Anindra Siqueira speaks with mother-daughter duo, Michelle & Tania Poonawalla, on Tania’s book The Adventures of Harvey Mouse Sleepover
In what should inspire any creative mind to express themselves, Tania Poonawalla, aged just 11-years-old, has published her first book, The Adventures of Harvey Mouse Sleepover, a story of a mischievous young mouse and his friends, which is illustrated by her mother, Michelle Poonawalla.
It all came about when Michelle drew an image of a mouse named Harvey, for her son. “Tania was sitting with us and at the time she was in awe of J K Rowling. I told her that if she wanted to be an author she could. ‘All you have to do is write your story and I will illustrate it,’ I said. I believe that from the time she saw that image, the story began taking shape in her mind. She was only 9 at the time, but has been a voracious reader and has a vivid imagination coupled with a great flair for writing,” Michelle says.
So that’s how it all started. And, there’s more to come from the talented young Tania. Here are excerpts from the interview with Michelle and her daughter Tania.
Do you feel the process and the experience has been enriching for Tania as a storyteller?
Yes, Tania has been very involved in the project. She was learning about personal goals in school and she decided to make her dream of writing her own book a personal goal. I did not even know it at the time. I attended a PTA and her teacher told it to me. The whole process, right from ideating and creating a story to putting her thoughts into words, overlooking the illustrations and, finally, hunting for a publisher (and even the process of acquiring the ISBN Code), has made Tania realise how difficult the life of an author can be. I have seen her grow along the way.
The illustrations are simple but captivating. How much input did your children have in the process?
Tania was extremely involved in the look and feel of the book. I did not need any inspiration really as she specified exactly what she wanted. It had to appeal to children of all ages. Her vision was very clear and this was the basis of the illustrations. Even my son would consistently give his inputs from a boy’s point of view. We wanted to ensure that the images appeal to both boys and girls.
The illustrations are particularly childlike, almost like a child’s colouring book. What’s the reasoning behind this?
The reason we kept them sweet, simple and endearing is because we wanted it to appeal to children. A 4-year-old should be interested in the images, an 8-year-old in the story and the images, and a 10-year-old in the story, the writing style and the images.
What advice do you have for parents of creative young children? How can they nurture their talent and creativity?
I always tell both my children that they can do anything they want to in life. If they wish to write a book, they can! All they have to do is believe. It is very important to encourage your child based on what their strengths are. I feel that there is so much pressure, in terms of academics and the number game, on children these days that is important to let them decide what they would like to do in their free time. Respecting their creativity is integral to making them who they are and so is appreciating and encouraging them at all stages. And most importantly, to achieve their dreams, they should believe in themselves and fear nothing.
Your very first book! How does it feel to have finally published it? What has the journey been like?
It’s been a great learning experience. I realised the difficulties an author faces. Looking back, writing was the most fun and the easiest part of the journey. My family has been supportive and has never given up on me. My mother encouraged me at every point. Their feedback kept me motivated. I have a newfound respect for authors as their jobs are surely not easy. I am thankful to my parents, my family and friends, as well as to the publishers IBD, for allowing me to get this far.
Does storytelling come naturally? You are (or were) a fan of the Harry Potter series, so you have a lot of literary backing here. Did that help?
I have always been very fond of reading and I was in awe of the author of the Harry Potter series, J K Rowling. She is a fine example of an author who believed in herself. Looking at her story and following her journey, I knew that if I really wanted to do something, I could make it possible. This is also because my mother has instilled this value in us.
Where do the characters come from?
Reading is a habit that has been instilled in us since we were very young. Once you start reading, you are lost in stories and even come up with stories that others might like to read. Harvey Mouse stayed with me from the day I first saw the illustration, and even today, where I am always thinking of his next adventure. Everything comes from my imagination; my all-time favourite books are The Chronicles of Narnia, the Geronimo series, the Harry Potter series — books in which one tends to become a part of the story. I have been an avid reader since I can remember. Even when I read these books, my mind is constantly thinking. I wrote about what I love, and all children love, a midnight feast, candy land and magic.
The Adventures of Harvey Mouse Sleepover is the first in a series, we take it. Can you give us a sneak peek into what’s in store for Harvey and his friends?
The next story I have written is called The Adventures of Harvey Mouse – Super Moon. It is inspired by the super moon phenomenon that we experienced some months ago. It too is a magical adventure of Harvey and his friends. Mum has already illustrated it!