We are delighted to join Emma Pearl and Sara Ugolotti‘s Saving the Sun blogtour! After Mending the Moon Luna and Poppa are back in a new adventure. It was really interesting to hear from Emma about how she researched various parts of the plot so that she could tell the story in a realistic and believable way.
The Story: Luna and her grandfather, Poppa, are on Summer Island but the sun is so hot that at sunset it plunges into the ocean to cool down. Luna laughs until she looks at the sky and realises that they must rescue it. With the help of whales and dolphins they manage to get the sun back into the sky. But then they must find a way to turn it back on…
Saving the Sun is a beautifully atmospheric story and we love the way that the sun is personified. Sara Ugolotti’s gold and orange illustrations are gorgeous and don’t just include ocean creatures but also monkeys and a variety of birds. We love the way that Poppa supports Luna as she goes through the process of helping the sun get back to its rightful place in the sky.
After reading Saving the Sun it was really interesting to hear how Emma researched and came up with the solution to Luna’s problem.
Solving a Plot Problem – Nature’s Answers
Once I had finally settled on the setting for Saving the Sun (on or around draft number 4,628), I needed to work out the mechanics of a) the disaster that would befall the sun, and b) how Luna was going to fix it.
A heatwave seemed topical – even back in 2021 when I was writing this, it was clear that extreme heat was affecting much of the world and was likely to get worse. And for the purposes of my story, I wanted the sun itself to feel too hot, so much so that it couldn’t resist a dip in the ocean.
Scale is so lovely and flexible in children’s stories (for a perfect example of how to use scale in ingenious ways, watch an episode of CBeebies’ In the Night Garden!). So once the sun is in the sea, although it’s still large, it’s not so big that it causes major damage or is impossible to move. With the help of dolphins and a whale, Luna and Poppa manage to return it to its rightful place in the sky by tipping it over the horizon and allowing it to continue on its usual course. But when they wake next morning, there’s no daylight because the sun’s fire was completely extinguished by the ocean. Since it’s now out of their reach, they need to find a creative way to set it alight again.
It’s all very well as an author to present your characters with problems that are difficult to solve, but you also have to come up with the solution yourself. And this one was quite tricky. I had them light a bonfire on the beach, but that wasn’t likely to reach the sun. So how to get the flames up into the sky? As in Mending the Moon, it was the birds who came to the rescue. But for the exact mechanics of how it was going to work, I found myself Googling for inspiration.
It didn’t take long to discover that – as with most problems – the answer was to be found in nature itself. The black kite, the whistling kite and the brown falcon have all been known to spread bush fires in Australia by carrying burning sticks in their beaks and dropping them onto an area of savanna away from the original fire to create a new blaze. They do this to smoke out prey in a rather alarming act of deliberate arson, resulting in a feeding frenzy. While this concept is more than a little menacing, it’s also a brilliant example of nature at work. And I knew right away that I could turn the darkness into light, quite literally, and use this method to solve Luna’s problem. Et voilà – the firebirds of Summer Island were born! They dip sticks into the bonfire and fly up to the sun to set it alight again. Pretty neat, eh? And Sara Ugolotti’s illustrations of the scene are absolutely stunning.
I love that truth can not only be stranger than fiction, but can also provide inspiration when solving sticky plot points in a story. It also goes to show that if we look hard enough, magic is all around us in the natural world. And more often than not, even when nature is quite frankly terrifying, there are always lessons to be learned from observing and respecting it. Which is really the message at the heart of Saving the Sun.
You can find more information about Australia’s firebirds on the following websites:
Thanks Emma, this is an absolutely fascinating read, we love the idea of birds with flaming torches 🙂
About Emma Pearl
Emma’s debut picture book Mending the Moon, illustrated by Sara Ugolotti, was published by Page Street Kids in 2022. Saving the Sun is her second book. Emma lives in New Zealand and writes fiction for young people of all ages from picture books to young adults. She is represented by Sera Rivers at Speilburg Literary.
You can read more about Saving the Sun on the other blog tour stops;