authors, info, teachers' resources

Q&A with Hazel Edwards

There's a Hippopotamus on my roof eating cake (cover)Issue 9 features a Q&A with Hazel Edwards, author of There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, and Plato the Platypus Plumber (Part-time) and many more books! We could only include a selection of questions in the magazine, so here’s the full interview for you to enjoy.

Where do you live?
In my imagination. But also in the same house (in Blackburn, Victoria) where my cake-eating hippo still lives on the roof.

How old are you?
The age of the character I’m writing at the time.

(Hazel’s Tip: on the publisher’s page of a book there is a year the author was born, like 1945, and then a dash. If there’s nothing after the dash, they are still alive.)

I try to keep my photo up-to-date, my real face.

"Hazel Edwards, author"
Hazel Edwards, 2010

What was the inspiration for There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake?

Our new roof leaked. My then 3-year-old son thought there was a hippo up there, when the workmen banged around trying to fix the leak.

Of your own books, which is your favourite?

The one I haven’t written yet.

"Plato the platypus plumber (part-time) cover"Your favourite character?

Plato the Platypus Plumber, who has a toolkit that also fixes grumpy people. I love the way illustrator John Petropolous has drawn the toolkit, the water pipes and the Cassandra font he’s used (named after his daughter)

Where do you get your ideas?

I have an ideas notebook of things I see or hear, mixed with ‘What if?’ imagination. Other stories depend upon participant-observation, of going and doing something new, knowing you will write about it afterwards. So you pay special attention. Like in Antarctica. Or when I went down the waterways to find out about the platypus.

Why did you become an author?

Being an author is also an excuse for asking questions, and then it’s called research."Cake-Eating Hippo plays by Hazel Edwards"
I like learning new things to write about, and new formats in which to write the stories.

I like (collaborating) working with other creators like co-authors, illustrators, film-makers and puppeteers. I learn new ways of thinking in pictures, movement or textures. Even with interpreters who change the words into another language. Plato is being translated into German. Many of my books are in Braille or Auslan signing for deaf kids, Some are becoming electronically available on Kindle, iPad and iPhone and that’s an exciting and quick way for stories to travel across cultures and countries.

My favourite is when a story is performed especially on stage. I’m loving the process of film-making with Pocket Bonfire.

When did you first appear in print?

A story in the newspaper’s kids’ section when I was about eight.

Are you working on a new project at the moment?

Pocket Bonfire Productions’ short film inspired by There’s a Hippo … is out. Working with these guys across three years has been fun as they read the book as children and remained fans taking it into film, their way of storytelling.

Hazel shares some of the best questions she’s been asked.

I was asked, “Does Plato the Platyplus Plumber  talk to the cake-eating hippo?’ Previously I hadn’t thought about my fantasy character from one picture book talking to one of my others.

Do your characters ever talk to each other?
"Flight of the Bumblebee (cover)"

In my head. Maybe all my characters from different stories could meet? … Imagine a party or a TV panel with the clumsy Bumble from The Flight of the Bumblebee, the grumpy male bellydancing pig from Duckstar, my Gang-O orienteering sleuths … and other characters I haven’t written about yet who are waiting in my imagination.

"Gang-O Kids (cover)"A challenge

A librarian set students a challenge—Make up your own story based only on ALL Hazel’s book titles. Try it. They were allowed to add ‘and’ or ‘but’  joining words. Some fun stories appeared.

Does Hippo cook?

No, but recently we did a Channel 31 ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ program. Two 10 year olds made ‘hippo footprints’ (pancakes) and ‘ muddy platypus bubbles’ while I read the books Plato the Platypus Plumber and  Hooray There’s a Hippo on Our Roof Having a birthday Party’. We also made ‘ant bread.’

Do your children help with stories?

My children are adults now but I co-wrote, ex-blog  Cycling Solo; Ireland to Istanbul with my son Trevelyan. He did all the cycling. Now 11-year-old Truman helps me with story ideas.

How long does it take to write a book?

There’s thinking time and writing time. And re-writing time. I do about ten drafts. A picture book takes an illustrator at least a year to draw, sometimes longer.

"Duckstar (cover)" Any advice to aspiring illustrators?

I write an art brief, which is like a letter to the artist. For Plato, I asked for a plumber’s tool kit with a mobile phone that a platypus could wear underwater.

Any advice if doing a project on an author?
1.    Read at least three of the author’s books
2.    Google the author’s website.

What is the kind of answer the Hippo gives to fan’s questions?

"hippo caravan cover"Jenna asked, “How old are you Hippo?”
Hippo said: As the cake-eating, rooftop hippo, I am celebrating the 30th anniversary of being found on the roof. But I am ageless.

Maybe I am your age?

I am as old as you imagine me.

Love from

Hippo (via Hazel who does the typing. My feet are a bit big for the keyboard.)

Visit Hazel Edwards’s website for more about her books and book trailers, notes, reviews and publisher links. You’ll also find a link to Pocket Bonfire Production, film makers of the Hippo.

Book reviews by Rebecca, Christmas, teachers' resources

The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book

Visit your local library and find this book in the lead-up to Christmas. Elsewhere on Soup Blog I have talked about Pancakes and Painted Eggs (a book for Easter), and Haunts and Taunts (for Hallowe’en). This is another book for Aussie kids put together by Jean Chapman.

It’s an old book – I first read it when I was in primary school. But sometimes the old books are the best! (And the old editors too *cough cough*)

Here’s a taste of what you will find inside The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book:

  • The Christmas story – the birth of Jesus.
  • What are Twelfth Night and Epiphany all about? And how does the nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence fit into Christmas celebrations?
  • Stories retold, like The Nutcracker, and The Day After Christmas (the story behind the carol, ‘Good King Wenceslas’).
  • Christmas stories and traditions from other countries.
  • Traditional childhood Christmas games (and some non-Christmassy ones too – they’re all good fun!).
  • Craft activities (my favourites are making your own snowflakes, Christmas cards, bonbons (Christmas crackers), and walnut-shell boats.
  • Recipes and instructions so you can make your own Christmas party food like shortbread, a cold pudding that doesn’t need baking, and Christmas decorations that do need baking. (OK, so you don’t eat these Christmas decorations, but they add to the festivities!)
  • Traditional and modern rhymes, chants and songs for the Christmas season.

The sad news is that this book is out of print. But I have seen it in several public libraries, so ask your favourite librarian if there is a copy at your local library or whether they can get it in for you from another library. (Or perhaps if someone asks what you’d like for Christmas you could add this to your wishlist. I bought my copy secondhand, and it’s as good as a new book!)

The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book, (A book for Christmas and all the days of the year), by Jean Chapman. Illustrated by Deborah Niland. Song settings by Margaret Moore. Hodder and Stoughton (Australia) Pty Ltd. ISBN 0 340 22049 x

This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.

teachers' resources

Haunts and Taunts: a book for Hallowe’en and all the nights of the year!

Haunts and Taunts cover

Boggles and ghaisties,

And four-legged beasties,

And things that go bump

In the night.

This book is another old favourite of mine. It’s out of print, but (like Pancakes and Painted Eggs) is still available at some libraries. Or you could keep an eye out at second hand book shops!

Haunts and Taunts has the subtitle: A book for Hallowe’en and all the nights of the year. It’s full of spooky stories, poems, songs (with sheet music, arranged by Margaret Moore), explanations of customs from a variety of cultures, recipes, craft activities, and scary illustrations by Deborah Niland.

When Hallowe’en is over, you can dip into this book for stories and songs to use around a campfire (or around a candle at the kitchen table when the power is out!), or anytime if you love reading about boggarts, giants, enchantments, fairies and ghosts!

Ask your favourite librarian if they have it at your library.

This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection. Her tattered copy is a paperback and the ISBN is 034033452 5.
authors, illustrator

Author website: Hazel Edwards

book cover
book cover

There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake Answering Questions!

There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake (by Hazel Edwards and illustrated by Deborah Niland) celebrates its 30th birthday this year. Do you have a question you’d like to ask the hippo? You can ask away on Hazel’s website! (You can also find out the answers to to questions from other kids, like: What kind of cake is it? and Do you talk?)

The site also has news about Hazel’s latest picture book Flight of the Bumblebee, which comes with a CD of Antonia Kidman reading the story, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous music Flight of the Bumblebee.