Profile: Howling success!

Karen Hart, education writer, London
Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Karen Hart talks to children's author Kat Patrick and finds out how her latest picture book is all about encouraging young girls to not be afraid to express their feelings – as loudly as possible!

By Karen Hart

Author of the popular Doodle Cat children's book series, journalist and author Kat Patrick, has literally written her way around the world. For her latest book, Kat (bottom left) has teamed up with illustrator Evie Barrow (bottom right) to create a picture book about how children, and particularly young girls, can express feelings of anger and frustration, and know it's OK to let those big feelings go:

‘First of all, the sun was the wrong shape, in a sky that was too blue. The spaghetti was too long, and her pyjamas were the wrong kind of pyjama. Then Maggie begins to have wolfish thoughts …’

Howl was described by librarian, parent and teacher review group, The School Reading List, as – ‘Beautifully illustrated and moving … With fantastic drawings, this book is perfect for sparking emotional display artwork ideas.’

Tell us a bit about your background

I'm originally from the UK, and have previously worked as a journalist.

After stints in New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Paris and Patagonia, I'm now based in Glasgow. I recently realised I never actually grew up, and so have been trying to make a living as a writer ever since. I have always wanted to write.

What led you to writing children's books?

My good friend Lauren (the illustrator of the Doodle Cat series) and I started working on a picture book just for the pleasure of it. We'd meet up and run through wild ideas. Eventually, the book we made was published. Things went from there!

What was your inspiration for Howl?

I had been reading a lot of non-fiction by Marina Warner and Anne Carson, as well as considering works by artists such as Kiki Smith. I think this all sort of coalesced into Howl. I loved this notion of women ‘shrieking in the wolf thickets’ as a means to release, and make known, moments of intense feeling.

Should we be encouraging girls in particular to be more vocal with regards to pent up emotions and self-expression?

Picture books have a long history of boys who are permissibly ‘loud’ and that narrative doesn't exist in the same way for girls. I was keen to consider what that ‘loud’ really meant. In Howl, I wanted it to represent a way to move safely through a moment of intense feeling, then be able to return to yourself. We are particularly unforgiving of this when it comes to girls.

Do you consider Howl to be especially relevant after this time of prolonged lockdown when children have spent so much time indoors?

Of course! It's never been more necessary to stand in the garden, or be socially-distanced in your nearest park, and yell. This is a time that is as boring as it is terrifying.

With the closure of schools and the pressures of a new lockdown, this is a good time to show it's ok to release big feelings and has resulted in a feeling of prolonged and itchy frustration. I've found that a large howl is a pretty good cure.

Do you plan to write more books for this age group, or to go in another direction?

I have a couple of picture books in the works, and I am also working on my first middle grade novel.

How do you relax?

Mostly I'm just hanging out with my wild dog, Dot. She has an excellent howl.

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