The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef story

My first kids picture book is about the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living thing on earth! As Dr Suzie Starfish I am writing, illustrating and publishing my story with Little Steps Publishing, a creative collaboration I am super EXCITED about! The book is due for release in 2018 and I will provide regular updates here so you can ‘sea’ the steps and progress of creating my first underwater story for children (and parents, grandparents, teachers and the wider community!). This story would not have surfaced if it wasn’t for the amazing support and advice of my writing mentor and friend, the very talented, Michelle Worthington. Thank you Michelle for encouraging me to just DIVE IN!

My story about OUR Great Barrier Reef illustrates the impacts of climate change which is a global issue, but I believe through the power of positive storytelling we can ‘be the change we want to SEA in the world‘! Even though my story addresses some of the challenges facing our Great Barrier Reef, it also offers HOPE that we can make change now to help the Reefs future. That’s why I have created this unique hashtag #haveGBRhope so you can follow and be part of the creation of this important underwater story, as we are all global citizens of the Great Barrier Reef!


The Story behind the Story

I have been working on my Great Barrier Reef story for many years now, prompted by the impacts I have seen first hand on our reefs and the constant doom and gloom about the Reefs demise. I believe good news travel fast vs gloomy news so I have written a story that illustrates the impacts on our Reefs and and gives children hope that there are ways that each of us, no matter how big or small we are, can do to help the Reef.

The theme of the story can easily be explained by its title, however the title is currently under wraps, as it is such a GREAT title! The story is about the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef told through the eyes of a feisty female fish named Anthia. The story is based on marine science and paints a picture (literally) of what happens to our reefs when we are not looking. Although the storyline is not always about happy times on the reef, my story is full of hope and Ocean Optimism as I cannot imagine a world without coral reefs, can you? Remember, colours are the smiles of nature so follow my story at #haveGBRhope.


Progressing the Story

I am partner-publishing with Little Steps Publishing and am currently working with my lovely and talented Editors Bonnie and Katie on FIN-essing the words and finalising the manuscript (I love a good ocean puns!). THEN it’s all about me creating the pictures to help illustrate the story! I will be experimenting with a number of different painting techniques and at this stage I think my main medium will be watercolours, but I have some fun ideas to really bring the underwater characters to life, as you can ‘sea’ below! These artworks are just some of the ideas I have for the book, which I hope to soon make into page-turning paintings! So stay tuned here for more updates as I create the Great Barrier Reef story for our future ocean stewards, our kids.


My Timeline – Creating the WORDS & PICTURES!

April 2017 – Edits back already from my amazing Editor Bonnie! Writing, writing, writing!

May 2017 – Just taking in some Vitamin Sea as I continue writing and editing the manuscript!







June 2017 – Putting the final touches on the manuscript whilst floating around my Bay backyard!







July 2017 – Manuscript completed! Thanks Katie!!

August 2017 – Sea-ing the beauty in nature whilst I start the illustrations for my Storyboard! 


September 2017 – From pencil to paper the Storyboard process is in full swing back in my studio!


This is my Illustration-INSPIRATION right from the outer Barrier Reef thanks to my hubby Dr Richo and Lee Hodgetts from Weipa Sports Fishing Thanks boys for showings us how GREAT the Barrier Reef is!

November 2017 – Drawing upon the paradise of Tropical North Queensland where I’m chilling out at Chilli Beach and sea-ing what I can see underwater!


December 2017 – Diving into the Great Barrier Reef where the colours are endless and there is SO MUCH illustration inspiration! Always #haveGBRhope


December 2017 – ending the year on a high by submitting my ‘Roughs’ illustrations to my Publisher for review! This is what drawing out a 32+ page kids picture book looks like!

STAY TUNED here for further updates on my Author/Illustrator journey and some sneak peaks of some of the characters and illustrations from The Great Barrier Reef in early 2018!

If you would like to know more about my ocean storytelling.

All artworks, stories and images are Copyright © 2017 Dr Sue Pillans