TAKING 5 WITH DEE WHITE (Author of 'Reena's Rainbow')
1/ How did you come up with the idea for Reena’s Rainbow?
Before I got hearing aids, I experienced how isolating it is when you can't hear or understand conversations around you.
I also noticed that deaf children aren't represented in books, and I wanted them to feel valued and included, and also to allow hearing readers to understand and be part of a deaf child's world.
My own children also provided a lot of the inspiration for Reena's Rainbow. When my boys were both under three, we travelled around Australia for almost two years in tents, and they played happily with every child they met. It made me realise that young children have no bias toward other children on the basis of size, age, race, wealth or abilities. My two toddlers didn't seem to even notice differences. Every child they met was a friend with fun new games and ideas to share.
This concept of inclusion was important for Reena's story. As well as Reenabeing accepted into the hearing world, she brings the children back into her world and teaches them how to sign.
My boys are quite close together in age so right from the start we tried to avoid comparisons and competition by encouraging their individual qualities and differences. Just as Reena and Dog are defined by the special things they can do, not by the things they can't.
I was so lucky to work with amazing illustrator, Tracie Grimwood on Reena'sRainbow. It's the sixth book we have created together. Tracie always seems to understand exactly what I'm trying to say, and her illustrations add another layer of meaning to the text.
2/ Do you have a favourite animal? What is it? Why is it your favourite?
Can I pick two? I love, love dogs. I have another new book, K9 Heroes just released and it's about dogs who have saved people's lives. We always had dogs growing up and they were fun to play with, and my dog used to sleep on the end of my bed. But I really love goats too. They have so much personality. Our goat Molly used to come for walks with the dog, and sneak into the house if anyone left the front door open. She was very affectionate and had a great sense of humour. Dogs and goats, sorry too close to call which is my favourite. Oh ... and I love cats and rabbits too.
3/ What would be your dream children’s book project (be it a collaboration, theme etc)?
I think I'm living the dream already:-) I've always wanted to write books that can bring about change in reader understanding and attitudes, books that reflect our world and encourage empathy, books that make a difference in reader's lives. Of course if someone wanted to make one of my books into a movie, that would be great too. :-)
4/ Describe your dream work environment (where you would like to sit and write)
I recently spent a month in Paris researching and writing a book, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Spending three months of every year writing in France (perhaps in a chateau) would have to be my dream goal.
5/ What’s your all-time-favourite children’s book (for the early childhood sector)?
The Great Castle of Marshmangle by Malachy Doyle and illustrated by Paul Hess.
I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I now have 18 books and 2 plays published for children and young adults. I live in regional Australia with my husband, 2 children and an assortment of elderly pets.
I think the world would be a better place if we were all a lot kinder and more inclusive, and tried to understand each other, just like the characters in Reena's Rainbow.