Katrina Charman & Guilherme Karstenn

Hen in the Bed
Katrina Charman & Guilherme Karstenn

About Author

Katrina Charman and Guilherme Karsten tell ReadingZone how a traditional children's song inspired their new picture book, Hen in the Bed

Katrina Charman lives in a house full of bookshelves fit to bursting, and continues to fill them with books that she has written. When she's not writing, she is cuddled up with one of her fluffy cats and a good book.

Guilherme Karsten lives in Blumenau, in southern Brazil. After illustrating many books for other authors, Guilherme started writing his own books in 2017. His work has been published worldwide and has won awards, including the Golden Pinwheel Grand Award.



Hen in the Bed  (Nosy Crow)

March 2024

Hen in the Bed is a funny, interactive picture book that will bring laughter and fun during little one's bedtime and to storytime - this is a picture book that will be demanded again and again!  We found out from author Katrina Charman and illustrator Guilherme Karstenn why they wanted to retell the well known nursery rhyme, Ten in the Bed, and what they have brought to their own retelling.

Review:  The lovely split page design is interesting and intriguing for little ones who enjoy turning the page to find out which animal 'fell out' and name them. 

Q&A with author Katrina Charman

"Nursery rhymes are a great way for children to engage with language, storytelling, drama and music.
The repetition helps them to engage and learn the rhymes quickly."

1. Can you tell us a little about yourselves and how you started creating picture books, and what you love about this work?

Katrina:    I have always loved making up stories, ever since I was little so it was my dream to become a children's author one day.  Children's books capture a very special magic and sense of wonder. Picture books are particularly magical to me because I love the way that the words and pictures work together to enhance the reading experience, and the fact that they are so beloved by children that they are read and re-read so many times.

Guilherme:    I started my career in the world of picture books as an illustrator because I've always loved drawing. After illustrating many books for writer friends, I started writing my own stories. For me, illustrating or writing picture books is about putting my imagination and freedom into action. I love using a book as the place where I can record my most absurd and amusing ideas.

2.    Whose idea was it to create a picture book around the Ten in the Bed nursery rhyme? Why did you want to work with this particular nursery rhyme?

Katrina:   Many of my other picture books feature well-known nursery rhymes with a new twist. My children loved singing Ten in the Bed when they were younger so it was a rhyme that I wanted to re-work in some way. Guilherme has done an absolutely fantastic job of giving each character in the book a personality and bringing humor and fun to the rhyme.

Guilherme:    I actually wasn't familiar with this nursery rhyme, as I don't think it's such a popular song here in Brazil. It was only when I started the illustrations that I discovered the importance of this song and felt the weight of the responsibility. But I had so much fun creating the illustrations - now and then I would hum along while drawing the characters.

3.    How have you made the rhyme your own - and why did you choose to work with animals for your version?

Katrina:   Hen was the obvious choice because it fit in so well with the original rhyme, but we wanted to add more fun to the book as well as thinking about which animals would make the best sounds so that reading the book aloud was just as fun and interactive.

Guilherme:    I received the text ready to go, with all the animals already chosen. The publisher Nosy Crow gave me the freedom to give my perspective to the text, and when I read it, I thought I could contribute an idea, adding the sloth to be a counterpoint and brightening up the end of the story. 

4.    What do the illustrations and split-page novelty elements bring to the story? Was it challenging to work out how these would run?

Katrina:    Guilherme's illustrations absolutely bring an added element of fun and enjoyment to the experience of reading the book. There is a whole other story happening within the pictures and many funny things to spot, such as the interactions between the characters. When looking at the order of the animals, it was important to take into account the animals that they would be interacting with, the sound sequence and how the illustrations worked, which was very much more of Guilherme and the creative teams work.

Guilherme:    When I started the layouts, I thought that each split page could help tell other stories that the text doesn't tell. I think that a good picture book is one in which the illustrations are not exactly what the text says, but they contribute more visual information, adding even more detail and enabling the reader to discover a new side to the text.

With each animal that fell out of the bed, a new scene was created. The cow falls on top of the lion, hurts her tail, bandages it and reads books to all the animals... the text doesn't mention it, but there's plenty of room for creating these new scenes. This enriches the book!

5.    We love all the details on the pages; which elements do you think children will enjoy and what will make this nursery rhyme special to them? Any favourite pages or moments?

Katrina:    As a parent, I know that children love rhyming books or books that you can sing along too, and add your own sound effects and even movements to.   I love that this book is very interactive - readers can act out the story, and roar, hiss, and growl along with the animals.   My favourite part has to be when the sloth, who has been sleeping soundly while all this chaos is happening around him, finally wakes up at the end of the book. I also love the poor lion's facial expressions.

Guilherme:    Children are very quick to pick up on details, and this can turn reading time into great fun. I don't have a favorite scene as I like them all - I especially like seeing all the friendships between the animals, and how they connect.

6.    Why do you think it's important that young children are introduced to traditional nursery rhymes like this one? Can parents who don't know the song still enjoy the book?

Katrina:    Nursery rhymes are a great way for children to engage with language, storytelling, drama and music. The repetition helps them to engage and learn the rhymes quickly. Hen in the Bed has an audio accompaniment of the song and the story so that any parents, teachers or children who are unfamiliar with the rhyme can listen or sing along.

Guilherme:    Music is something that naturally unites us, and seeing adults singing with children and having the book as a base creates a natural bond. The book becomes an emotional memory.   The book works perfectly, even for those who don't know the song (like me), because it has other elements that interact with children: counting from 10 to 1, animal sounds, repetition of text... All this helps the child to memorize the story. It's a perfect combo of fun.

7.    Are you working on any other nursery rhymes or other projects together? What are you each working on currently?

Katrina:   Guilherme and I aren't working on anything else together at the moment, but I would love to in the future. He is a huge talent and it has been a privilege to have worked with him on this book and see how wonderfully he brought the story to life. I am currently working on some more picture books with Nosy Crow.

Guilherme:    We aren't at the moment, but I'd definitely like to illustrate more nursery rhymes, I really enjoyed the experience. At the moment I'm illustrating some non-fiction books for children (it's amazing), and a collection of novelty-books, which is a lot of fun. I've also just released a new book called Are You a Sleepy Monster?

8.    What kinds of things do you enjoy doing to escape your desk or studio?

Katrina:    I live very close to the forest so I love to run or walk and just be amongst nature. It is where I often get many of my ideas or when inspiration strikes.

Guilherme:    Actually I quite like being at my desk, but I also like watching movies, running with my wife, playing basketball with my kids. Swimming in the pool (Brazil is very hot), travelling to new places...


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