Girls Need Sailing Representation Too

Author Interview Susea Spray

A Big Blue Boat follows a young girl as she sets out for a day of sailing and teaches readers different parts of a boat. What was the inspiration for your story?

My husband and I are ocean sailors and sailed from Australia to Europe between 2013 and 2015 – the story can be found on www.gratisaustralis.com. The idea for the book originally grew from the desire to share our experiences on the sea with our own big blue boat in a fun way with our Grandchildren. I wanted them to experience that feel of being in a boat out on the sea.

As we sailed and met other people in the sailing community, I also learned that although slowly changing, it is still very much a man’s world. We need stories that are going to help promote this change.

From a simple book written for the grandchildren and their parents, A Big Blue Boat rapidly grew into a story that could be enjoyed by all and used as an educational text.

The art in this book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Lesley Cybulka?

Everything to do with A Big Blue Boat has just fallen into place.

I originally asked a friend, whose artwork I loved, whether he would like to join us on the journey by creating the images. Having completed the first image of the sea, Andrew felt he couldn’t do the imagery of the boat and captain full justice and wondered whether I would be happy for his friend, Lesley, to do the illustrations instead.

The partnership with Lesley was something beyond my imagination and a true collaboration.

Initially, I sent a copy of the text with some basic illustration notes and multiple photographs of the boat to Lesley. We had a long conversation via Zoom, where we discussed the manuscript, illustration notes, and mediums to be used, then I left the rest to her.

Neither of us work well when under pressure, so the time factor was left open…

The arrival of what would become the front cover image had me hyper excited. Lesley’s first illustration had taken the artwork beyond my imaginings, and it was so different to what is found in picture books of today. Having never seen her work, I discovered how exceptionally talented Lesley is and she had brought my story to life!

As each set of images were created, Lesley and I would connect to discuss whether readjustments were required. In some cases, illustrations were totally redone.

That moment when Lesley agreed to join me in illustrating A Big Blue Boat, will be one for which I will be forever grateful.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

As I searched to find sailing stories for young children – particularly girls – in the 4 – 8 year age range, I discovered the majority of picture books in the boating genre are about motor boats and the protagonists male. For girls especially, sailing stories are set within the character’s imagination, as a dream, or used as a way of introducing the reader to other cultures. Realistic sailing stories with a female protagonist that are fun for young children, are difficult to find and the female sailing community is crying out for them. Many women have told me of how they change characters from male to female when they read boat books to their young girl/s. A strong female protagonist was of utmost importance. The captain of A Big Blue Boat is based upon the ‘sailing me’ I am learning to be.

As a sport, sailing is perfect for children on many levels. It promotes and develops critical thinking, problem solving, communication and cooperation skills; builds team spirit, fitness, and strength; and shows that clean wind power can be just as much fun as motor boats. It seemed right that the first book should be one that introduced important parts of a sailing boat and the captain.

The sea is also a magical place. There is nothing like the feeling of freedom one experiences out on the water in a sailing boat. Here you are immersed within the elements and can encounter the inconceivable wonders of nature: wind, storms, a dolphin’s birth, albatross soaring, dolphins leaping and whales breaching. It has been an environment that has long called to me personally, as it does for many children, Australians as a whole and people worldwide, and I want to share it with the world.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Two sequels about A Big Blue Boat are completed and currently with Lesley awaiting illustrations. I am not sure which of the two will be first, for I have left that up to Lesley. A Big Blue Boat and the Mighty Storm tells of a storm that blows up in the Australian Bight, whilst A Big Blue Boat is Out on the Brine introduces more of our wondrous ocean creatures and the web of life. Anyone who loves Bill Martin Jr’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear is going to love The Brine.

We are hoping the second will be available for purchase sometime in 2023.

In the meantime, several more sequels and a couple of prequels are well underway.

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Facebook Author | Facebook Book | Website

The seas are calm and the winds gently blowing, when a Big Blue Boat and her Captain head out for a day’s sail. As the winds strengthen, and the sea starts to rollick and frolic, will our Big Blue Boat and her Captain make it safely back to shore?
Parents looking for picture books about boats or picture books about sailing will fall in love with A Big Blue Boat. It’s one of the best sailing stories of 2021. Especially, if you’re looking for picture books about sailing for girls. Written for early readers and pre-schoolers, it’ll have them learning to sail in no time.
Children will love joining in with the rhythm and rhyme in this cumulative story about a boat, a girl and the rollicking frolicking sea.
A boat.
A big blue boat.
A big blue boat with billowing sails.
A big blue boat with billowing sails and …
In the tradition of There Once Was A Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus TreeThe Big Blue Boat takes readers on an ever-growing rhyming song in this beautiful yarn about boats for early readers.
The Big Blue Boat also features a female captain, making it a great option for those looking for books about sailing for girls as well as picture books about boats. All families interested in sailing and boats will love Susea Spray’s fun-filled adventure. After all, who better to write boat stories for girls, than an author living on a boat?
Beloved by educators, The Big Blue Boat reinforces key early learning skills. “From a teacher’s perspective, and thinking about literacy skills, the repetition is really great, as it helps children access reading of some key words along with the adult reader.” Dr Kathryn Macfarlane (teacher and children’s author)
Buy The Big Blue Boat to set sail on a magical journey today!

Posted on May 9, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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