down in the Forest, published by Scholastic way back in 2004. This was a New Zealand themed retelling of Over in the Meadow, a traditional counting rhyme. Both New Zealand versions showcase native animals in starring roles, with the new version headlining ocean dwelling species.
What research was involved in this book?
In a crossover fiction/non-fiction book such as this, i think it's important to get the science right, which in this case meant ensuring all of the animals featured could indeed have the number of offspring pictured and would perform the actions described. This wasn't all that easy - most oceanic mammals invest highly in one pup at a time, whereas fish and marine invertebrates often have dozens or hundreds of young. Trying to find species to suit all numbers took some research!
How did you work with Jenny Cooper, the illustrator?
Honestly, Jenny and I have never met! When Down in the Forest was accepted for publishing, I shyly submitted my own illustrations, which in hindsight really weren't very good. The publishers wisely said they would choose an illustrator for my text, and matched me with Jenny. She was the perfect choice, able to perfectly convey the beauty of nature with interesting details and gentle humour.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Given the combination of a New Zealand theme and the ocean, my thoughts immediately turn to Six Months in a Leaky Boat, by Split Enz. It's not entirely appropriate - except for an instrumental passage in the middle which is calm and peaceful and features the sounds of sloshing waves. Maybe that part?
What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book?
I'm a lifelong learner, especially about animals, so it was interesting to discover some new facts that I hadn't known before. The highlight though was getting back the first draft of illustrations from Jenny and seeing what she'd done with my text. I actually laughed out loud at the face on the mother flounder!
What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?
I hope that young readers will appreciate the animals of the ocean for their own unique abilities and traits. I also hope that as these readers grow, this appreciation will spur them to action for change, to protect and restore our oceans.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I'm a Sci-Fi nerd and I've been enjoying the Murderbot series by Martha Wells. It's about a robot/human construct discovering its place in the world. Unlike many sci-fi robots or androids it doesn't ultimately want to be human, but it does want self-determination.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
Writing is only a side-gig for me, so I'm just carrying on with my day job until inspiration sparks another bout of writing. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to traveling when the world is a bit safer, and in particular traveling to see animals in the wild.
Scholastic New Zealand