This week I am delighted to introduce you to prolific Australian author Jennifer Poulter. Jennifer writes fiction and poetry for children, education and the literary market. She has had over 50 traditional books and thirteen digital picture books published. She writes under the names J.R. Poulter and J.R. McRae and has received numerous awards for both fiction and poetry writing.
Throughout her career, Jennifer has been employed in numerous roles including Senior Education Officer with the Queensland Studies Authority and Senior Librarian with the State Library of Queensland. She even once worked in a circus. In addition to writing, Jennifer is also an editor and artist. Now, under the banner of Word Wings, Jennifer collaborates with other creatives from over 20 countries.
Today I am talking with Jennifer about her picture book Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance.
What initially attracted me to this book is its ability to get children moving. What a great way to incorporate fun with movement and reading into any day.
The book also fits perfectly with a dance curriculum that encourages children to become aware of their bodies and how they move in space, to explore and improvise dance movements. Children can be encouraged to move like the zoo animals in the book or improvise movements for other animals and objects that move.
But Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance can also find its place in the literacy curriculum. Written in rhythmic verse, it encourages children to join in with the reading. It has a treasure of words to delight and extend vocabularies and add sparkle to writing; words like ‘limber, fandangle, prance and shimmies’. Children will laugh at the hippos with the backside wobbles and be intrigued by the combination of illustrations by Jade Potts and the variety of media used by designer Takara Beech in creating the double page spreads.
If you throw in some counting of animals and legs, needs and features of living things, and places they live, you can cover almost the entire curriculum with this one little book. But enough from me, let’s find out what Jennifer has to say.
Welcome to readilearn, Jennifer Poulter. We are looking forward to getting to know a little more about you and your book.
Thanks for inviting me.
Jennifer, you have written many books over several years, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I have always enjoyed stories and poetry and enjoyed creating my own as well as reading those by others. My father and maternal grandfather introduced me to poetry. My father would take relish in reciting The Mock Turtle’s Song by Lewis Carroll and Casabianca by Mrs Felicia Hemans and my grandfather would recite Banjo Paterson’s The Man from Snowy River and read, with gusto, The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. I have the first edition, 1876, willed to me after his death. It brings back vivid, precious memories. I also have a collected works of Mrs Hemans, illustrated, a first edition, which I found in a second-hand shop — also much prized because of its connection to my darling Dad.
Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?
In the corner of the lounge room – very noisy as it is where the TV and music hub is for the family. I prefer to work in the quiet, so try to stay up later…
What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?
Both! I keep a notebook by my bed for those ideas you tend to get at outrageous hours of night and early morning. I also carry pen and paper in my handbag – same reason – you never know when an idea will strike! But I type everything up on computer and sometimes I do the initial write on computer. Depends…
When do you write?
All the time, any time, whenever ideas hit!
When do you get your ideas?
I’m right brain, so ideas hit any old time!
Do you think of the story in your head before you write it?
Sometimes. Sometimes a sentence, phrase, rhyme will come to mind and the rest will flow from there.
What gave you the idea for Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance?
That was a while ago… I think I was playing around with rhymes and liked what evolved. Then it progressed into the improbably odd idea of animals having a jive session in the zoo whilst the zookeeper slept.
What do you like best about Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance?
I LOVE the way it has all come together with Jade’s whackily crazy animals and Takara’s awesome design elements!
Tell us a little about the way Jade Potts has illustrated the story.
Jade is a teacher in the USA and her idea was to do the images in a naïve style as if children were creating their own zoo animal fantasy.
How did you feel when you wrote Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance?
It was fun, funny and joyous!
How do you hope readers will feel (or respond to your book)?
I hope the children will find the rhythm in the rhyming text fun and will want to get up and emulate the animal’s moves and have FUN doing it!
How would you like teachers to present Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance to children?
I hope they give it a ROLLICKING read, taking full advantage of the rhythm in the rhyming text. If brave enough, perhaps they could get into the groove themselves and do a hippo wobble and an ostrich strut!
Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?
Writing should always be as spontaneous as possible. If kids find the actual putting of pen to paper daunting, try getting them to talk their ideas into a recording device (most classes have iPads or notebooks these days, and kids can video themselves expressing their creative energy multi-dimensionally).
Note: I am endeavouring to write teacher notes and activity sheets for all my books and poetry. If teachers are interested, they can email me via the Word Wings website to ask for the notes.
Do you have any advice for children as writers?
FEEL the story or poem – we can all write poems because we all FEEL. If you can’t write it down, act it out as a video clip or do it up as a PowerPoint with lots of pictures of yourself acting out your poem or story.
What is your favourite picture book?
So many… I think Lewis Carroll is my all-time favourite!
Who is your favourite author? What do you like about his or her work?
Tolkien, Nabokov, May Gibbs, Philip Reeve, and many, many more…
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing these insights about your writing process and your picture book Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance. We wish you success.
Thank you, and thanks for having me!
Find out more about Jennifer on her website:
on other websites on which she is featured:
or connect with her on social media:
Facebook (Author page)
Facebook (Word Wings)
Purchase your own copy of Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance from:
Word Wings on Lulu – Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance
Amazon – Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance
SOON to be available on Lulu xPress
Just in case you need further convincing, here is a great review of Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance by Music teacher Bruce Arrington.
“Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance … is a young children’s (3-7 years) picture book about animals dressed as people with the intent of engaging young readers to relate to the spirit of movement and encouraging them to act and move in the same ways. Fun and appealing! As a music teacher, I think this could help stimulate ideas in the minds of my students. Young readers will mimic those movements and participate. Just make sure you have an open floor space!
An engaging story [to] help young students get out of their seats and onto the dance floor.”
Jennifer also acknowledges the contribution of illustrator Jade Potts and designer Takara Beech to the success of Hip Hop Hurrah! Zoo Dance.
You can read more about Takara Beech’s design process here.
This interview is now available free, in a ready-to-print format, in Literacy Resources Author Spotlight Author Spotlight: Jennifer Poulter. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.
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