I have a bit of an addiction to collecting children’s picture books. It’s the way they feel when you turn the page, the dreamy illustrations, the magical stories and even better, sharing the magic with my kids. Most of the children’s books I’ve read are mostly relatable to kids but recently, I read a picture book called Marvellous Mummy by Katie Poli and Illustrated by Katie’s husband, Giuseppe Poli. It really hit a nerve.
Marvellous Mummy had me nodding throughout the whole book as if it was written about me; the good and the not so good. A book about when I’m brave, when I’m silly, when I’m happy and when I’m not. It is real. Best of all, the book is written from a child’s perspective and was the perfect reminder that although I have my ups and downs, I am the sunshine of my children’s lives.
Interview with Katie Poli, Author of Marvellous Mummy
I was over the moon when I was invited to interview Katie and find out more about the woman behind this wonderful book. A woman who, in addition to writing this fabulous book, also teaches piano, works as a university lecturer, is studying for two postgraduate degrees, all while raising three children! Now that’s multitasking for you!
What inspired you to write Marvellous Mummy?
The “Mum” book market is quite saturated, but I wanted to capture the multidimensional nature of mothers, and how children acknowledge our flaws (i.e. the ‘grumpy’ page) but still think, we are pretty awesome.
You teach piano, work as a University lecturer, are studying for two post-grad degrees, raise three children and have just written a book. How on earth do you juggle all of these commitments?
Deep down, I’m totally mad! In reality, I am lucky to be surrounded by very understanding people, so I like to say that ‘we’ juggle all these commitments.
To start with, I now exercise regularly (thank goodness for 24hr gyms!), and I think that is really helpful for both my physical and mental health. Unfortunately, I do tend to burn the candle at both ends; I’ll either go to bed very late or get up around 3 am, or just sometimes not bother going to bed at all!
My three ‘darling’ children were dreadful sleepers, so they trained me well to cope with life even while I was completely exhausted. Although I do enjoy sleep when I can get it, I can function on very little. I am blessed to have a husband who, although also extraordinarily busy (working a full-time day job and part-time as a children’s book illustrator), is a ‘partner’ in every sense of the word – hands-on with the kids, and super helpful around the house. My own Marvellous Mum (and Dad!) are incredible – they babysit when necessary, and Mum even cooks us dinner (and drops it off!) at least once a week. Finally, my kids are also amazingly understanding about their ‘not-so-marvellous Mummy’ when I go through extremely busy patches.
What do your children think of the book? Are some of the words what they have said about you?
To tell you the truth, whilst our kids are complete bookworms, they watch every part of the creation process (our 9-year-old son is already planning his first ‘book launch’!), so by the time the actual book arrives it isn’t that much of a novelty to them. Giuseppe (my husband) has illustrated seven books (including Marvellous Mummy), and whenever we suggest reading one of them there is often an “Ummmm, Nah” response!
The words in the book are not random enough to have come out of my hilarious children’s mouths. Last year my then-6-year-old daughter’s Mother’s Day card from school read “I love my Mummy because… she gives me a chocolate when Darcy is asleep”!! Mr 8’s card said, “Dear Mum, I love you so much, even when you are being sarcastic”!!
I like the part, ‘My mummy is scary and noisy and loud’ Are you really scary, noisy and loud? 🙂
That is a very fun page – I think I can definitely be all three of those! I also believe that my children would agree that the page “My Mummy is grumpy and grouchy and cross” applies more often than they’d like.
Where did your husband Giuseppe gather inspiration for the colourful and lively illustrations?
Giuseppe’s pictures always add another level to the stories he illustrates. He has an amazing ability to add energy to all the right places, and a gorgeous intimacy when needed. He adores our children’s artwork (fortunately they seem to have their Daddy’s talent in that department) and is on a permanent mission to bring that spontaneity and joy into his illustrations.
On an aside, I love how he extends the story into the endpapers. If you look carefully, the first endpaper is the Mum ‘planning’ the day (marking it on the calendar, making a shopping list). Then, the half-title page shows a house in the darkness of early morning with only one light on. The full title page follows with the Mum inside (dark sky outside), obviously up super-early making cupcakes for her special day with her daughter. Flip over to the final endpaper, and it is full of the memories from the day – a scattering of photos, and a gorgeous drawing by the little girl. Those extra elements really add something special to a book and offer more opportunities for discussion during the reading of the story.
Giuseppe also needs full credit for illustrating a book while living with the author (aka. me!) and putting up with that author (aka. me!) regularly criticising what he was doing and demanding ongoing changes! Illustrators usually get to work in peace until they send final images through for approval. I need to write a book starting, “My illustrator is patient, and understanding, and kind…”
What advice would you give a mum that doesn’t really think she’s marvellous?
Being a Mum in this day and age is tough! Social media has a lot to answer for, and I know I’m the first person to spend too much time on Instagram and fall into the trap of thinking that, ‘everyone else has it together except me’.
People might think that I’m ‘amazing’ to juggle everything I do, but my house is a disastrous mess (no ‘Pinterest perfect’ over here!), my kids are used to being ignored while I’m trying to write an assignment or finalise some lecture slides. I also have bags under my eyes and fuzzy hair, and I’m always late for everything because I’m forever trying to fit in ‘one last thing’. However, my kids still tell me I’m beautiful, and I’m the best mum in the world. So to any mum who doesn’t believe she is marvellous, look at yourself through the lens of your little people; they usually think you are pretty perfect regardless of how shambolic you might feel.
Lastly, what’s your favourite thing about being a mum?
Watching my kids grow up into the fabulous, hilarious and independent little people that they are becoming. I love Gretchen Rubin’s quote, “The days are long but the years are short.” While those early days were loooooooong, the years really are zooming by. In amongst our ‘crazy’ I’m really trying to appreciate every stage.
And Christmas with kids is the best thing ever!
Oh, and watching them sleep…
And having three other people to blame for your wobbly tummy when you really know that it was probably chocolate-related.
Hmmm… am I allowed to have more than one favourite thing? Being a mum is pretty marvellous!
Grab your copy of Marvellous Mummy >> here.
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