About The Forest Friends

When Was Petrina Created?

Petrina, a young wood nymph with a magick acorn was conceived in Paradise…California that is—in the 80’s. I had just moved from the Los Angeles suburbs to the forested community of Paradise.  It was an escape from concrete city.  As a young girl I was introduced to the forests, lakes, rivers and mountains by my father who loved to camp in the wilderness.  I had fallen in love with nature too.


Tell Us More About Why You Created The Story?

The Mystery of the Lost Hive is a story about Nature and the beauty of her cycles. But it’s also a story about how deadly pesticides can be, and how they could affect our forest animals and the environment.  It’s a story about where “home,” really is, and how we can create our own lives through positive thinking.

These are issues that speak to my heart. So I decided to let the animals speak through me.

The animals, just like humans, learn as they grow and their instincts play a powerful role in their ongoing survival…But they are not the smartest creatures, and really are quite naïve, yet that makes them charming and whimsical just like all real animals can be.  Obviously animals don’t speak words like humans do, but humans are capable of translating their feelings and energy into our own language if we approach them with care and open our minds and hearts to the concept. We can teach them and they can teach us!

My desire is for young children to appreciate how important Nature is.

What’s the Evolution of the Characters?

Petrina and Her Forest Friends were born through my desire to explore Petrina’s world, and for many years I created three panel comic strips (http://www.suzannesart.com/art/v/petrina/) that originally were published in The Paradise Post (where I worked!)  Eventually I moved  from Paradise to Santa Barbara and during that time I continued to hone my cartoon skills but it was not until I was living on Bainbridge Island, WA that I resurrected my comic strip and created ongoing story lines with a metaphysical leaning.  Petrina and her Forest Friends was revived, refreshed and renewed in a Unity Newsletter and published every month for 10 years!

My life began to take a new direction and Petrina remained in my heart.  Rejection notices from many syndicated publishers were sent back to me along with my comic strip submissions. “Fairweather Friends” is actually the first story I wrote and illustrated (edited by my dear friend, Sharon A. Dunn) featuring Petrina and Her Forest Friends, but my own doubts about its value, and I guess my lack of self worth stopped me from submitting anywhere.  Eventually I realized how strong this calling to create more of Petrina’s stories was. My intuition has guided me through my journey and I knew that I would need to self-publish eventually.  Perseverance kicked in.

In 2009 spirit moved me.  I had just been rejected by an author to illustrate his book and was feeling rather low, when my husband exclaimed, “Why don’t you create your own book with your characters?”  I said I would if I had someone to do the marketing because I knew how challenging that can be for someone like me who just wants to create art!  He said, “I’ll market it.”  I looked him deeply in the eyes and said, “OK, it’s a deal.”  A very short time later while ideas began to form, I visited my writer friends and mentioned the deal with my husband. I had been considering making it a “graphic novel” instead of a regular children’s storybook but had not yet mentioned it to them.  My friend pulled out a library book and said , Have you ever seen this?  It was “Persepolis” the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi…well, I took that for a sign that I was on my path! My desire to create this graphic novel had begun to shift from thought to reality, and thus began my 2 year adventure of writing and illustrating “The Mystery of the Lost Hive.”

Michael Schacker’s  “A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply was my inspiration for the story.  His book moved me deeply.  My question is “Why does humankind as a whole not consider nature first?”  It is nature that gives us all life, and it is nature that we must protect!  Nature includes the animals, the environment—earth herself.

So, with the support and help from my partner/husband,
“Petrina’s Forest Friends” are ready to meet the world!

Who Are The Characters?

Petrina, the wood nymph, represents a mythical nature spirit.  The forest and she are really one and the same.  Yet, she struggles a bit with being in a human form and having to deal with human characteristics.  Nature Spirits take care of the forest and all within them, so of course, she feels responsible for her animal friends. Her desire to teach the animals what she learns from Mother Nature sometimes backfires, but mostly it helps her learn more about herself, and about the regenerative process of life. She really just wants to show her friends the magnificence of Nature and how life itself is reflected in a simple flower, or most importantly a tree—her favorite subject!  Wood nymphs have many gifts, but they are also here to learn and gain wisdom from nature, as well as to develop their own intuitive skills.

The characters Rose Racoon, Dreamy Deer, Bartholomew Bobcat, Opal Owl, Topaz Trout, and Grace the Butterfly were created soon after. These are animals that are indigenous to the Northern California area.  Initially a comic strip, Petrina’s world was centered on her home in the forest where she watched over her animal friends as a protector and guide.  She could communicate with nature directly, and talked to the animals often speaking in puns and comic word choices.  But when she tried to use her magick acorn the result would often be a bit disasterous or comical.

As the comic strip evolved over the years Rose Racoon became the main character who loved collecting garbage.  Rose was the quintessential actress/artiste who was curious about lots of things. She often acted like a “drama queen,”  but she used her contemplative skills and transformed them into insights that could help her grow spiritually (or just become a better raccoon!). She loved her animal friends no matter what happened, and especially loved Petrina who helped to guide her when she needed advice.

Batholomew Bobcatis now just “Bobcat.”   I began referring to him as just Bobcat  because of his rough and tumble personality.  He really just likes to just be alone, as real bobcat’s are loners in the forest.  But Bobcat looks up to Petrina, sort of, and he likes to feel like part of a family once in awhile so he puts up with Rose and Dreamy’s antics…for the most part.

Dreamy Deer and Rose Racoon are close buddies. Dreamy sleeps a lot and naturally dreams a lot. He’s a little confused and feels lost at times. But don’t let his childish behavior fool you, he has the biggest heart ever, and believes love is all there is.

Opal Owl is mostly quiet, but says just the right thing when she does speak.  It’s called “silent wisdom.” Topaz Trout obviously has to stay in water, which makes it difficult to always visit with his forest friends, but he has developed great empathy and compassion for others so the animals often seek comfort in Topaz’s neck of the woods.

Sooza Slug is a relatively new character.  She was added because I now live in the Pacific Northwest where banana slugs are rampant!  Sooza brings her own reality into Petrina’s world.  It is one where she can see a totally different perspective which helps her thrive in the forest, and she loves to share this wisdom.

That leaves Grace the Butterfly, though certainly not the least in character.  She represents just that— “Grace” with a capital G.  She whispers pure love thought into Petrina’s ear and guides Petrina when she needs it.  The other animals adore her of course, except perhaps for Bobcat.  But through Grace’s story Bobcat has learned that he’s not the most important creature in the forest, and that every creature is valuable.

Click Here To Learn More About The Author : Suzanne Cheryl Gardner



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