Moose, the dashing bush pilot from Puffin the Architect, is to the rescue in his own story, Moose the Pilot (Penguin NZ).With a full plane and bad weather, too, but three youngsters need his help, and this is the job he loves…
We talk to Kimberly Andrews, the Wellington-based author and illustrator of Puffin and Moose, among other picture book treasures.
We were excited to get to know Moose better and visit his treehouse again! What made you decide to write a story about him?
I was excited to explore Moose’s world too! Early in my career, I received some great advice - begin work on your next story as soon as you finish the last. So the day after Puffin the Architect was handed in to Penguin Random House, I sat down with a notebook. I wasn’t done with Puffin’s world, so I wrote out a story idea for each of the seven other characters in the book. It has been so much fun getting to tag along with Moose on his flying missions!
Is Moose’s character inspired by a real-life person?
He is loosely based on my brother who is a bush pilot and flies float planes (he often flies a ‘Beaver’ featured in Moose the Pilot) and is currently back flying in Canada (where we grew up). Whenever we get together, he always has great work stories or ‘campfire tales’. It has been great fun getting to know Moose - he is kind, hard-working and cares so much about others.
Moose’s tale circles back around to the beginning – did you plot it that way from the very start?
Great question - no I didn’t. I knew that I wanted his plane to take on more and more cargo as each page progressed but that was about all I knew. As I was writing and planning, I came to the obstacle/question - who is the narrator of this story? Was it Moose in real time, was it the ‘radio’ telling the story in the transmissions or was it the owlets telling the story? I was talking through this problem with my husband and we came to the ‘A-HA’ moment - it has all happened already and Moose is recounting the tale. This simplified everything and the writing flowed from that point.
The scenery in the illustrations is stunning – were you inspired by real places?
Thanks! Yes, it is very much inspired by my childhood growing up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I was born in Banff, Alberta, which is a small, beautiful town surrounded by mountains, lakes, rivers and forests. I was also inspired by my time spent in the rainforest in Borneo (Orangutan’s Forest Florist), and a Fiji (Flamingo’s Tropical Island Resort), as well as Iceland (Puffin’s Cottage). I created this book during the lockdown in NZ, so it helped my cabin fever and wanderlust to ‘escape’ to these places!
You’ve now produced three picture books that feature maps or plans – and they reward a closer look. Is that why you like to include them?
I have always loved detail-rich stories since I was a little child. My favourite books were Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem, which were known for their detailed cross-sections, and I love any book that has a map as endpapers or even better a fold-out map! Maps and plans give an immersive feeling to a fiction story, and I knew that this was something I wanted to incorporate into my books and the world of Puffin and friends. I created a sketch of the map in Moose the Pilot (which features all the character’s homes from Puffin and friends) as a guide for myself after Puffin the Architect was published.
You’ve worked in another story about Moose through some illustrations at the beginning and end of the story – what ideas were you exploring with this?
It was so fun to use the inner front cover to show Moose as a bachelor, and the back cover to show the caring ‘friend’ and ‘uncle’ Moose. As you look through the book there are hints about an eagerly-anticipated visit from Moose’s beloved niece and nephew. These extras in the illustrations were an opportunity to explore Moose’s backstory. He is a sensitive, single Moose, who is a great cook (check out the bookshelf in his house) and takes pride in being a helpful part of his community as well as being the coolest uncle. While planning this book my editor and I noted that moose are considered to be the least social animals, so Pilot Moose is certainly ‘bucking’ the trend with his popularity and friendships!