Thursday Talk & Tea with Justine Clarke

So, we went to see Play School live in concert yesterday, and it was GREAT! Lived up to all expectations…except, Justine Clarke wasn’t there. Sad face. But I get it. Justine is really really busy. She’s on TV shows {which I love} and she performs around Australia.

Just this month, she has also launched a children’s book The Ugly Ducklingwhich is gorgeously illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom. Justine performs The Ugly Duckling song, written by Frank Loesser in 1951, which was performed by Danny Kaye in the classic movie Hans Christian Andersen in 1952. If you have never seen it, watch this clip. Adorable. If you are like me, you might cry.

We have not stopped playing Justine’s performance of The Ugly Duckling in the car since we received it, and I often hear my daughters singing the song to themselves. So sweet.

Anyway, lucky lucky me got to talk with Justine {my idol} over email this week. I think I might just like her even more.

Justine Clarke

Hi Justine. I am so thrilled to interview you for My Little Sunshine House: Talk & Tea. My daughters are also very excited, as they love your music. 

Can you tell us about how you came to sing The Ugly Duckling song, written by Frank Loesser?

I grew up watching Danny Kaye’s movies. Hans Christian Anderson and the Court Jester are my two favourites of his but I loved all the songs from Hans Christian Anderson and none more than Frank Loesser’s The Ugly Duckling. I love it’s melody, the chords, the economy of it’s story telling and of course the story itself which is essentially about identity and belonging. That life long question… Who am I?

We all want to belong and sometimes in our need for belonging we end up excluding others, that’s what the ducklings do. They are scared of the Ugly Duckling because he is different and they are afraid.

The Ugly Duckling Justine Clarke Frank Loesser Nathaniel Eckstrom

Did you read The Ugly Duckling when you were a child? What’s your personal relationship with this classic story?

I was so captured by the thought of what I would look like when I grew up. I looked around at adults and they looked so “other” to me, I couldn’t imagine what I was going to look like so I loved the idea in this story that the Ugly Duckling can make this most magnificent transformation. {I think I’m still captured by that and imagine one day I’ll wake up with completely toned thighs!}

You use interesting instruments, the trumpet, the tuba and the marimba in your performance of The Ugly Duckling to help you tell the story. Is there any particular reason you chose these instruments?

Evan Manell (the arranger and co producer) wanted the sounds to be simple and discernible so a child’s ear could recognise and hear them all easily and at once. The images in the book by Nathaniel Eckstrom are so beautiful we wanted to compliment that by keeping the instrumentation simple and playful. So the trumpet also acts as the duck and at times the marimba could be the ripples on the water whilst the tuba can evoke such a great feeling of sadness representing the loneliness and isolation of the Ugly Ducking.

How can music change, influence or enhance the experience of reading a picture book, do you think?

Anything that gets kids holding a book and turning pages is good as far as I’m concerned. I think it will particularly appeal to kids who enjoy listening to music and singing along, it gets you closer to the lyrics when there are images to accompany it; the story telling that’s involved in singing. Those 1950’s American Songbook composer did that to perfection.

Do you have a favourite children’s book?

Sooo many…Matilda, Where The Wild Things Are, Where is The Green Sheep?, The Lorax. I could go on…

If you could perform a song to any children’s book, from any era, what would you choose?

I’d love to know what the “wild rumpus” sounds like in Where The Wild Things Are. There’s definitely jungle drums and perhaps some high pitched wild thing singing!

Thank you Justine! 

Thanks Zanni. It’s really good to know your daughters have the tune in their heads now!

Justine x

I have three copies of The Ugly Duckling {Scholastic} to give away. The hardback book comes with a CD of Justine’s performance of Frank Loesser’s song. It’s really adorable. Just tell me in the comments or in the link to this post on Facebook what story you would like to hear Justine sing one day. This is a game of chance. Open to Australian residents only. Entries close Wednesday 29th October at midnight.

For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You might also like to visit my new website, The Quincys ~ Good Music For Kids.

  • Kaydee

    My little girls have this really great book called Bridget Fidget. I would love Justine to sing it as it has many emotions in it that I am sure she would do brilliantly – it gets dramatic and tense when Captain Cat gets lost, so much relief at thejr reunion, happiness when Bridget Fidget is so kind to everyone etc.

  • I LOVE you, Justine! Great interview, Zanni.

    My kids (especially my littlest) love the Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? books (Polar Bear and Panda Bear are 2 and 3). Would love to hear Justine turn them into songs! And to see if she treated them all the same way, or if the second and third books (especially Panda Bear, Panda Bear, the book about endangered species) were arranged differently.

    Thanks for hosting the giveaway.

    • We love the Brown bear, brown bear book. Good one!

  • Kathy

    That’s lovely Zanni. Playschool is so enduring as so are the classic tales – that Danny Kaye clip was just delightful. We met Karen Pang at a Families with Children from China camp in Sydney when Miss Yin was prime Playschool age (4-5) and she was really lovely – all the kids got a real kick out of meeting her.

  • I love Justine Clark. Hayley has always stopped and paid attention to her music clips on abc since she was really little. Now we dance to them as well.

    • The song she loves most at the moment is 5 little speckled frogs… she’s only 15 months so shes not really into many proper kids story books yet.

  • marypreston

    Dr. Seuss comes to mind. Beloved stories with important messages of acceptance and individuality. Makes me smile to think of how they could become songs.

  • My kids love Justine-will have to get a copy of her book. How cool you got to interview her Zanni!

  • Great interview Zanni! Justine is just gorgeous (inside & out). x

  • Oh I love Justine. I recently watched her interview on Show’n’Tell and fell in love even more. I would love to hear her do an upbeat Hairy Maclarey! LOL It would be hilarious!

    • Ooh, can’t wait to see that. Hairy Maclarey – yes! Good one.

    • Hi Karin. You’ve won a copy of this book. I tried to email. Could you please contact me to arrange delivery? Thanks 🙂

      • Hi Zanni, Oh wow! Thanks! Sorry the email didn’t come through. I will send you an email now. Cheers!

  • A whole bunch of sweetness right there. Lovely interview 🙂

  • Justine is my fantasy best friend – I adore her, as do my children. I’d love to hear her do an album of unlikely covers – Ballroom Blitz, Berlin Chair, Dirty Jeans…

  • What an awesome interview Zanni. I think Justine is awesome and at least two of my boys were going to marry her at one stage 😉 xx

  • She really is quite amazing isn’t she? I never knew she was on that ABC show either. An amazing talent. She’s rare find I reckon to be able to connect with children in such a way! x

  • Karina Lee

    How about Hansel and Gretal. My favourite fairy tale!

  • Claire H Simmons

    i would love her to sing the story of each peach pear plum, it would be so much fun

    • Hi Claire. I tried to contact you about being a winner of this book comp. Could you please get in touch? 🙂

  • Caroline Kelly

    The Little Train that Could is inspirational.

  • I love her too – love you Justine! My kids still listen to Justine’s I Like To Sing album, all these years later. In between Gaga and 4SOS… x