Today I'm very pleased to welcome two special visitors to my blog, Catriona Hoy and Puggle, the hero of her latest picture book. You can find a list of their other blog tour stops here.
1 There are a number of Australian animals in Puggle, what made you choose an echidna as the star of the story?
Puggle's story came about after a visit to the home of wildlife rescuers. There were a number of baby animals but the cutest were the wallaby and the echidna. Although we actually spent more time with the wallaby, Puggle was just the most vulnerable. I'd also seen videos about wallabies and kangaroos and had seen joeys before but I'd never seen a baby echidna. So for two reasons, firstly that Puggle was just such an interesting story to research and secondly, his sheer vulnerability. It was hard to believe that such a little grey thing could eventually become a spiny echidna. (By the way, I was reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief the other day....Echidna was a monster in Greek mythology, half woman and half snake...I love stories where I learn something new!)
2 How important is the Australiana element to you?
Very important. Although I wasn't born here, Australia is my home and I am passionately Australian. While I lived in the UK recently, I used to remind myself of home by reading Dorothea McKellar's Sunburnt Country...I had it on my facebook page. I miss Scotland, where I was born and where I have a lot of family but I do love the colours and vibrancy of Australia. People used to ask me what I missed most and I'd say...waking up in the bush, in a tent, and listening to the world come alive.
My children have grown up as Aussies and therefore I think it's important that they read Australian books. So I'm really pleased to have contributed in some way to Australian cultural readings for children. One of the issues highlighted in the recent debate about parallel importation of books was the need for an Australian voice in publishing.
3 I expect it is not easy to find or obtain access to baby echidnas. How did you research Puggle's early life?
I was extremely fortunate to have had access to Puggle through the wildlife carers in the story. I kept in touch , sending them various stages of the book and keeping up to date with Puggle. I also did research on the internet to find other pictures of different Puggles. I was somewhat frustrated by the fact that a Puggle is also a type of dog. I also established contact with the Echidna research centre at Pelican Lagoon. Basically I just read everything I could on echidnas and collated as many unique facts as I could.
4 The image of Puggle's experience through smell is wonderfully reinforced throughout the text as Puggle loses his mother and the familiar comforting aroma of her milk to take a journey filled with new smells - some good like tasty termites and some not so good like his own poo. Do echidnas have a strong sense of smell?
Echidnas have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell, while is one of the reasons I concentrated on that. In my mind I was trying to experience life through not Puggle's eyes but his nose.
5 Is there really such a food as 'puggle porridge'?
Yes there is. Native animals need a very special diet, which is why wildlife carers need special training. Each mammal has a unique type of milk, so a special formula is required. Wombaroo is a brand name but it's basically an echidna milk replacement. As the Puggle, gets bigger and is ready to be weaned, amounts of Wombaroo carnivore mix can be added.
6 What advice would you give to young Puggle readers who might like an echidna for a pet?
A native animal is not and can never be a pet. They should be in the wild where they belong and are happy. However, injured or baby animals sometimes need help but it's a specialist job. If you find a Puggle and it needs help, there are usually phone numbers listed on boards beside major roads for the local wildlife rescue centre. Some of the information about hand rearing pugggles can be found at http://www.nwrc.com.au/forms/leigh_koppman.pdf. (I just googled that!) There is a national wildlife rehabilitation conference in south australia in June this year.
Thanks for having me here Sandy, I've enjoyed chatting and these were great questions. Looking after our wildlife is a really important job. Puggle was launched by Wildlife Victoria and they do a great job of providing information to schools and the public. Have a great weekend.