Picture book author Catriona Hoy has always loved writing.
I wrote lots of bad poetry as a teenager, filled with angst, and dreamt of being a songwriter. I didn’t’ see writing as a career though and did a science degree at university. I did a lot of writing as a teacher, designing units etc which was probably good training. But it was a bottle of red wine and a conversation with a friend which began …’if you had your life over, what would you be?’ She’d wanted to be an artist and I’d wanted to be a writer. She’s now just put on her first exhibition of textile art and it is stunning.
My friend gave me the courage to try my hand at writing picture books. I had my share of rejections and made cringeworthy mistakes but at each bump in the road, I kept going. Thankfully my book The Music Tree landed on the right editors desk at the right time and went on to become a CBC notable book for 2006.
What inspired you to write Puggle?
I visited the home of some wildlife carers a few years ago. It was a great experience as every room of their house held baby animals or injured animals being nursed back to health. These wildlife carers were volunteers and cared for and fed the animals until they were strong enough to be released. It was their sheer dedication that inspired me. My children got to feed a baby wallaby from a bottle, hold snakes and squashed flies to baby birds.
What’s it about?
Puggle is the story of one of the animals living in this amazing home in the bush. A puggle is the name for a baby echidna. Because they are so slow, echidnas are in danger when they cross roads. Puggle’s mother had been killed accidentally but Puggle had been saved and brought around to the home of these wildlife carers. He lived in a woolen beanie when I visited him. The story is about how he learns the skills necessary to survive before he can return to the wild. There are some other lovely animals in there too.
What appealed to you about Puggle?
For me, it was the sheer vulnerability of Puggle when I first met him, like most babies. He was pale, grey and completely helpless. I thought he looked a bit like a chicken fillet with the skin on…same texture! And of course I loved the name. When Sue told me his name was ‘Puggle’ and that he actually was a ‘Puggle’ my eyes lit up and the idea for the story took root. I kept in touch with Helen and Sue, his carers, to find out how Puggle progressed and there was that little bit of tension about whether or not he would grow up and become strong and healthy enough to return to the wild.
On my website www.catrionahoy.com.au/htm/puggle I have also listed a number of websites which link to information which can be used by classes as part of research work, including the Pelican Bay Echidna Research Centre on Kangaroo Island.
Even better, there are some great pictures of Puggle, starting from the day he first arrived up until he was fully grown and ready to return to the wild.
How did the pictures fit in with your idea of the book?
I think Andrew Plant’s illustrations are fantastic. He has a real love of animals and the bush and his zoology training means that all the drawings are realistic. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t also incredibly cute. I was overseas when I saw the proofs for the book and they made me feel incredibly homesick. I swear I could smell gum trees and dry dusty bark and leaves coming from the page. The colours too were also so, well, Australian!
More about Puggle is available on Catriona’s website www.catrionahoy.com.au/htm/puggle