Brisbane based author Michelle Worthington and illustrator Giuseppe Poli jointly launched their picture book, Hootie the Cutie at Black Cat Books, Paddington on Saturday 21 June.
This magical picture book follows the adventures of a sweet owl called Hootie, yet despite her small size she wants to be brave and try many things in the enchanted wood. But Papa Owl stops Hootie from taking those risks, until one day, she is the only one in the woods small and brave enough to attempt to discover the source of the strange smoke billowing out of the cave.
Wow, the launch was a real hoot, especially for Giuseppe as this was his first picture book he illustrated. Introduced to New Frontier by one of their flagship author/illustrators, Peter Carnavas, Giuseppe received an email seven months later from Commissioning Editor, Sophia Whitfield after noticing he had an owl perched on his website.
Despite being “scared of making a mess of it,” Giuseppe has created a whimsical, enchanted wood for Hootie to inhabit filled with pixies and wonderment. After 50 drawings of Hootie and learning to make her look fluffy, Giuseppe achieved the illustrations through a four-step process. Giuseppe sketched his first drawings in pencil and black pen, then he traced over them on a light box. He also used water colour on the light box for the first layer of colour. Finally, he put all these layers together on the computer and added all the final amounts of colour. For Giuseppe, “this was a labour of failure,” which has helped him to be brave like Hootie and see the completion of a truly beautiful picture book.
Very much like her character Hootie, Michelle Worthington, based this creature on herself and her small stature. As a child Michelle recounted many times when she took risks and she wasn’t afraid to fail whether it was hockey, debating or musicals. Michelle’s parents allowed her to experience these things and were always her safe place to fall. This same 'can do' attitude is embodied by Hootie and is a message she wants children and parents today to take on. Michelle believes through taking risks and having a safe place, children will learn who they are and discover what they want to be.
Michelle’s 'can do' attitude has seen her achieve much success in her writing career to date, which did not come easy, taking 10 years to get her first picture book published. She has also gone down many different paths to get her work published, including traditional publishing of Yellow Dress Day (another New Frontier title), partnership publishing for The Pink Pirate and pitching her book Each the Same to Ambassador Publishing in the US and UK after it was rejected by all publishers in Australia. Each the Same has gone on to be a finalist in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards.
The delightful, Samantha Wheeler, author of Smooch and Rose was the event’s MC. A real treat for the Brisbane duo was having Sophia Whitfield from New Frontier attend the event.
Find more information about Michelle Worthington at michelleworthington.com/ and Giuseppe Poli at giuseppe-poli-artist.blogspot.com.au/.