Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 10 February 2023

Mother and daughter team up for children’s picture book

© Kaz Hutchison
& Jo Siggins

Jo Siggins is a professional investigator and author of children’s book Undercover Coco the Pine, the Crime and the Mystery Footprint. In this week’s post, Jo reveals the inspiration for her children’s book and shares her experience working with the illustrator (and her mother) Kaz Hutchison.

I clearly remember the day I was inspired to write Undercover Coco. It was a long-held dream to become an author but many false starts later I was still trying to come up with that elusive story idea. 

My husband and I were walking around our property with our dog Coco when we noticed one of our pine trees had been damaged. Coco started sniffing around the tree base looking at wildlife footprints on the ground. I was struck by the thought that she was trying to figure out what had been there. I recall laughing at the time and pointing out that Coco will sniff out the offender – and thus an idea was born!

In the book, the main character Undercover Coco finds a footprint at the scene of a damaged tree and secretly investigates the animals on the farm to try and find the culprit. 

The story also draws on elements from my work as an investigator as Undercover Coco is curious about what has happened and looks for clues in her search for the truth.

I always knew I wanted my mum, Kaz Hutchison, to illustrate the book. Not only is she an amazing artist, but we have undertaken other projects together in the past so I knew we worked well together. She had also painted Coco previously and really captured her spirit. 

© J. Siggins & K. Hutchison, image used with permission

As a mother/daughter team, we wanted to develop the book collaboratively, which had its challenges as we each had a strong artistic vision. But we also had a great synergy and combining the best of our ideas led to both the story and illustrations evolving throughout the creative process. 

© J. Siggins & K. Hutchison, image used with permission

We certainly learned a lot as the project progressed. Our initial plan was to format the book as left page text and right page illustration. However, there was a hiccup in our early planning and the trim size did not match the first draft illustrations. Lesson here is to triple check trim size! Instead of starting over, we decided to change the layout to a two-page spread with the text set into the illustration. This presented other complications as we had to adapt the illustrations to suit different margins and create enough blank space in the artwork for the text. Knowing each other so well helped us to stay positive, pivot and adapt as required. It was not a quick process, but it was a labour of love. 

© J. Siggins & K. Hutchison, image used with permission

Applying those learnings as we develop Undercover Coco 2 will be our next challenge!

Jo Siggins

Children’s book author and professional investigator

W: https://undercovercoco.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/undercovercoco

Editor’s note. It is always a pleasure to discover new Tasmanian creators and get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes processes to bring a book to publication. Head to Undercover Coco’s website for more information including stockists.

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