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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Emma Pearl and Sneak Peek Review of Saving the Sun

Emma Pearl writes fiction for young people of all ages, from Picture Books to Young Adult.

Author Photo of Emma Pearl

She grew up in England, traveled the world and now lives with her family in New Zealand.​

Book cover of Mending the Moon

Emma’s the author of Mending the Moon, illustrated by Sara Ugolotti (2022).


Emma’s sequel picture book, Saving the Sun, releases on September 19th.


Welcome Emma, thank you so much for coming by to talk about your newest book and your writing.


Thank you for having me!


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)


I write picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but only started working on it seriously about six years ago. I work at a desk in the corner of my bedroom – one day I would love to have my own room lined with bookshelves! My favorite type of book to write is usually the one I’m working on, which might be anything. My comfort zone for picture books is lyrical SEL, and for novels it’s fantasy/magical realism, usually with a connection to nature or the environment. Lately I’ve been exploring outside of my comfort zone a little – humorous picture books, which definitely don’t come naturally but are so much fun. I’m also experimenting with a YA sci-fi thriller at the moment too, which is challenging and exciting!


Sounds like you're keeping busy! Okay, I have to ask. What was it like growing up with Roald Dahl as a great uncle? Do you think the relationship of Luna and Poppa was influenced a bit by your relationship?

Photo of Roald Dahl during a book signing at Emma Pearl's school.

("Me (centre) aged 6 when Uncle Roald came to my school to do a book signing.")


It was pretty awesome actually! Roald was a big part of my childhood. He taught me to swim, and instilled in me an appreciation of the magic to be found in ordinary things. And of course, my love of reading, writing, and stories was in all likelihood inspired by his wonderful stories. He was in every sense larger than life – a cross between the BFG and Willy Wonka!


However, I think the relationship between Luna and Poppa was based more on my relationship with my dad. He was quite old when I was born, and in some ways more of a grandfatherly figure, but we were very close. He never had a beard, but there’s definitely a little of his spirit in Poppa (and a little bit of me in Luna!).


Such a truly wonderful childhood. What do you like to do outside by yourself or with family or friends?


I love the beach and the ocean. I lived by the beach for a long time but for the last couple of years I’ve lived further inland, near a mountain. It’s very beautiful here, and the mountain is stunning – waterfalls and goblin forests to walk around. But I do miss the beach a little bit. It’s only half an hour away though, so I’m pretty lucky!


Lucky, indeed. What was your inspiration or spark of interest for Saving the Sun? Had you planned to write it when you created Mending the Moon? Any plans for a third book?

Book cover - girl and grandfather in a row boat surrounded by dolphins, birds, and other sea creatures  with the sun sinking into the ocean.

I wrote four Luna and Poppa stories all at once – Mending the Moon, Saving the Sun, one about stars, and one about rainbows. I loved the idea of a little girl and her grandfather helping to fix nature. I also wrote a fifth story earlier this year (Healing the Earth). In fact, I just recently had an idea for another one too! Sadly, I don’t think any of the others are likely to be published, as Page Street Kids is not acquiring any more picture books. However, I’m thinking about posting one of these extra stories on my website… stay tuned! (And who knows, there may be a queue of other publishers keen to take them on, lol!)


Fingers crossed for you! Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Book cover of Each Peach Pear Plum

I loved so many books, I don’t know if I can choose just one! My favorite picture books were Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Pink Pig by Charlotte Hough. For novels, I think Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were the ones I came back to again and again.


Is there anything special you want your readers to know about or gain from Saving the Sun?


I hope that readers of all ages will feel a sense of joy and wonder at the magic of nature, and maybe feel inspired to follow Luna’s example – not to feel helpless and overwhelmed at the scale of the problems that need fixing, but to just do whatever is within your power to do, however small it may be. On a more personal level, I think it’s a story that parents and grandparents will enjoy reading with their children and it’s a joy for me to hear when people simply love the story – and the beautiful illustrations of course.


It is a very tender and comforting story. How many revisions did Saving the Sun take from the first draft to publication? How did this compare to your first book, Mending the Moon?


Saving the Sun took 19 drafts! It was a struggle. Mending the Moon was a little less torturous with 11 drafts. But I was lucky with both stories to have the support and guidance of my editor, the wonderful Kayla Tostevin. She was very patient and helped me to find the heart of the stories and focus on the ‘folktale’ elements.


Interesting. What was the toughest aspect of writing or revising Saving the Sun?


I grappled with the setting – it started off in a city, a million miles from the tropical island of the final version. Then deciding on the mechanics of the problem that was going to need fixing, and the different parts of the solution itself were all quite challenging. I found the answer to a tricky plot problem in a National Geographic article about Australian firebirds!


It is amazing what can spark a solution. When you first saw Sara Ugolotti’s illustrations did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread?


Everything amazed me! The illustrations are so incredible!

Internal spread of girl and grandfather being observed by a number of forest animals peering through trees.

Text © Emma Pearl, 2022. Image © Sara Ugolotti, 2022.


When I saw the first character sketches for Mending the Moon, I was very surprised to see Luna with red hair – I hadn’t envisaged that at all, but it’s so perfect! She’s adorable. It’s very nerve-wracking waiting for the illustrations that are going to bring your story to life because what if they don’t live up to the images in your head? I had nothing to worry about though, and Sara’s artwork surpasses anything I could have imagined!

Internal spread of girl, grnadfather, and dolphins wrapping the sinking sun in a palm frond rope to tow it to the horizon.

Text © Emma Pearl, 2023. Image © Sara Ugolotti, 2023.


With Saving the Sun, I was much more relaxed because I trusted Sara completely. And I was delighted to see Luna’s cute sundress and Poppa’s Hawaiian shirt – genius touches! My favorite spread is… so hard to choose, I love them all! Maybe the dolphins or the penultimate one where they’re celebrating that the sun is fixed.


Sorry to put you on the spot. Both illustrations are stunning! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I’ve always got so many things on the go! As I mentioned before, I’m dabbling with a YA thriller at the moment (still outlining but I’m quite excited about it!), and also a middle grade fantasy novel that involves mythical creatures and the Northern Lights.


Good luck with these projects. I can't wait to see them in print. And lastly, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of the Ngorogoro Crater and internal lake.

Oh gosh, I’ve traveled a lot and been to some truly spectacular places. The Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengeti in Tanzania are definitely among my all-time favorites – there’s nothing quite like a safari for experiencing the wonder of nature up close.

Photo of the Okavango Delta waterway and islands.

Maybe even more spectacular was the Okavango Delta in Botswana, which had all the incredible wildlife but water too. I spent a few days on a mokoro (traditional wooden canoe), gliding through reeds and waterways, camping out in the wilderness with not a single sign of human life aside from my traveling companion and our guide. It was in the days before mobile phones and internet, and was probably the most complete peace I’ve ever known.


These parks all sound exciting! Thank you, Emma for participating in this interview. It was wonderful to get to know you.


To find out more about Emma Pearl, or contact her:


Review of Saving the Sun


Wrapped within this fun new fable, is a gorgeous ode to the wonder and magic of nature. It's a glorious reminder that lots of little actions together can fix problems. And a celebration of the special relationship between a child and their grandparent(s).

Book cover - girl and grandfather in a row boat surrounded by dolphins, birds, and other sea creatures  with the sun sinking into the ocean.

Saving the Sun


Author: Emma Pearl


Illustrator: Sara Ugolotti


Publisher: Page Street Publishing (2023)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction



Themes:

Fable, creativity, intergenerational, teamwork, and nature.


Synopsis:

After an especially sweltering day, the ocean sparkles and twinkles so invitingly that instead of slipping beneath the horizon, the sun plunges into the ocean itself.


When the sun sinks and loses its fire, Luna and Poppa’s yearly vacation on Summer Island suddenly goes dark. Luna knows the sun needs their help—the sky looks all wrong, and it’s neither day nor night! But it’s a big job to do all on their own.


To bring back daylight, they must think of creative solutions, seeking help from the local dolphins, monkeys, birds, and more. With the power of teamwork and imagination, can they find a way to return the sun to its rightful place, and set it ablaze once more?


This imaginative tale will enchant readers as Luna, Poppa, and their new friends of the sea, beach, and air rise to the challenge of fixing the sky once more and—literally—save the day.


Opening Lines:

Every year, Poppa took Luna to her favorite place in the

world—Summer Island, where the sun always shone.


But this year, the sun was too hot.


One evening, after an especially sweltering day, the sun

began to sink toward the horizon.


And the ocean sparkled and twinkled so invitingly . . .

. . .that instead of slipping beneath the horizon,


the sun plunged into the ocean itself.


What I LOVED about this book:

The fun thing about fables is their inventive explanations of natural events. Why do zebras have stripes or some animals have mismatched tails? What causes eclipses? And why are sunsets so colorful? With lyrical text and glowing digital illustrations, Emma Pearl and Sara Ugolotti have created a wonderful new fable explaining sunsets.


Internal spread - grandfather in hammock and girl watching the waves, when the sun splashes into the ocean to cool off.

Text © Emma Pearl, 2023. Image © Sara Ugolotti, 2023.


I love the very child-like opening. For Luna, it's totally understandable for an overly hot sun, looking at how the "ocean sparkled and twinkled so invitingly . . . . . . that instead of slipping beneath the horizon," the sun would dive into the water. But as the sun's fire begins to dim, Luna knows she has to help. So she devises a plan to create a long rope from fallen palm fronds. Both the lyrical text and illustrations show a close, loving connection between Luna and Poppa (her grandfather). Emma Pearl's created such a tender, encouraging, and cooperative relationship.

Internal spread - on left, girl and grandfather gather palm fronds. On right, they've knotted together a really long rope.

Text © Emma Pearl, 2023. Image © Sara Ugolotti, 2023.


And I love how Sara Ugolotti's soft-toned, digital illustrations use shades of pink to tie the daytime and night time images together. With the sun stuck in limbo - neither day nor night - the pair have the time to make the longest rope possible. But how can they get the rope around - the SUN? Cue a pod of graceful dolphins who appear to help circle the sun with the palm rope. (image above in interview.)


Now, how do they move the sun to the horizon and "tip it over"? Especially since all they have is a small rowboat. As they pondered the problem, a blue whale offered it's assistance. With the sun tucked in below the horizon, Luna and Poppa head back to Summer Island and marvel at a sparkle of fireflies. "“It looks like the stars have fallen down!” Observant kids will notice that Sara Ugolotti tucks hints in the illustrations of the next animal that helps Luna - with the dolphins diving about at the opening and a couple of monkeys and birds watching their efforts to wrap the sun and tow it to the horizon.


Unfortunately, when the sun rises the next day, it's fire has almost gone out. Emma perfectly captures a child's solution - "“We must find a way to switch the sun back on.” Ultimately, Luna and Poppa's plan depends on assistance offered by the island's monkeys and birds.

Internal spread - girl and grandfather observing a  sun whose fire is about to flicker out.

Text © Emma Pearl, 2023. Image © Sara Ugolotti, 2023.


The growing crescendo and glorious ending perfectly and stunningly wrap up this fun fable about the reason for sunsets. You will love the final spreads; they are so full of collaboration, ingenuity, and color. The lovely lyrical text and stunning illustrations blend together to create an imaginative tale about collaborating with nature and doing whatever one can to protect it, no matter how small the action may seem.


Resources:

A collage of sunset images created by kids - © Teacherlifeblog

- using paint, crayons, colored pencils, strips of tissue paper, or other media create a sunset at your favorite location.


- write your own fable or tale to explain something in nature - like how an animal looks or a natural event (volcano? waves?)


- draw or write about something you like to do with your grandparent(s) or an older neighbor.

Comments


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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