Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reflections on Puggle


By Catriona Hoy and Andrew Plant
ISBN 978 1 921504 01 3
HB 32 pp RRP $24.95
Working Title Press

Welcome Catriona! I am so delighted to be able invite into my cosy blog.  I found Puggle such an enchanting story written with great sensitivity in a beautifully illustrated book Reading about him has led me on an exciting journey. Others on this blog tour have explored many aspects Puggle's story, the illustrations, habitat and life cycle. I want to take you on a journey of the senses.
Thanks for having me over to your blog, Mabel and your lovely comments about the book.

Oh yes! Puggle, Puggle Puggle. What an evocative name. It conjures up so many similar sounding words - puzzle, puddle, cuddle, muddle.

Yes, Puggle is such a delightful name. That’s one of the reasons I began writing the story. Although picture books are on the face of it, quite simple texts, there is a lot of thought that goes into what word to use and the images it will evoke.

What hit me most, on first reading was that Puggle was born blind. I don’t know why that surprised me. After all, I knew kittens and other creatures, too are born blind. But suddenly I found myself focussing on the way animals (and humans) develop an awareness of their worlds.

One of the challenges I set myself was to write the book from the point of view of an echidna, without giving him human emotions but still making the reader engage with him.

Yes! I love the way you take the reader right into Puggle's world. We humans, especially, are so used to living in a world of sight and sound it is easy to neglect what our other senses can teach. How often we tell children to look but don’t touch. Yet tactile experiences teach us much about ourselves and our environment.

That’s so true!

As I reflected on Puggle’s stages of learning, I closed my eyes and ears to the world around and focused on motion … swaying gently as his mother shuffled through the forest until there is a loud noise and the swaying stops. I thought about the contrast between movement and stillness. I thought about the Puggle’s journey of experience that changed undifferentiated noise to meaningful sound. From frightening noises to the sound of magpies warble and the cheep of baby birds.

The text has to sound right when read aloud…for example a wet wriggly thing is not so satisfying as a wriggly, wet thing. It was also a challenge to think of words for some of the other creatures as they leave the house. It took some time to come up with the magpie ‘warbling’ at the sky before it flies away

Then I focussed on Puggle’s strengths - he could smell and the milk smelt very, very good.
He must learn to interpret strange smells. As he learns to suckle milk from his carers hand, my attention is drawn to the tactile world - and that part of our body most sensitive to touch - the lips and tongue, snout or nose. Puggle learns about touch and being touched. He learns about the comfort of warmth, the contrasts of hot and cold. All this learning without the benefit of sight! Puggle’s eyes open and he begins to match the visual world to the sensory world he already knows so well.

It’s always fascinating to hear someone else’s point of view and often I learn more about the way I write. It’s good to be able to stand back and reflect on something you have written and work out why it is successful or not.

Then, along with all the physical signs of growth: getting bigger, stronger and confident, Puggles eyes open, his hair grows, he develops spines, he learns to use his claws. I felt my own body stretching as I watched Puggle getting ready to face the world as an adult echnidna, his keen sense of smell, and long, hairless snout to enable him to search for food, detect danger and locate other echidnas.

Now its time! He is carried into the forest and put on a termite mound.

And those closing words , when so beautifully -
‘Puggle digs into the termite mound with his claws.
 ..His tongue flicks in and out.
......The whole forest smells very, very good.
.........And Puggle slowly waddles away.’

[Oh do forgive me! I’ve got so carried away I’ve hardly let you get a word in edgeways.]

Thanks for taking me on this sensory journey Mabel. I really enjoyed seeing Puggle through your eyes and hope you enjoyed seeing Puggle’s world through mine.

I am so glad you stopped by, Catriona.

And as Danos Direct would say, ‘But there’s more!’


At birth an Aboriginal child is bestowed with their own totem animal or bird. It is then their lifetime duty to ensure the survival and well being of that creature. A year or two ago, I interviewed an Aboriginal friend as part of an oral history project. Imagine my delight when she told me when she was born an echidna walked through the camp. ‘I was born by the side of a fence - but they set up camp back at the Peak an’ while it was all happenin’ an echidna crawled through the tent - so they were my totems - the echidna. [“My people used to eat the echidna - but I wasn't allowed to eat it because it was my totem. An’ did I used to whinge ‘cos I couldn't have any. I thought that very strange. I didn't even know what a totem was.]
from Lena’s Story by Mabel Kaplan 2006

Echidnas can swim. Some tourists reported having spotted an echidna on the beach only a few meters from the water line. It walked straight out thru the gentle surf - into deeper water and was soon swimming strongly. The speed of swimming was pretty good and the echidna used all four legs to paddle away. He kept his snout at a raised angle - all the better for breathing. I guess it was a warm day 25C and the only thing lacking was an echidna sized surf board! After several minutes it caught a couple of waves and came back ashore.

Echidnas like to bask in the sun like reptiles

An echidna can survive a bushfire by burrowing deep into the earth

Found on the net
Issues of Puggle Post from 2000-2009
On page 4 Dreamtime Echidnas - two stories.from the Dreamtime.

The Blog Tour
[Travel up and down the date line for a feast of Puggle]

April 13- http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com
April 14 – http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com
April 15 –http://letshave words.blogspot.com
April 16 – http://orangedale.livejournal.com
April 17 – http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com
April 18 – http://angelasunde.blogspot.com
April 19 – http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com
April 20 – http://belka37.blogspot.com [Here we are1]
April 21 – http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com
April 22 – http://trudietrewin.com/blog-ramblings

Friday, April 9, 2010


While some may have been indulging themselves with a nice Saturday morning sleep-in on 27 February this year, or contemplating what other aspects of the WA Writers Festival to enjoy, I was savouring a windswept breakfast at the Matilda Bay Tearooms with members of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Among those present was Western Australian children’s author, Sally Murphy. I chatted to her about her latest book: ‘Toppling’, released by Walker Books that week. ‘Toppling’ is Sally’s second verse novel and since I had been lucky enough to receive a review copy, I took it with me for Sally to sign.

Everybody needs a hobby, and in ‘Toppling’ the main character, John, is into domino toppling. He admits to it being a kind of a strange endeavour.

Some kids collect model cars
or aeroplanes
or stamps
or Game Boys.
I collect dominoes. ‘

Domino topplers get only a few minutes of glory as they watch several hours or days worth of their work falling down.

But you and I know, there are other kinds of toppling - especially as one gets older - and I have the grazes to prove it. For John, though toppling dominoes is his hobby it is not his whole life. And when, at school one day he finds out, Dominic, his ‘best mate and not just because his name sounds like domino’ is in danger of toppling, his own world begins to topple. He wants to know the truth about his friend.

‘Another sad one,’ says Sally as she hands the book back to me.
I didn’t agree. Sensitive, yes! Sad, no!

. . . Sally Murphy has a gift of getting inside the hearts and heads of middle-graders and exploring the myriad ways they deal with family stuff, loneliness, feelings of isolation and sickness.

So what is a verse novel?
Since the narrative does not rely on rhyme or a set pattern of rhythm what makes a verse novel a verse novel? As it seemed a fair question, I stopped stacking dominoes for a minute to reflect. (Now Caellum is going to finish his tower first!) I thought about the verse novels I'd read. What do they have in common? I started making a list -and this is what I came up with. 

The poetry of a verse novel relies on
 shorter lines and line drops to create a rhythm that approximates human speech without the use of complex punctuation;
 fewer words to convey atmosphere and plot;
 imagination. It asks the reader to experience the story in a way that does not tell all, and relies as much on the space between the lines as it does on the words themselves;
 voice to get convey emotions, details, and nuances in a way that prose can’t always accomplish.

According to Emma Dryden of Dryden Books,
‘A verse novel is, and should be, first and foremost a novel, with a compelling storyline and plot, richly developed characters, and a distinctive narrative voice. … A good verse novel has a such a strong and mesmerizingly compelling story line, characters and voice that the reader does not even recognise they are reading poetry at all.‘

Having read both of Sally Murphy’s verse novels - ‘Pearl verses the World’ and ‘Toppling’, I would have to agree.

You may like to check Sally’s blog at http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/

Look at this!
Poetry in mo...  toppling