Animal ‘crackers’ in her book

Photo Wayne Martin

Miranda is a hypochondriac sheep, terrified of water, which is why she is never without her floaties – one look at her face says it all.

Miranda is also a sheep, now the subject of a children’s book, the creation of Gaby Suhl, who spoke to HELEN PERRY about Miranda and friends.

Gaby Suhl’s Golly Family bears no resemblance to the black-faced, colourfully dressed dolls, made popular by children’s author Enid Blyton but are no longer P.C.

Instead the Golly’s are a charming group of soft toys with the most peculiar personalities.

There’s the aforementioned Miranda – did I say she also loves hiding in pillow cases and her favourite things are colourful marshmallows and tickles under the nose?

Yes, tickles under her nose!

Check out Hector the Bunny, who has 256 siblings, is allergic to carrots but loves beetroot pie or Alfonso the Dog who is obsessed by yellow buttons.

Impossible to miss, Amelia the Giraffe, has come to New Zealand from Africa to take part in an animal haka but cannot find a scarf wide enough for her neck so she can ward off our cold. Amelia loves dandelions, watermelon, iced tea and burying herself in the sand.

Now that I’ve started, I must tell you about Hugo the Cat who has trust issues but loves to dip his whiskers in tuna milkshakes and Matilda the Bear who gets her kicks from travelling and trying new flavours which have landed her in trouble more than once, like the time she mistook a tennis ball for a peach!

Finally, there’s Milo the Elephant, a very sweet elephant who will wrap his trunk around you and cuddle you until you fall asleep. His favourite things in the world are broccoli and peanut butter sandwiches and digging his trunk deep into a bagful of rice!

Now that you’ve met the Golly’s it’s time to meet their ‘mum’, Gaby, who hails originally from Argentina but has made New Zealand home since 2007.

“A year-long working holiday here was the catalyst for my return,” she says. “I just loved this country from the outset and when I found a job with a Microsoft licensing company, which was prepared to help me gain my work visa and residency, I was on my way back … for good!”

After eight years with the firm which saw her daily scribble a cartoon or humorous drawing on the office whiteboard, Gaby decided she needed to make better use of her creativity.

Six months of hard saving, and the germ of a soft toy idea, she was ready to quit her job to see if she could make a go of making and selling the toys. “It was all a bit scary and, really, it has taken 18 months to go from just one handcrafted soft toy – Hugo the Cat – to a whole Golly family.”

Now, Gaby sells her creations on line and at local markets, their distinct personalities all on show. Furthermore, they have become a big hit with children especially those in the five to nine years age bracket.

The next step was to take the Golly Family on some adventures. After first compiling a book for toddlers, Hugo Finds a Friend, Gaby took Hugo around Auckland, hiding him in locations she photographed and from there produced Find Hugo in Auckland.

She then fine tuned this experimental booklet and has just launched Find Miranda in New Zealand – a delightful collection of stunning photographs ranging from breath-taking scenic shots to urban streets in which a sheepish Miranda is hiding.

“Children just love looking for Miranda and are delighted when they spot her peeping out from the bushes at Hamilton Gardens or tucked among the rocks at Lake Wanaka,” Gaby says. “I’ve also included two pages which they can colour for themselves and also sketch in their own ‘hidden’ Miranda.

“The next step is to develop the idea of more “Find….” books using the other toys so children can own that toy and the complementary book whilst also being encouraged to create their own ‘find’ books. I’ll just have to see what I have in the creative pipeline!”