Katie Cottle is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book The Blue Giant, which looks at ocean pollution. She also wrote and illustrated the book The Green Giant. She lives in Bristol, UK.
Q: Your previous book, The Green Giant, also focused on the environment. What inspired you to write your new book, The Blue Giant?
A: The Blue Giant seemed a natural next step from The Green Giant to me. I grew up on the Welsh coast, so the beach has always been a space outdoors that I've loved and appreciated, and I knew I wanted to set a story there. I definitely wanted to keep talking about environmental issues, and the ever-growing plastic problem is a constant strain on our oceans and wildlife.
I was really inspired after watching Blue Planet, and by the rise of environmental activism from people around the world - notably school students! I've been working on reducing my plastic usage and wanted to create an accessible way to talk about these things with children, too.
Q: In our last interview, you said you usually tend to focus on the illustrations before the text--was that true with this book as well?
A: Sort of! With The Blue Giant, I was researching and doodling and writing all at the same time. It was quite a fluid process - working up drawings of what the characters would look like, then sketching a rough thumbnail, then trying to describe what's happening in it and then continuing that.
Once the bones of the text are in place, I could focus on the roughs for the artwork, and then the artwork. I find that (for me) text is something that I'm happy with editing at any point; I like to get the illustrations clearly telling the narrative first.
It was lovely working with Neil and Hattie (from Pavilion) again, as they're open to ideas and great with offering feedback!
Q: What kind of research did you do to write this book, and did you learn anything especially surprising?
A: I was looking into how all the plastic actually gets into our oceans - as there's so much, I was sure it couldn't all be litter! It's sad, but even things that have been put in the recycling can end up making their way to the water.
There are some really scary statistics, and although they're important to read and see, I wanted to find some way of communicating this to younger readers in a less doom-y way.
To me, that meant finding a positive solution that was manageable and possible for everyone to get involved with! Something that really surprised me was that “'half of all plastics are single-use applications, used just once and then disposed of,” so researching reusable alternatives we can use every day was my next step.
Q: What do you hope kids and their parents take away from the book?
A: I hope that it inspires a curiosity and an enthusiasm for change. I think that no one person can magically clean up or fix the massive issues we're facing on this planet - but by working together, helping each other and each doing our best we can solve anything!
Q: What are you working on now? Are there any more giants to look forward to?
A: No more giants yet, but I've recently finished illustrating some new picture books that I didn't author - which was a great and different experience! I've also been working up some other story ideas that have been rattling around my head. So keep an eye out!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Information on environmental issues is easily available to us with just a few clicks online. Keep on reading and watching documentaries, and even look into what you can do locally to help out your community!
Even if it's just taking a spare bag with you on a walk, and picking up any rubbish you see along the way - every action will help.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Katie Cottle.