This weeks Story Time is the beautiful book Shadowcat by Julia Louise Petricevic. This is Jualia's first book.
Shadowcat is the story of a young girl called Edith, who is feeling a bit out of sorts since the arrival of her new baby brother. One day a mysterious cat offers to teach her to dance, and everything changes. It is a story about magic and imagination, about change, loss and resilience; most of all it is a story that celebrates the special bond between a girl and a cat.
Julia is a teacher librarian, working at a Prep to Year 12 school for girls. She is very fortunate to be sharing the joy of books and reading with young people of all ages. She has also volunteered with the State Library of Victoria, helping deliver their Storytime sessions every Wednesday morning saying "Sometimes we would get over 150 babies and children and parents, it was wild!"
Here's what Julia had to say when we caught up with her...
LRR: How long have you been writing for?
Julia: I wrote the first draft for Shadowcat about four years ago, and have been tinkering away with it and other stories since then.
LRR: Why children’s books? How did you start?
Julia: I find children’s picture books very appealing, like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, I think stories are vastly improved with pictures and conversation. There is great pleasure to be experienced from exploring the nuances of difference between the illustrations and the text.
I started writing children’s stories after I rediscovered a favourite picture book from my childhood, which my dad would have to read to me every night for at least a year. It was called Pookie and the Gypsies by Ivy Wallace, and it was originally published by 1947. Pookie was a rabbit with rainbow wings and ridiculous pants, and the whole thing was absolutely adorable. I wanted to capture that sense of the magic of love in my own stories.
LRR: What age group are your books for?
Julia: Shadowcat is suitable for children aged 2 to 9. I think the younger children will enjoy the gorgeous illustrations and playful use of language when being read to, whereas older children, who at that age still really enjoy animal stories, would be able to really sink their teeth into the weightier issues in the story. Adults who have read Shadowcat respond in really different ways too, some identify with being the younger sibling who was left out, some fondly remember growing up with their childhood pet.
LRR: How would you describe your writing style?
Julia: Lyrical. I use poetic language, imagery and symbolism to create atmosphere and tone, and I am influenced by fairytales, particularly the Brothers Grimm. I try to play around with the idea of magic and wishes coming at a cost, but in a much more positive way in Shadowcat.
LRR: What are the best bits about creating stories and writing for kids?
Julia: Stories are a way for people to make sense of the world, and this duty is especially important for children, who are experiencing everything for the first time and need to see that their feelings and ideas are valued. I hope that young people who read Shadowcat, or have it read to them, find something in it that resonates with what they love and value, or helps them understand their world.
LRR: Where do the story ideas come from?
Julia: Shadowcat was inspired by a photography book called Dancing with Cats, which was a popular coffee table book in the 90s, but I found while rummaging around in a second hand book store. It is quite kooky, but the pictures of children with their cats were very moving and I thought there was a story there worth exploring. So Shadowcat evolved from there, and I drew from my own experiences and feelings too.
LRR: Where do you write best? Home, out and about, etc?
Julia: I like writing at home. I like to pop on some music which captures the mood of the story and play it on repeat while I am writing. Best to not subject that to other people.
You can find out more about Julia here:
On Facebook – Julia Louise Author