Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Karen Hendriks!

Welcome to a special edition of our Quick Six Interview as we celebrate a regular guest on the blog with her new, beautiful picture book release. Thank you, Karen Hendriks, author of Go Away, Foxy Foxy, Home and Feathers, returning to share a book that pays tribute to the simple things in life and the natural beauty of the world around us. In particular, the visually stunning NSW bay area, Shellharbour – introducing Our Shellharbour! Depicted beautifully by award-winning artist, Emma Stuart, the watercolour landscapes are utterly divine. 

Thank you, Karen, for sharing your playful yet deeply meaningful story with us! 🙂

About the Author

Karen Hendriks lives by the sea in Shellharbour, Australia, where she snorkels with stingrays and turns an idea into a story in local coffee shops.

Her picture books include Go Away Foxy Foxy, Feathers, and Home. Foxy and Feathers were shortlisted in the international Rubery Book Awards. Feathers was read by Sarah Fergusion the Duchess of York and is an award-winning picture book. Home was on the NSW Premiers Reading List for Years 3 and 4 in 2023. Home is also listed on the Refugee Council of Australia’s webpage as a resource. Karen first self-published picture book is Our Shellharbour which was released on the 3rd of January, 2024.   

Karen wishes every child in Australia had access to books that they would love to read.

Visit Karen Hendriks at her website: www.karenhendriks.com, and on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Our Shellharbour can be purchased via Karen’s website.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Karen Hendriks is the author and publisher of Our Shellharbour – Little Shell Books.

Emma Stuart is the talented illustrator from Victoria. Emma has been illustrating for 23 years. I was lucky she had space in her busy work schedule to take on this project.

WHAT is it about?

During an imaginary day Lani and Oli explore the natural places in Shellharbour from the mountains to the sea. It’s about getting outside and having fun where you live and celebrating it too. It inspires kids no matter where they live to go and explore their own backyards.

What is your favourite part of this book?

That is a tricky question because I adore every spread. The words and images play together so beautifully. I do love the magic of the Bushrangers Bay spread, it’s a special place I have visited often. The Marina spread as Lani and Oli and the little dog gaze at the twinkling lights and the boats creates such lovely emotion. Just as nature can take your breath away so can picture books when they have that magical quality.

What challenges did you overcome with the production of this book?

Our Shellharbour took over four years to completion. It was a huge roller coaster ride and learning curve. You need to be fearless to self-publish. Before Covid I had a different illustrator and printer. After Covid this all changed. The first illustrator was unable to finish the illustrations. She did me a big favour because my manuscript sat for a year. I then saw it through fresh eyes and made it even better than it was. I had originally wanted the book to be printed locally too. But I had also promised myself if I did this project the picture book would be the best local book in Australia. The printing costs through the university’s Printery had gone up significantly, so I sourced overseas instead. I believe my Chinese printer did a fabulous job. I decided to aim high and go for who I really wanted to illustrate the book. Luckily for me the best possible illustrator Emma Stuart said ‘yes’. The end result speaks for itself – I love the book and it is so Shellharbour. And would you believe Emma has never been to Shellharbour she lives in Victoria? Lots of photos, web links, PowerPoints were shared, and Emma did her own research too.

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

Our Shellharbour has taken over four and a half years to create. I started writing in 2019.

When is its release / launch date?

Our Shellharbour was released on 3.1.24 but I had an early book launch on the 17th of December. Many people wanted their books before Christmas. I also recently held an author signing and meet the author day at the marina.

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

I have grown up in Shellharbour and never lived anywhere else. I worked in Shellharbour as a primary school teacher for many years and as a bank officer in Stockland Shellharbour. I knew when I started writing that I would one day write about Shellharbour for the kids who live and visit here. I wanted them to be proud of where they live. We are such a unique and distinct city from our neighbours and this book celebrates that.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

I know that I’m lucky to live by the Pacific Ocean and to experience such amazing places. People go on holidays to do the same things. I wanted to share this with my community and to create gratitude and connection to our space in the world. Especially for children to see where they live and play in a book, it really is a powerful way to celebrate, appreciate and create community connection.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

People have connection to the place where they’ve grown up and they want to share it with others. A book is a beautiful way to do this. Parents love sharing with their children the specialness of where they live. Those that have grown up here are loving the book as are new parents who want to take their children out and about in Shellharbour to create memories. Just recently I met Alessio who is four and he had just caught his first flathead down at the Windang Bridge just like Oli did in the book. This creates such a special connection to the book as experiences can be relived.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

I absolutely adore the illustrations and I must say Emma’s work brought tears to my eyes. The fact that Emma connected so strongly with the manuscript and had many visuals for the story I knew it would be wonderful and it is. The feeling the book creates is a love of place and the mood envisioned is one of joy.

Emma’s illustrations hit the mark beautifully. Those blues and greens really pop and are eye-catching. From a local’s perspective they love that the images represent the places so well. And what Lani and Oli do is what they do. The mood is one of love and joy and happiness that a place can give you.

I knew that the boat harbour had to be on the front cover, it is so iconic and instantly recognisable. It’s also the most historic. Emma created the cover for my vision beautifully.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

We do not have a local bookshop, so all of the book promotion is on me. I have really had to think outside the box.

Locally, I had a community book launch which was a huge success. People were lined up outside the door. I have been on ABC Illawarra radio chatting about the book and in our local paper I was featured and photographed down by the harbour. I have hosted two author signings by the marina. Lots of locals have been waiting for this book and know how long I have worked on this project, so were keen to get copies.

The book is available online via my webpage at karenhendriks.com and locally it is at the Visitor Information Centre, caravan park, post office, newsagency and some local dress shops. People here love where they live, and this book showcases Shellharbour brilliantly and they want to share it both locally and overseas.

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

When you pour your heart and soul into a project you often wonder why you are doing this to yourself. But when the book is complete it is worth all the hard work. The connections you make along the way are so rewarding and I must say Our Shellharbour has really created a local buzz. It has really raised my author profile and it’s very rewarding to be recognised and valued for what you do.

This experience has enabled me to grow so much as an author and now I can call myself a publisher. What really matters the most to me is that the book is connecting with people’s hearts and memories.

Thanks so much, Karen! What an absolutely stunning and meaningful book, for the Shellharbour community and beyond! Congratulations on its release! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #ourshellharbour #nature #harbour #adventure #picturebook #justkidslit

2 thoughts to “The Quick Six Interview with Karen Hendriks on Our Shellharbour

  • Karen H Hendriks

    THank you so much for this wonderful feature Romi it is appreciated.

    • justwriteforkids

      It’s an absolute pleasure and privilege, Karen! xx


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