Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Julie Jakeman, author of The Adventures of Tandi the Toucan.
FQ: I understand you have two young children, and that you homeschool them. I’m quite impressed - how do you have time to write books on top of everything else?
JAKEMAN: Mostly when the kids are asleep! Yeh, it can be a bit much sometimes but having a creative outlet is important too so I always make sure to make time to write stories whenever I can.
FQ: Do the ideas for your stories come from discussions with your children? Do they ever ask you about specific animals or events that evolve into a published story?
JAKEMAN: Yes, always. We concentrate on a given subject for a week or more at a time and the ones that seem to resinate the most with my kids often get fleshed out into stories. The ones that we enjoy reading the most, I will illustrate and turn into a book.
FQ: You like to tackle important subjects in your children’s books (deforestation, ocean pollution). These are serious topics - thanks for helping educate children about them. How hard is it to work those topics into a positive, upbeat message for young readers?
JAKEMAN: I think it’s important to show that there’s a silver lining to even the darkest clouds by highlighting the optimistic side of even the most serious situations. These subject may be very serious but there are things we can do to improve them. Maybe one day they will be solved.
FQ: As an author/illustrator, do you envision your characters, and start doing sketches of them before you begin to write the story? Or do you work up a rough draft of the story first, and then bring the characters to life?
JAKEMAN: I always start with the story first. Once that's in place, then I can start sketching the characters and depicting the world they inhabit.
FQ: Tandi is quite beautiful. What made you decide on a toucan for the star of the story rather than, say, a jaguar or monkey?
JAKEMAN: Thank you! I have written a story about a monkey before but this time I wanted go with a more unusual animal. Also, toucans are one of my youngest’s favorite animals.
FQ: I’m always fascinated by authors who can pull off a story in rhyme. It’s hard and so many try and fail. Would you describe the process for our readers? Do you first sketch out the story in prose?
JAKEMAN: I find it difficult too. My previous book, Myrtle the Turtle, was only partly in rhyme but I know how much kids enjoy a rhyming story so I’ve been working on that aspect. I do normally start with a story in prose and then work on translating it into rhyme. It can be a long process but it’s also rewarding to see the reaction from my kids when it’s complete.
FQ: Do you think the message of deforestation is getting through to people? Do you think the rainforests have a chance of surviving man’s destructive ways?
JAKEMAN: It’s difficult - there are so many climate and ecological issues that we all need to be aware of and it’s easy for some of them to take a backseat to the others. But they are all important and we all need to do whatever we can. I do think the rainforests have a chance. As long as they are still there, we have a chance to influence policymakers into regulating for their protection.
FQ: What is your next project? Will you please give our readers a little peek into what they will see next?
JAKEMAN: I’m not sure at the moment. I have been thinking of doing something a bit different. Still a children’s picture story book but maybe a biography of a historical figure instead of tackling another climate issue. We have been studying some interesting historical figures recently and some of them aren’t very well known.