It’s a lovely story of losing friends, making new ones and coping with change – and delightfully illustrated and airily designed with lots of delicious white space. Maddy goes away for a year and asks her friend Ella to look after her cat, Marmalade. But Ella’s and Marmalade’s ideas for enjoyment are different. As the seasons pass... – I won’t give any more away.
I love it, but what age range is it really aimed at?
Alison: Thanks for inviting us Peter. Pre-school/early school years – children 2 – 10 years old.
Everyone will adore it, and I can also imagine that it will be very popular in schools to help teach about the seasons.
I know it will have changed somewhat from conception to publication. Who came up with the brilliant idea for raised and embossed lettering on the cover and the tactile, almost sculpted, tree, and at what stage was the decision made?
Heath: This was purely an in-house design idea – and a very good one at that! (At least as far as I’m aware – I’d happily take credit but alas, it wasn’t my brainwave!)
It’s always a joy to work with publishers and their design and production people who go that little bit further to produce books of outstanding quality that will be forever treasured.
I’ve shown my copy to several friends and they all kept feeling the cover. It really does set the scene so well. And the creative typography is an important element throughout the book, too - graphically depicting stomping, falling leaves and much much more. It adds an extra dimension. Did you envisage all that from the start, Heath? Were the word and line shapes pencilled in detail on your initial storyboard?
Heath: Unlike a lot of other projects I’ve worked on, the text placement was designed before I began illustrating. Or more specifically, I’d done a sample spread (the first autumn leaves image with all the piles on the ground) so as to give everyone a good idea as to the style I intended to work with – from there this look was used to design text placement which I then worked with when creating the remaining images. At times my vision and their’s didn’t quite mesh so I’d suggest the odd change or two, but on the whole I did my best to maintain what had been designed.
Did you make any suggestions for word changes so that you could add particular design features? Was there any collaboration between you and Alison? Did you receive any useful suggestions from your art director?
Heath: I made no word changes and only became in contact with Alison after all was done! So on the whole, aside form the text design influences – I was free to carry on as I pleased! Of course, then some editorial discussion takes place and little tweaks are made, but on the whole, things generally remained intact from the initial roughs through to final art.
Do you start off with a pencil, ball-point, Wacom Tablet...?
Heath: I start off with a Wacom tablet and end the same way! From pencil roughs to final art – all digital but all most certainly as traditionally freehand-drawn as possible.
I know you’ve illustrated a significant number of books and are highly skilled at portraying children, but do you ever get children to perform particular actions for you to draw realistically?
Heath: Not yet! Though having just had a daughter – as she grows up, she may become a model more often than she might like! On the odd occasion, I’ve asked my wife for assistance, but that’s been for hand modelling, getting a particular hand pose right that I can’t model myself. Otherwise, my model is a Spider-Man action figure – he has an abundance of articulation points (right down to each finger) and has come in handy many many times!
Are the characters based on any people you know?
Heath: In this book, Ella bares a bit more than a passing resemblance to my niece.
Alison: I grew up with two neighbours/best friends and we played together every minute we could. I tried to imagine what it would have felt like if one of them moved. Marmalade is based on my very special green-eyed cat, Charlotte, who I had when I was little. I wanted to explore how even though things can change we can adapt and things will be even better.
My first pet was a ginger cat - Tom. As soon as we went out for the day or on holiday, he automatically and immediately went next door to get fed along with their cat, but normally never visited.
Can you share a page from the inside with readers, too – and websites people should visit for more information?
Heath: For more information about me, visit:
It’s in need of an update but does the trick nevertheless!
As for a page from the book, instead I’d like to share a rare behind the scenes moment! For every book, I generally begin with designing the characters (very important!). Sometimes it all just comes naturally and easily, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to get the look I want right. As can be seen here, Poppy and Ella came quite easily and naturally – Marmalade on the other hand, took a bit of mucking about before I had something I was happy with. (Note also name changes – as I worked on the book, little bits and pieces changed around me along the way, character names being one thing!).
Wow – that’s even more of a treat. Thank you so much for letting us see those, Heath, and for telling us about the process of your book’s creation and development. I’m sure it’s going to be highly successful worldwide. Congratulations to you both and to all the team at The Five Mile Press!
Thanks Peter. It’s been fun!
Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, too, Heath - and to your wife.
And ‘A Year with Marmalade’ is available right now – ISBN 978-1-74248-880-6
Alison’s website is full of wonderful things to discover:
...including a competition with a chance to win a signed copy – and a copy of the picture book ‘Lighty Faust the Lion’ (a much bigger cat), too.
I hope I'm right in saying that readers need to share their favourite photo that shows their cat’s personality.
Upload it to Alison’s Facebook page at
or email it to her as a low res jpeg file at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll upload it on her website. www.alisonreynolds.com.au
Entries close on the 1st of September.
If you wish to gain some tips and learn more about the writing, illustrating and publishing process of this book, you may like to visit other stop off places on Alison’s and Heath’ blog tour.
Please add a comment or question here, too, if you you wish.
Writing for Children
'A Year with Marmalade' Blog Tour
7th August Dee White
9th August Karen Tyrrell
11th August Tania McCartney
13th August Pass It On
14th August Kathryn Apel
17th August Dale Harcombe
20th August Peter Taylor
22nd August Susan Stephenson
23rd August Robyn Opie Parnell
27th August Sally Odgers
29th August Angela Sunde
31st August Chris Bell