Picture books

The art and science of storytelling

As a marine scientist and artist I have always been drawn to the ocean and I am following by saltwater heART as an Author/Illustrator (Authorstrator!) to publish a series of children’s picture books about our Blue Planet, with my titles including:

As an Aussie scientist/artist/author I have also been invited to contribute a story to “Animals Make Us Human” (published by Penguin Books Australia), which is a collection of short stories by photographers, researchers and writers reflecting on their connection with animals and nature. This book is not a picture book but it is suitable for all ages as it celebrates our connection with animals and nature. You can ‘SEA’ more about my BIG love story about a BIG animal who is still a BIG mystery to us, and buy a copy of the book, at Nature & Animals.

Positive storytelling

As an environmental educator I use science in fiction to help children and readers to understand, appreciate and hopefully help protect our underwater environments. As my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish I ‘sea’ the world through words and pictures so it will come as no surprise that I have always wanted to write and illustrate a series of kids picture books about the wonders of the underwater world. Storytelling is the oldest form of education so my sea stories are based on real-life marine science mixed with fun facts and whimsical tales…..fish tails that is!

I also strongly believe in the power of positive storytelling so even though my stories may draw attention to difficult or challenging environmental issues, such as my first two picture books which illustrate the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and our oceans of Marine Debris, my stories always offer messages of hope and solutions. I also want to share, showcase and celebrate the importance of diversity in our oceans and the amazing creatures with their FIN-tastic features, which I illustrate in my third book about Reef cleaning stations. Using the art of science and storytelling I love to excite, engage, educate and empower our children about the wonders of our underwater world!!

You can ‘sea’ more about my picture books, artworks and underwater wonders via my YouTube channel (Dr Sue Pillans) at the Picture books playlist, and ‘sea’ me in my office below:

Science in fiction

Picture books are often the first books a child will be exposed to, so when it comes to our oceans I think it is important to tell children the truth, even if the reality is not particularly pretty. In saying that, science in fiction can be told through positive storytelling to give children hope that they CAN do something to help. And ocean optimism is the focus of all of my picture books, which you can ‘sea’ more about below.

You can ‘sea’ more about where I get the ideas and inspiration for my ocean storytelling and why I use positive storytelling with a BIG splash of ocean optimism via my interview with BioTechniques (International Journal of Life Science Methods) in the UK in their “Science in fiction” series to celebrate World Book Day https://www.biotechniques.com/interview/science-in-fiction-dr-sue-pillans/

Ocean Storytelling

As Dr Suzie Starfish I am so lucky to get the opportunity to share the art of marine science and storytelling with kids of all ages (including big kids!), through my Schools visits and Workshops. I believe that our kids are our future ocean stewards and if they understand and love the oceans (via storytelling) then they are more likely to protect the oceans. Through my schools visits and workshops I teach children (of all ages) how to write and illustrate their own picture books through the art of visual storytelling. You can ‘sea’ below how ‘turtley awesome’ the primary school students were at storytelling as they created their own unique story about ‘Terry the Turtle‘, to help ‘shellebrate’ World Turtle Day!

As you can ‘sea’ from the great letters to Dr Suzie Starfish below from Exmouth primary school, they certainly love their marine art and asking great scientific questions. And YES, starfish can grow their legs back! Whenever I am doing art and science storytelling with children their interest, questions and knowledge of the sea never ceases to amaze me and I want to create picture books to encourage and support this creative thinking and connection with nature.


My picture books

The Great Barrier Thief

My first children’s picture book, “The Great Barrier Thief” by Dr Suzie Starfish, illustrates the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. The book is suitable for all ages with the focus on young readers from 4 – 10 years of age. You can read more about the story behind the story at The Great Barrier Reef and purchase the last remaining copies via good online book stores as I have now run out of my stock!

“One day Anthia’s home on the Great Barrier Reef starts getting hot, VERY hot. Soon all the colour starts disappearing from the Reef! Join Anthia and her sea creature friends as they find the Great Barrier THIEF and bring the colours back to their underwater home”.

Cranky Frankie and the Oceans of Trash

I’m SO excited to announce the second book in my series of science stories of the sea for children, “Cranky Frankie and the Oceans of Trash” written and illustrated by Dr Suzie Starfish and published by Little Pink Dog Books. This book draws attention to the global issue of marine debris and plastic pollution in our oceans and follows the journey of Cranky Frankie to try and find a solution! This children’s picture book will be released in February 2022. You can dive into the story behind this story at Marine Debris and ‘sea’ my story as an “Authorstrator” at https://littlepinkdogbooks.com/2020-books-2/cranky-frankie-oceans-of-trash/.

Roger the Wrasse and the Itchy Fishes

This is the third book in my series of ocean science stories about the sea. I’m SO excited about my newest book “Roger the Wrasse and the Itchy Fishes” by Dr Suzie Starfish published by Little Pink Dog Books. This book illustrates the importance of cleaning stations on the reef and the special ‘job’ cleaner fish do for the itchy fishes. This story shares and celebrates our amazing ocean creatures and their FIN-tastic features! This children’s picture book is expected to be released in 2022. You can dive into the story behind this story at reef cleaning stations.

VISITS by an Aussie Author/Illustrator/Scientist!

Please Contact me if you are interested in a classroom visit by Dr Suzie Starfish as I provide a range of visits and classroom incursions for children ranging from Kindergarten through to middle Primary School (and even to High School students as you are never too old to read picture books!):

  • Author/Illustrator Visits: visit includes story time, chat and colouring-in the living colours of the reef (suitable for ages Kindergarten – through to Years 3/4) and other ocean issues such as marine debris, ocean pollution and creature features!
  • Marine Scientist/Artist/Storyteller Incursions: aligned to the Australian Curriculum this highly interactive and visual classroom incursion is tailored to all year levels and classroom needs to discuss the art and science of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef (suitable for Years 1 – 12), marine debris, ocean pollution, creature features and tagging along with marine megafauna.

My WORDS & PICTURES in Progress

Creating my series of kids picture books about OUR oceans is a work in progress so stay tuned here for some more exciting updates as I follow my saltwater heART. I have several other ocean stories drafted about the amazing world of some of our most unique and colourful underwater wonders! SEA more here soon! I also host and present at workshops throughout the year as an Author/Illustrator so dive in and check out my latest Workshops.

A BIG shout out to my writing mentor and friend, award winning children’s picture book author Michelle Worthington (aka. Mermaid Michelle) for helping me to Share my Story! If you are interested in joining a great and supportive group then join the tribe at Share your Story.

The life of a writer…keep submitting your manuscripts, keep swimming through the waves of rejection letters and keep following your heART! No just means no to this story, this time…


If you would like to contact me about my ocean storytelling, please 

All artworks, stories and images are Copyright © 2021 Dr Sue Pillans

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Thief! My first children’s picture book, “The Great Barrier Thief“, is written and illustrated by Dr Suzie Starfish (my alter ego) and illustrates the impacts of climate change on our Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on earth! This book is suitable for all ages with the focus on young readers from 4-10 years … Continue reading The Great Barrier Reef

Marine Debris

Cranky Frankie and the Oceans of Trash As you can ‘sea’ I am VERY EXCITED to announce the second book in my series of ocean science stories for children, “Cranky Frankie and the Oceans of Trash” by Dr Suzie Starfish published by Little Pink Dog Books. As storytelling helps to engage, excite, educate and empower children this … Continue reading Marine Debris

Reef Cleaning Stations

Roger the Wrasse and the Itchy Fishes! I am SO EXCITED to add to my series of ocean science stories for children with “Roger the Wrasse and the Itchy Fishes”, written and illustrated by Dr Suzie Starfish and published by Little Pink Dog Books. This is the second in the series of picture books being published by Little … Continue reading Reef Cleaning Stations

Nature & Animals

Nature and Animal Stories I’m EXCITED to be featured in “Animals Make Us Human” edited by the talented Dr Leah Kaminsky and Meg Keneally for Penguin Books Australia! This book celebrates Australia’s unique wildlife and its vulnerability, told through the eyes of photographers, researchers and writers who reflect upon their connection with nature. This book … Continue reading Nature & Animals

3 thoughts on “Picture books

  1. I have written a few stories that I have submitted to just get reviewed and I have been getting bad reviews because my MC isn’t active enough in solving the problem or there isn’t a “good” problem that needs solving. How do you find what your “problem” is going to be?


    • Hi, well done on submitting your stories and I’m sorry to hear about the negative reviews, but keep following your heART! In my experience children’s picture books are written around a problem or an issue that needs to be solved, so the book needs to take your reader on a journey where there is always some sort of solution. Finding your story, problem or issue is a personal journey as an author. My problems are all based on real-life environmental issues, so there are plenty of stories in this space (unfortunately) but sometimes finding the solution can be the tricky part. Best fishes with your stories.

      Liked by 1 person

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