'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday, 14 March 2014

Blog Tour: Alison Reynolds on Writing a Picture Book with an Invisible Message

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome the talented and very lovely Alison Reynolds to share some thoughts on writing her latest picture book, A New Friend for Marmalade. Make sure you comment on this post and follow the links to other websites on Alison's blog tour to be in the running for some wonderful prizes including a copy of A New Friend for Marmalade, a Heath McKenzie artwork, manuscript assessments, and several opportunities to skip the slush pile and get your work in front of a editor (details and links at the end of this post).

Show me a “Do not walk on the grass” sign and my shoe will just accidentally have to graze along the blades. If I’m warned “Don’t touch the hot plate”, my fingers are scorched as I check exactly how hot the plate really is. And obvious messages in books? I want to do exactly the opposite to the message, or throw the book away. I do not like to be lectured when I read.

So, it was a real challenge for me to write A New Friend for Marmalade, which has the significant message of accepting those who are different to us. I want children to enjoy my books and not to feel as if they are reading a “message” book. I needed to write a book with a significant but invisible message.

I decided the best way was to show the behaviour rather than commenting on it. This would allow the readers to reach their own conclusions. I think it’s important to leave gaps in books to encourage active reading where the reader uses their own imagination.

The close friendship between Ella, Maddy and Marmalade was explored in my previous book, A Year with Marmalade. In A New Friend for Marmalade, I introduced Toby who is very different from Ella and Maddy. He is super active and exuberant. All he wants is to be friends with them, but he doesn’t know how to gain their friendship.

The girls exclude Toby from their play, not because they are being mean, but because they’re not sure how to handle his exuberance. And poor Toby lacks the social skills to know how to fit in.

Marmalade immediately accepts Toby as a friend, and doesn’t even notice that he’s a bit different. Throughout the book I show how when the girls get irritated by Toby’s behaviour, Marmalade will rub his head against Toby for a pat or purr.

I wanted to celebrate Toby's special qualities - his exuberance and unique way of seeing and doing things. I wanted to show that once the girls were prepared to accept Toby's differences, they could all be good friends.

When Marmalade is trapped up a tree, it is the resourceful Toby who comes up with a solution. The three children are finally mentally and physically together when they each take a corner of Toby’s cloak, and Marmalade jumps to safety.

I loved the challenge of writing this story. I tried to make it a funny, enjoyable read, yet with a strong, invisible message of being tolerant of other people and accepting their differences. Hopefully, I succeeded.

11th Dee White – review and post
11th Chris Bell – post
12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath
12th KBR – book giveaway
13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell
14th KBR Guest post
14th KBR Review
14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book
15th Buzz Words – Interview
17th Alison Reynolds – Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X
17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking
18th Alison Reynolds – Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett

Pet contest for all ages!
Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to Alison Reynolds website, email Alison or upload to Alison's Facebook page.

Random book giveaways!
Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on facebook or even email Alison that you want to enter competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

Jump the Slush Pile!
Win a free pass to a Children’s editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials CB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free pass to a Non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk.  Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win an assessment of Chapter One of a chapter book by the fabulous mentor extraordinaire Dee White.  Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds! Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials PB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.


  1. this sounds like such an awesome book. I appreciate what Alison Reynolds says about making the book a funny, enjoyable read with a strong invisible, message. That must have been incredibly challenging. I look forward to reading the book and seeing how she did it.
    PB CB

    1. I know that as an adult I don't enjoy being 'lectured' by what I am reading, so it makes sense that children would feel the same. I love Alison's insight into creating a story that entertains while modelling an important message rather than forcing a particular point of view onto readers.

  2. It's lovely when authors share their writing experience online, living in regional Victoria it is often hard to attend workshops. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to the future blogs.

    1. Blog tours and writers websites are such a great resource for up-and-coming writers, Jen. Like you, I really enjoy being able to read about the experiences of published authors and learning from them.

  3. I would love to win a copy of Alison and Heath's book. Really enjoying the blog tour. CB PB

    1. It's such a beautiful book, Kaye. I think Heath and Alison are such an amazing picture book partnership.

  4. Communication is a vast canvas which we all must learn to work on. Your 'invisible message' approach, Alison, is a wonderful gift for children, enabling them to think and imagine. Congratulations! NF

    1. I agree Leanda. The 'invisible message' leaves room for children to project their own experiences and emotions into the situation, which makes it possible for a much larger audience to relate to the story.

  5. I love the progression of this story. It's so beautifully unpacked in this post. Congrats to Alison. I'll be on the look out for this book.
    CB DW

    1. It's definitely worth finding a copy of A New Friend for Marmalade, Ali. It's such a lovely story.

  6. Each time I read Alison's comments I learn more about writing. The idea of an invisible message is fantastic. Thank you Alison. Regards, Melanie CB

    1. I always enjoy Alison's blog tours, Melanie. She is so generous with her advice and giving us all insight into the creative process behind her stories.


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