Julie Abery is a former preschool teacher who lives in Switzerland. She loves to travel and can always be found exploring children’s bookshops. She stopped by to answer a few questions about her new board books, Little Zebra and Little Penguin, which release on March 2.
Q: Little Zebra and Little Penguin are books 5 and 6 in your Little Animal Friends board book series. How does having an established format affect what you write?
JA: An established format is like having the first pieces of the puzzle already figured out. It leaves me free to focus on finding a new animal character and their story. But it does come with its downside as action verbs are common across many species, so finding unique verbs for each animal, while also being true to their nature, can be a challenge.
Q: What’s your favorite illustration in the new titles?
JA: I think Suzie Mason has created such endearing art for this series. I love it all. My favorite illustration in the new titles is Little Penguin on top of a snowy ridge, fluffing and puffing out his chest, being very vocal. Pride comes before a fall, they say.
Q: The Little Animal Friends series is fictional. How do you balance human and natural elements in your writing?
JA: Each book is based on the premise that baby animals act similarly to our human little ones – all about action and exploring! My goal is to portray some of the individual animal behaviors, using animal specific vocabulary, with human comparisons that connect us. For instance, Little Zebra starts to walk, Little Penguin goes to nursery, and Little Panda experiences snow for the first time. Adorable!
Q: With your experience as a preschool teacher, what do you think young kids will enjoy most about these titles?
JA: Having taught preschool for many years, my experience has been that nearly all children love rhyming books! I love the three Rs - rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, and that was my focus for these titles. Rhyming words are predictive and allow children to guess what is coming next, rhythm gives a song-like quality which they quickly remember, and repetition allows everyone to participate on every page turn.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JA: I’m always writing! But seriously, I do love to visit my daughter in London (when I can) to see a stage show and visit bookshops and museums. Back home in Switzerland, I enjoy walks in the woods with my dog, the mountains, baking for my boys, and tending to my large and unruly garden!