#InterviewByBook with Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Title: Friends
Author: Teena Raffa-Mulligan
Illustrator: Veronica Rooke
Publisher: Serenity Press
Genre: Picture book
Age Group: Early childhood/junior primary

Please tell us a bit of what your book is about.

Koala and a menagerie of Australian creatures celebrate the many ways in which friends brighten our days, from turning our frowns into smiles to caring and sharing. The rhyming text is complemented by lively, colourful illustrations with an element of humour.

What kinds of themes/issues are raised in this story?

The main theme, as the title suggests, is friendship – what it is to have a friend and also what it is to be a friend. Acceptance and belonging also figure strongly, along with diversity, which is reflected in Koala, the central character, having a range of Australian creatures as friends.

How are these important to you in raising awareness to your readers?

Friends brighten our days in so many ways and having a caring, sharing special someone who accepts us without judgment contributes to our sense of wellbeing. It is especially important for children to experience what it is to have a true friend and to be that friend to others.

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

I was feeling blessed to have wonderful friends who enrich my life and that started me thinking about the qualities and values of friendship. It began as a simple poem that quickly evolved into a picture book text.

What is your favourite part of the book?

That’s a tricky one! I absolutely love what Serenity Press and illustrator Veronica Rooke have done with my simple rhymes. If I do have to choose, perhaps the spread to illustrate ‘I don’t have to pretend when I’m with my friend’. It’s bright and colourful and the frilled lizard in rock star mode always makes me smile.

How would you describe the publishing process? Were they supportive? How long did it take?

The publishing process with this book was an absolute breeze. It was less than 12 months from submission to release and I was kept informed of progress and consulted every step of the way.

What was the collaboration like between author and illustrator? Juicy gossip, please!

Veronica and I have been friends for many years and have worked together on other publishing projects. She’s a talented and versatile artist who likes to collaborate with the author so I was thrilled when Serenity Press commissioned her to illustrate Friends. I knew she would do a wonderful job. At the start Veronica asked what I had in mind and I really had no idea aside from the fact that I envisioned different Australian animals being friends on each spread. ‘See what you come up with,’ was my response. When the first roughs came back, Veronica had given Koala a starring role. It worked beautifully for me and all I had to do was tweak the text a bit because originally the book was called My Friend.

What has the feedback/audience response been like so far?

The book has only been out for a few weeks but it’s been lovely to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback.

What teaching and learning ideas would you suggest to complement this book?

Colouring sheets are available from Serenity Press at
http://www.serenitypress.org/resources.

In a class situation, children can be asked to list the qualities of a friend; compliment class members for their positive qualities; write a letter to a friend telling them why they are special; or role play being the new kid in class or at the playground to get an idea of how it would feel to be included or excluded from a group.

Do you have a book trailer for your book? Please share.

Veronica has created a wonderful book trailer for Friends. Here it is:

Please let us know where we can find more on you and your book.

There’s information about me, my various publications and the workshops I present on my website at www.teenaraffamulligan.com. I also have an author page on Facebook. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/TeenaRaffaMulligan/.

Teena also has a Directory Profile here.

Thank you for sharing your story, Friends, with us! It’s been a pleasure! 🐨 🐸 🐻 🐰 🐊

Teena Raffa-Mulligan looks like a responsible adult. Don’t be fooled—it’s a disguise. The real Teena is a kid with a sense of adventure who comes out to play when she’s writing her stories and explores the wonderland of imagination. Teena has been having fun with words for as long as she can remember. Her publications include poems, short stories, picture books and a children’s novel. She has also worked as a journalist and editor. Teena loves sharing her excitement about books and writing with people of all ages and encouraging them to write their own stories. Visit her website at www.teenaraffamulligan.com for information about her books and writing sessions.

#InterviewByBook #Friends

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