Books

Sharon and Bram talk about turning Skinnamarink, their most popular song, into a picture book

Oct. 8 is Skinnamarink Day! Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison have been singing Skinnamarink for over 40 years and now their most popular song is a picture book.

Oct. 8 is Skinnamarink Day!

Sharon and Bram perform Skinnamarink. (CBC)

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison have been entertaining children for more than 40 years.

They formed the music trio Sharon, Lois and Bram in 1978. Over the decades, fans from all over the world learned their songs by heart. Hampson and Morrison became a duo in 2015 when their bandmate, Lois Lilienstein, died of cancer.

Over a long career of touring and performing music, one song in their catalogue stands out as the most timeless and enduring of all — Skinnamarink. 

Generations of kids have grown up singing Skinnamarink, and with the help of Sharon's daughter Randi Hampson and illustrations by Qin Leng, Skinnamarink is now children's picture book.    

Sharon and Bram joined Metro Morning host Matt Galloway to talk about turning their classic song into a kids book.  

Spreading love

Sharon: "We were not looking to educate anybody. We were looking to bring music into the lives of children and their families so that they could enjoy it and take it as their own. That was our goal, but we always chose good songs. They had to appeal to us first of all. 

"There were lessons along the way, but that was not the goal. A message where a child and a parent are saying 'I love you' to each other — there's nothing bad about that."

Qin Leng illustrates the picture book version of the classic children's song Skinnamarink, sung by entertainers Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein & Bram Morrison. (Tundra Books)

Never gets old

Bram: "We decided to end our very first concert at the Young People's Theatre in Toronto in the fall of 1978 with that song and it just felt right to us and to the audience. And we said, 'Hey let's do that again and again and again.' It's universal, it seems to appeal to all ages."

Sharon: "We've ended everything that we've ever done — concert, TV, public appearances everything — with that song. And people say, 'Do you get tired of it?' We get tired of other songs but not Skinnamarink."  

From song to picture book

Sharon: "For me, it started when I went to one of the children's bookstores in my neighbourhood, Mabel's Fables, and Eleanor the owner said, 'You guys should do a book of this song.' Then it grew into an idea. We spoke to the people at Penguin Random House and they liked the idea.

"We've never done a project like this. We've done song books, but a picture book is another story. Qin Leng did beautiful illustrations for the book. We wanted every person who looks at that book to find themselves in there.

"The song in its original form was very, very small. It was a chorus. And my daughter Randi Hampson said we need more words in this book. And so she wrote them."

Inclusive characters

Bram: "We have all ages, all colours of skin all physical abilities and disabilities. We have families with two dads, we have mice. We have everything you can imagine. Every person and every animal can identify with the book." 

Sharon: "We care about those things, so the book reflects our values."

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Listen to Sharon & Bram speak to Matt Galloway about Skinnamarink

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison speak with Matt Galloway about their new children's book, inspired by their most famous song, Skinnamarink. 7:41

 

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