Rhyming along with Hank the Shark

By Colleen Thorpe

Hank the Shark is a hilarious rhyming tale about a pint-size boy who takes on the strongest, most fearsome creature in the ocean ... and beats him.

Written for kids and grown-ups alike, Gerry Paul's quirky story is lively and engaging. It's his first picturebook and is accompanied by a three-track CD.

Born in Dublin, Gerry grew up in Lower Hutt but has spent the past 13 years in Ireland.

I asked him a few questions about his life and his work:

Ireland or New Zealand? Tell us the good and the bad about these countries.

I feel very lucky to be associated with, have lived in, and have passports for both Ireland and New Zealand. Both countries have such rich cultures, beautiful geography and landscape, warm, relaxed people and a peaceful existence. The positive aspects of both countries would by far outweigh any negatives.

Who is your favourite musician?

My favourite musical act is the duo Gillian Welch and David Rawlings from Nashville. They are incredible musicians and singers as well as being really intuitive writers as well. Everything they do is golden for me, and David is my favourite guitarist. I have seen them play a few times and last year I did three shows in Ireland, paying tribute to the songs of the duo - although they are still alive.

What made you branch out into writing?

It was by accident that I ended up publishing a book, really. I have written songs for years, and travelling and being in unusual places and situations have inspired my songwriting.

I started writing for kids two years ago, when many of my friends started having them, and they would often ask me to sing them a song.

I would make up silly/funny rhymes and I loved the reaction from the kids, so wrote more. One of the songs, Hank the Wrestling Shark, won the Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and this was encouraging, so I wrote more ...

How did Hank the Shark come about?

My life-long obsession with sharks. I love them. They are so beautiful and majestic in the water and I am always intrigued, yet intimidated by them. I spend a lot of time free-diving and body surfing, so the thought of one appearing is often at the back of my mind - no matter how hard I try to shake it. This particular story was inspired after body surfing in Bondi Beach, Sydney.

Did you have a favourite song as a child?

I think it was between Blue Suede Shoes sung by Elvis, or A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash.

Do you have children of your own? If so, what do you read them?

I don't have children of my own, but if I did, other than Hank the Shark, I think I would put Spike Milligan on and listen to Badjelly the Witch. This would be followed by reading Oh! The Places You'll Go by Dr Seuss. I do this myself quite often.

Who influenced your love of music?

My mother, who is a gorgeous, traditional Irish singer and my father, who loves music and can pick out a tune on most instruments. Also, a teacher I had called Richard Smith in primary school, who got me started on the guitar.

As a child what was your favourite book?

My favourite book as a child was The Twits by Roald Dahl.

Have you any tips on encouraging children to read?

Reading them stories on subjects they are interested in. For young boys, sharks are a winner.

What's next for Gerry Paul?

I have just come off a tour with the amazing Irish musician Sharon Shannon and now am straight into producing and promoting a tour called Celtic Divas with four fabulous singers from Ireland, which will tour New Zealand and Australia in May and June.

I will be touring schools in April playing my kids' songs and teaching the kids about songwriting. I'm working on an iPad app called The Elephant Bird and in October I'm off to the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, where NZ is the country of honour.

I have my book translated to German, Spanish and French so hopefully I will get some foreign publishers interested. It's an exciting year ahead.

Title: Hank the Wrestling Shark

Author: Gerry Paul

Illustrator: Tom Armstrong

Publisher: Bookreps NZ, $24.99

For every book bought $1 will be donated to the Child Cancer Foundation.

- Hamilton News

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