Interview with Carmen Ellis and Sarah Cullen – Authors of “Nellie the Narwhal”

Interview with Carmen Ellis and Sarah Cullen – Authors of “Nellie the Narwhal” 175 172 Reader Views Kids

Nellie the Narwhal
Sarah Cullen and Carmen Ellis
Majestic Whale Encounters (2020)
ISBN 9780648849803

Carmen Ellis and Sarah Cullen are the authors of this delightful book, Nellie the narwhal. Not only are Carmen and Sarah sisters but they also have a company that takes people swimming with whales in beautiful places all over the world called Majestic Whale Encounters. Nellie the Narwhal was created to spread joy and hope to all the ocean loving kids and parents around the world. 

Carmen has 3 young daughters and Sarah has 2 little boys. Every night for as long as they can remember, they have read the kids bedtime stories and it is a dream come true to be able to read their own book to the kids. 

We have loved every minute of creating this book and look forward to many more to come in the near future. We hope your kids enjoy Nellie’s adventures as much as we do.’ 

Hi Sarah and Carmen, Welcome to Reader Views Kids! We’re delighted to talk with you today. First, tell us a bit about “Nellie the Narwhal,” your debut picture book.

Thank you so much, we are delighted to be here. Nellie the Narwhal is a rhyming picture book for children aged 3-7. We follow Nellie as she finds herself a little sad with no one to play with so she heads of on an adventure to find her friends. She comes across a juggling octopus, a cheeky turtle, and a tail splashing whale. 

What was your inspiration behind the story?

Between the two of us we have 5 kids and it may sound cliché but they have always been our biggest inspiration. This story teaches children that they do not have to look the same to be able to play and we feel like all our kids have been really good at including everyone and making people feel special. We feel the most important thing in life is the way we treat people, so therefore it was such a natural first storyline for us. 

For those that might not know, what is a Narwhal?

This is so interesting! We had no idea before we wrote Nellie that a lot of people don’t know what a narwhal is. The best way to explain this to children is that it’s like a unicorn of the sea. A small sized whale with a huge tusk. It’s definitely not one we will be swimming with though! ?

What kinds of challenges does Nellie face and how will young kids relate these challenges to their everyday lives?

Nellie struggles to fit in with each friend she finds on her travels. She wants to play with them all and is very excited to try but each new friend tells her she’s either not big enough and doesn’t have the same skills or attributes that they possess. Nellie is imaginative and persistent and helps her friends to realise that in fact size doesn’t really matter when it comes to playing with friends and with a little imagination and will power there are other skills and contributions she can make to their games and friendship.

What a special treat for a child to receive a copy of your book when they go on a Majestic Whale Encounter with their parents!  What has the response been from such an offering?

Yes, this has been really special for us, the driving force of the book actually. Due to corona, we have been unable to run our tours this year, but our future guests are aware their kids will get a copy of our book and they are so stoked.

What is the most important message you hope young readers take away from “Nellie the Narwhal?”

The most important message we’d like the young readers to take away is that we don’t all have to be the same. Everyone can look different or have a different up bringing but we can all find things in common.

How did you find your illustrator, and what was it like working together to bring your story to life?

We did a lot of research on our illustrator as we really wanted a specific and professional look to the book. We found the Illustrators from an online search, and we are so glad we did. They are not only extremely talented but kind, honest and so easy to work with. They will be doing the illustrations for all our future books.

What is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?

We did so much research on this topic. Children like books that are simple, repetitive, and have engaging pictures. The challenge for us was to keep the story rhyming but also making sense and trying not to rhyme just for rhymes sake. You also have to keep in mind that you are writing a book for children but marketing to the parents, so that will also be a challenge for us, but we love challenges!

So, what’s next? Do you have another story in the works?

We sure do, in the next book Nellie and her friends will be coming across a human dumping rubbish in the ocean and she will show them how they can take care of the ocean.

Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging picture book authors?

I think that a lot of people put their dreams of writing a children’s book in the ‘too hard’ basket. My advice not only for writing, but in general for following your passions is to just do it. You will need to do lots of research and put in a lot of hard work, but when you love something, the hard work doesn’t seem quite so hard.

Sarah and Carmen, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views Kids!

Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to spread the word of Nellie to more young readers.


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