Creator Corner: Author Loretta Garbutt and Illustrator Marianne Ferrer

Welcome to Creator Corner, a blog series where we interview the creators of our recent books. For this post, we interviewed Wake Up, Little Pin! author Loretta Garbutt and illustrator Marianne Ferrer, whose book is publishing March 15, 2024!

Owlkids Books: Loretta, what inspired you to write this book?

Loretta Garbutt: I was recovering from a serious illness and for some reason, I felt that I needed to be near trees; they were comforting. I’d take long walks with my husband in the forested area near my home and feel nourished. I didn’t really understand why I was craving this, but I didn’t question it. I soaked it up.

While on these walks, I’d stop to look at the trees, old and young. So, I began to read books about trees and learned that ‘mother trees care for their young trees’. This is where the idea of a mother hub tree taking care of her young sapling was born. I was instantly excited about writing a story that featured a mother tree, and wondered what would she do to take care of her young sapling if it was in trouble. This story is an idea born out of healing, and every step of creating it felt right. Who better to help you heal than a mother?

OKB: Marianne, how did you become a children’s book illustrator?

Marianne Ferrer: I knew I wanted to be an illustrator from the moment I first learned how to hold a pencil. Drawing was my absolute favorite activity. My mom had been a graphic designer for a big part of her life. She worked with my grandfather, who owned an offset printing business. Creativity was always highly encouraged in our household. I would tag along to my mom’s life drawing classes and sit right next to her and we would draw together (though sometimes I would get distracted and draw some animals instead).

When I was about 11 or 12, my mom asked one of her favorite illustration professors, Michèle Lemieux, how she could encourage my artistic development so I could achieve the career I aspired to. Michèle wisely told her that everyone has the potential to reach that level, but we lose our confidence as we enter our teen years because we stop drawing for fun. So, as long as you keep drawing through that period of your life, you’ll draw forever. I drew on the margins of my homework, always kept a sketchbook on me, and even doodled right on my school desk as I daydreamed during math class. So far, my pencil has never gotten any shorter!

OKB: Loretta, what was the most enjoyable part of writing this book?

LG: The best part was the research and reading many books about trees, learning how they function, connect, even ‘speak’ to one another. Books like, Can You Hear the Trees Talking by Peter Wohlleben and To Speak for the Trees by Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger, changed the way I look at how trees play a vital role in our healthy ecosystem. Slowly, the elements of my story began to take shape.

OKB: Marianne, which spread did you most enjoy illustrating and why?

MF: My favorite spread, as silly as it sounds, is the spread with the porcupine—ahem—fertilizing the soil around Little Pin. I also really love the spread with Squirrel jumping off of Mother Pin and into the forest. I love drawing animals and figuring out how to give them some personality and humour even in a more naturalistic setting.

OKB: Loretta, what was the most challenging part of the process?

LG: There are many things that scientists still don’t know about how trees function, such as how transpiration actually happens. So, I had to be careful I wasn’t saying things that weren’t true; I had to stick to the science that we currently have. New discoveries will be made, and every bit of thinking adds to what we know.

OKB: Marianne, which spread was the most challenging to illustrate and why?

MF: There was a tough equilibrium to achieve with this book between realism and style! We didn’t want the trees to be too anthropomorphic, but they had to convey certain emotions through poses so they weren’t completely static and boring. While it’s easier to add movement and activity through the animals in the story, I struggled with some of the spreads that just show the trees, especially when they’re still bare from winter! I hope I managed to really convey a mother’s loving touch with swooping branches and small buds.

OKB: Loretta, Wake Up, Little Pin! offers many fascinating examples of how the forest community comes together for a common goal. Do you have a favorite forest fact you discovered while researching the book?

LG: Fungi! The more I read about the role of mycorrhizal networks, the more I was fascinated. When learning about the fungal ‘internet’, I couldn’t get enough, ie: how the fungal internet transports not only messages, but sugars too! The most wonderful thing about this information is that it’s all so accessible to children. You can even take a school group into the woods and actually show them a layer of interconnected roots!

OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

LG: I hope this book inspires young readers to dig deeper and discover for themselves how important trees are for the future health of our planet! Trees live in families, they help each other out. I hope students will discover how all of us can help these families thrive.

The scientist, Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger shared this thought with me: “A tree, any tree, speaks to the child deep within us”. I think those trees spoke to me when I was inspired to write this book.

MF: As a kid, I would spend so much time in the library reading not only through picture books, but through reference books that had photos of animals, rocks, trees, flowers, anything about nature! I was fascinated with how the world works around us even when we aren’t there to witness it. Does a tree make a sound in the forest if no one is there to hear it? Well, why not ask the tree? I hope young readers will also be curious about how intricate and alive ecosystems are, even if all they see is a little sapling blowing in the breeze.

OKB: What is a fun fact people may not know about you?

LG: As a 12-year-old, I tried really hard, along with my younger brother, to set a world record. We rode our bikes around our neighborhood block for 33 hours! We made the new record, until someone else broke it the following week with 36 hours!

MF: I’ve kept my very first plant alive for almost 14 years now. Patricia is a neon pothos who has lived by the window above my desk and has overseen pretty much every book I’ve published. I wonder which one is her favorite!


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