Loretta Garbutt: A Little Story with a Big Message

March 15, 2024

Wake Up, Little Pin by Loretta GarbuttWelcome to Cantastic Authorpalooza, featuring posts by and about great Canadian children’s book creators! Today’s guest: Loretta Garbutt. Take it away, Loretta!

Writing for children is an incredible experience and it’s also a lot of hard work. But, I love it. Not every single minute, but when I sit to write, I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I often pinch myself to make sure it’s true that I am indeed, a picture book author and that kids, teachers and parents are reading my books. If any of my books connect with children and help them to understand something about themselves, I’m thrilled.

I was a week into some medical treatments and the only place I wanted to be, other than curled up under a blanket with a book, was in a forest. For some reason, when I walked among the trees there, my feet stepping lightly onto roots and fallen leaves, I felt soothed. Often, I’d put my hands to the bark of different trees, some super smooth like the skin of a dolphin or craggy like a wrinkled rhino. The added texture of light, wind and bird song turned my walks into a journey of spiritual wonder. The forest was a big part of my healing.

At the same time, I was soaking up words from books; ground-breaking studies about the life of trees, by authors such as Peter Wohlleben, Suzanne Simard and Diana Beresford-Kroeger. Picture books were a huge inspiration as well, Lindsey Carmichael’s THE BOREAL FOREST and CAN YOU HEAR THE TREES TALKING by Peter Wohlleben, to name just a few.

Mother hub trees are a wonder. According to Diana Beresford- Kroeger,

Mother trees are dominant trees within a forest system…the mother trees feed and protect other trees within the expanse of their canopy. They are the leader in the community of forests.

While searching for the ‘mother hub’ trees on my walk, this idea was born, ‘hey, if a young sapling is struggling, how would a mother tree help’? That’s when WAKE UP, LITTLE PIN found its roots, ha-ha, sorry.

The story is an imagining and a slight personifying of two pin oak trees to make the point about their interconnectedness; A mother pin oak calls on the help of forest creatures and even fungi in the soil to wake her leafy offspring after a long winter’s sleep.’ 

This simple narrative tells a bigger story as the back matter offers some current science.

It’s a little story that leafs out into a much bigger story and brings to life the idea that mother trees share nutrients with their saplings using the mycelium as conduits. To put that into words for children, took a bit of creative wrangling. Thank goodness for Stacey Roderick, the editor!

The other elements that play a role in the health of this young tree are the availability of water and sunlight and the need for soft earth to surround tree roots so that small animals and worms can burrow through to create passages for water and nutrients to get through. By including animals with a bit of personality and charm, I was able to make the story playful.

Interior spread from Wake Up Little Pin by Loretta Garbutt

The reality is, trees absorb and store greenhouse gases, regulate water levels, protect shorelines from storm surges and erosion, and cool our planet. There are thousands of species of trees and plants that give us medicine. Sadly, the threat to our forests is very real and this is a threat to us all. The health of our trees is the future of our planet. This too, inspired me to write WAKE UP, LITTLE PIN: The Story of a Sleepy Sapling.

The addition of the lush and gorgeous watercolours by Marianne Ferrer, complete this package of beauty. The playfulness in her illustrations make it beautifully kid-worthy. 

I hope WAKE UP, LITTLE PIN is a way in for children to become aware of the importance of trees; that it inspires them to ask questions about nature around them and most of all, that it creates compassion for our environment. According to Diana Beresford-Kroeger

The genetic information of a Mother Tree is perhaps the most important living library there is.

Thank you, Lindsey for giving me the opportunity to share my story. WAKE UP, LITTLE PIN: The Story of a Sleepy Sapling releases March15/24 from Owlkids Books.




2 Comments on ‘Loretta Garbutt: A Little Story with a Big Message’

  1. Your book sounds delightful! Can’t wait to read it. Congratulations!

    Reply | 
    1. Hi Marie! Thank you for your note. I hope you get to read this. Marianne Ferrer’s watercolours are amazing and done by hand.

      Reply | 

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