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1 March 2012 ·

Artists and Animals: Susan Boase, author and illustrator

Susan Boase is a children’s book author and illustrator living in Portland, OR, USA. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her work for the last couple of years as she’s illustrated the first two books in the Rainbow Street series: LOST! A Dog Called Bear, and MISSING! A Cat Called Buster. The details in her pictures certainly show her feeling for animals, so I was very pleased when she agreed to be interviewed for this blog. However I didn’t realise that she shares the belief in Buster: that sometimes, life chooses a pet for you. I hope her next one finds her soon. 
From LOST! A Dog Called Bear
From: MISSING! A Cat Called Buster

You can find out more about Susan at:
Have you ever been inspired by an animal in your life or art?
My picture book, Lucky Boy ( Houghton Mifflin, 2002) was inspired by a neglected dog in my neighborhood. He was a sweet Dalmatian, so dirty he appeared to be brown with black spots. One day the family picked up and moved away. I was plagued by thoughts of what had become of him. I wrote Lucky Boy to give his story a happy ending. My smooth fox terrier, Frida, was the model for Lucky Boy.
Did you have pets as a child? 
The first pet I can remember was a parakeet who flew out the front door when a traveling salesman came calling. We put up handmade posters in the neighborhood, but never did find him.
I brought home a baby squirrel one day whose nest had blown down. He had yet to open his eyes. We named him Ringo as the Beatles were popular at the time and his tail curled around him like a ring. My mom, who had trained to be a nurse, somehow located a bottle used to feed puppies and we brought him up inside the house until he started climbing the drapes.
The pet I most wanted as a child was a dog. When I turned 10, my parents surprised us with a wire fox terrier puppy and we named him Dugan after an American professional baseball player named Jumping Joe Dugan. He was a jumper and a runner. Given the chance, he was out the door and gone. We spent many an hour scouring the neighborhood looking for him and calling his name. I have a feeling he fathered a few litters we didn’t know about. Dugan was my best buddy until I went away to art school.
Do you have an animal companion now? 
Our two fox terriers, one a smooth coat, the other a wire, died a little over a year ago. They were both 14 years old and quite the pair. Wyatt Earp (named because of his fabulous moustache) was the wire and Frida Kahlo (named for her fabulous eyebrows), the smooth. He was the brains of the outfit, but she ruled the roost. Poor Wyatt, he would have an original idea to play a game or dig a hole and Frida would run or stand beside him and bark in his ear. We miss them both terribly and now that we have come through our mourning, we await the next dog sure to find us.
What would your pet tell us about you?
“They were so easy. Their life revolved around us – our desires, our needs. If they could come back as something, they would come back as a dog.” Signed, Frida & Wyatt
If you were an animal, what would you be?
See above.
Any advice for people wanting a pet?
Prepare to give up a lot. You must have or make the time for pets. They are not accessories, they are beings. But they give so much in return. Our dogs made us laugh every day, got us out walking EVERY day and loved us in their simple way.
Favourite animal books?
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Pictures by Garth Williams
A Day, A Dog by Gabrielle Vincent
That New Animal by Emily Jenkins, Pictures by Pierre Pratt
Truelove by Babette Cole
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, drawings by David Small,
Hondo & Fabian by Peter McCarty

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio