It is always an honour to feature talented authors and illustrators on the blog. Today we welcome a multi award-winning novelist, awarded by prestigious associations including the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards for her young adult and older reader novels, One Would Think the Deep, The Protected, and The Sky So Heavy. Welcome to Just Write For Kids, Claire Zorn! More recently she has turned her hand to picture books and illustration, and tomorrow marks the official release date for her debut picture book, No Place for an Octopus.
‘After discovering an octopus in the rock pools at the beach, a boy wonders about all the fun adventures they could share if he took the octopus home. From multi-award-winning author Claire Zorn comes this gentle tale of friendship and understanding.’
This is a story of wild imaginations taking fancy to a particularly wondrous creature of the underworld. Every child longs for adventures that most likely could never occur in reality, and developing friendships with the most unique (and long-legged, or long-tentacled, rather) is one that certainly appeals to many. It begins with a hardcover that entices us to dive right in to this fascinating rock pool world, with a deep cut out, drawing us in with curious eyes and surrounded by a gorgeously calming shade of teal. The illustrious landscape format gives perfect balance to this ocean scenery, complimented with Zorn’s magical pencil and watercolour life adorned with treasures of shells and plants and creatures so mesmerising. Her words equally create a sensory experience with the inclusion of descriptive sights, feelings and emotions, which further adds to the reinforcement of compassion for others, our animals, and the world around us. And this young boy, narrating in first person about his discovery at the beach, brings creativity with concepts erring on the side of silly, all however, with the intention of fun companionship and adventure. Could he really make the octopus happy? No Place for an Octopus is a tale so sweet, lively and imaginative that it will spear a special place in your heart. A friendly, funny and encouraging book with the message of conservation for children (and adults) from age three and beyond.
The University of Queensland Press, November 2019.
Congratulations on the release of your new picture book, No Place for an Octopus! Who or what gave you the inspiration for this story?
I have always been captivated by octopuses; they are such bizarre creatures and scientists are continually making new and unexpected discoveries about them.
I set out to see an octopus the way a child might: as a source of wonder. Children often seek companionship with creatures adults would ignore or consider inappropriate pets, my own sons have kept pet beetles, ants, moths and worms. I wanted to engage with a child’s love of the absurd by placing the octopus in all sorts of silly scenarios, like on a rollercoaster or at the cinema.
Why is the message of conservation important for you to instil within our younger generation?
Children are the future guardians of the planet. That said, children seem to already understand the importance of conservation. It’s adults who need to take it on board!
What is your favourite fact about octopuses?
Octopuses are capable of learning from experience and have been observed collecting and using tools such as coconut shells to build fortresses.
There are many accounts of octopuses dismantling pumps in aquarium tanks in order to escape and once freed they will often use drain pipes in an attempt to make it to the ocean. Like dogs, they have to be kept amused in captivity otherwise they make their own fun and become destructive.
Not only have you penned a magical text to delight the senses, but also created a wonderful sensory world with your illustrations. Have you always been an illustrator as well as a writer? How did you manage the process of fulfilling both roles? What were the biggest challenges you had to face?
I’m a definitely a beginner illustrator! I have always loved drawing far more than writing, but I didn’t use my drawing skills for quite a few years because I was focused on writing. I didn’t realise I would have to relearn so many skills! The trickiest thing for me to draw was definitely the figure of the boy and his facial expressions. Octopuses are way easier!
Having written award-winning novels in the young adult genre, what made you decide to transition into picture books, and how have you found this journey?
I wanted to be picture book author/illustrator when I was in primary school. But I never really had the confidence to pursue it. I loved writing stories but I struggled terribly with spelling and punctuation when writing by hand. I never thought I could do it. It wasn’t until I’d published the novels that I thought I might have a shot!
Well, you’ve done a brilliant job! Thank you so much for answering my questions, Claire! 😊
Special thanks to UQP for setting up this interview and for providing a complimentary copy of No Place for an Octopus in exchange for an honest review.
You can find Claire Zorn at the following links: