What better way to end the year than with a lullaby picture book?
Kate Banks was born and raised along with two sisters and one brother in New England (USA) where they spent a lot of time outdoors. Wildlife and the nature, the rhythm of seasons, were a big part of growing up and learning about life, and they have remained an integral part of her creative work.
Her parents loved reading and shared that passion with Kate and her siblings through bedtime stories, trips to the library, and visits to the bookstore. Their house was filled with books and reading, which began as a habit, became a pleasure for her. She especially liked picture books, and the way in which words and illustrations could create a whole new world in which sometimes real and other times magical and unexpected things could happen.
She attended Wellesley College and received a Masters degree in History from Columbia University. After a stint in publishing, she moved to Europe where she has spent the past 25 years, dividing her time between Italy and France with her husband and two sons. You can learn more about her at her website.
LION LULLABY is a picture book about a group of lion cubs who are slowly making their way home at the end of the day. The repeated refrain of “hurry on home” leads the journey as the reader subtly learns all about their world. There are animals to play with all along the way and different kinds of environments. I haven’t seen any other lullaby book quite like this. It’s beautifully done and proves that there’s always room for another bedtime book done well.
Me: You have written quite a few Middle Grade and Young Adult books, as well as picture books. What is it then that draws you to writing picture books?
Kate: Firstly, my audience. I’ve always loved children and been a keen observer of their interplay with the world around them. It comes naturally to me, maybe because I loved my own childhood and can still remember vivid details of my own encounters with my surroundings. I seem to have never lost the ability to “see” through a child’s eyes. As for the picture book medium, I admire the way spare text and the right illustrations can work together to convey big ideas and/or concepts. And I’m drawn to that challenge. I am an avid advocate of storytelling and reading aloud and I cherish the process of sharing a book, turning the pages, and awakening the senses through page, paper, and pen. It’s a magical experience! For me the chance to revisit childhood, recapture its innocence, and view things as though for the first time is a privilege for me and a reminder of how amazing life is.
Me: There are several picture books that immediately come to mind about bed time. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bedtime story in an African setting with lion cubs heading to sleep. What gave you the idea?
Kate: Years back I did several books with illustrator, Georg Hallenleben, many of which unfolded against the backdrop of the natural world. Initially it was the visual possibilities of those settings that were appealing. And his depiction of wildlife was so winning. These days I turn to those settings as a way of connecting to nature and awakening readers to the wild and wonderful world of which we are all a part.
Me: This story is beautifully lyrical with some rhyme and repetition as well. How many revisions did this story undergo to get to the final draft readers will see?
Kate: I try not to count! Let’s just say many, like all of my books. Some edits happen in my mind during my day. Others emerge through a more formal process of reviewing the story and reading it aloud. Then once a text is written in a way that I’m happy with, there is the fine tuning. I tend to be very attentive and responsive to rhythm and sound and I imagine this process is somewhat like writing and refining a piece of music. Lastly, I always put the text aside for a week or so and later go back to it, making a few final tweaks.
Me: The illustrations by Lauren Tobia are absolutely wonderful. Those lion cubs are both adorable and mischievous! Were there any illustration surprises for you? What is your favorite illustration?
Kate: I wasn’t familiar with Lauren’s work so all of her illustrations were a surprise! I couldn’t agree with you more that she masterfully captured the adorable and mischievous nature of the cubs. Strangely (or not) my favorite illustration seems to change each time I look at the book—maybe in response to my mood or the particular time of day. I love them all though and think Lauren did a beautiful job of conveying the intent behind my words—as well as adding her own magic to the mix.
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Kate: Sometimes it made me sleepy and I took that as a good sign!
Me: That is a GREAT sign! Any advice for new picture book writers?
Kate: If I had to say one thing it would be write for a living but don’t live for writing. What I mean is don’t get caught up in the dramas and traumas of being a writer, nor in plots and characters at the expense of your own existence. Live your own life, find your path, follow it, and that will give you all the material you need. Write from the heart and filter the words though your own voice.
Me: I love that. Do you have any other projects coming soon or that you’re currently working on that you can tell us about?
Kate: I have two more picture books coming out in 2022. LOST AND FOUND is a story of friendship and discovery, the familiar and unfamiliar. It has an endearing cast of characters brought to life by illustrator, Galia Bernstein.
THE WINTER BIRD (gorgeous illustrations by Suzie Mason) is a story of resilience and kindness that grew from the idea of adaptation and how important that skill is to our growth and survival. The protagonist is a wounded summer bird who can’t fly south for the winter. But with help from friends it manages to brave the elements and become a winter bird too.
These both sound fantastic Kate. I can’t wait to read them. Thank you for stopping by my blog.
Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to check this book out, I highly recommend it. This is a bedtime book to study! The text has repetition to lull you to sleep, the characters are adorable, and there are nonfiction facts snuck in. It’s a lullaby unlike any other out there (that I know of). Don’t miss it!