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Interview: Minky Stapleton talks about Bubbles the Zooting, Tooting Manatee

Minky Stapleton is a multi-faceted illustrator with a range of styles, all with a heavy dash of humour. She spent her formative years as an award-winning Art Director and later Creative Director in Johannesburg, working in some of South Africa’s best advertising agencies. After many years of corporate life, she threw it all in to follow her first love, illustration.

She now resides in Auckland, where she balances a number of local and international illustration projects with running classes for kids on how to design scary monsters. Minky talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Bubbles the Zooting, Tooting Manatee.

This story is about Bubbles, a little manatee pup. She lives with her mom, aunties and cousins in a river inlet and attends manatee school every day. It’s there that she learns the big Manatee secret of floatation - FARTING!. Bubble takes this new knowledge further than any manatee before her and discovers that the more she eats the more she toots and the faster she can zoom. Mayhem ensues and her mom and aunties are horrified. But when danger lurks Bubbles’ new skill might be able to save the day!


What inspired you to write and illustrate this book?

I was busy working on Justin Christophers ’s book Nanas with no manners when this clip surfaced on my social feed: 

So, steeped in a cloud of farts (produced by the Nanas) I thought this was an hilarious fact and worthy of a story!

What research was involved?

Well, I had to research how this equalising effect works to make sure my premise actually could be somewhat feasible. And then I went down the rabbit hole of baby manatee pictures - they are so cute!

What was your routine or process when creating this book?

As far as writing books go, I guess “a routine" is a strong word as this is only my second book. But I have found that it works in a similar way to illustration. Once you sit down with a purpose/idea in mind and have a set structure, you just have to fill in the gaps. So I guess the most important part is the Idea. And if you keep your eyes and heart open those are everywhere around you.

If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Happy by Pharrell

I like to move it by will.I. am

Can’t stop the feeling by Justin Timberlake

What did you enjoy the most about creating this picture book?

I really loved creating the funny spreads where Bubbles disrupts everyone's peace! Showing her joy was huge fun.

What did you do to celebrate finishing Bubbles the Zooting, Tooting Manatee?

Sleep! The last month of finalising a book and finishing the illustrations and design is always an almighty push.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

A children’s book, but I buy them compulsively and this one was beautiful and rewarding in all ways: Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky and Isabelle Arsenault

What’s next on the agenda for you

I do have another book in the works, but for my next project I’m partnering up with a well-known author and I’m trying my hand at designing and illustrating a whole chapter book in the vein of The Bad Guys and Captain Underpants. Super exciting!

Scholastic NZ


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