Alison Reynolds Guides us Through her Books on Good Deeds

imageAlison Reynolds is the author of over 50 books for children and adults, often incorporating important life skills and values in the most entertaining of ways. Some of her children’s titles include the Ranger in Danger series, The Littlest Bushranger, A Year with Marmalade and A New Friend for Marmalade. Today Alison answers questions about her newest gorgeous series; Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds.

Both picture books making their debut in the Pickle and Bree series adopt a value system approach that not only facilitates awareness of the importance of positive social skills, but they are absolutely refreshing, cute and funny too.

The Birthday Party Cake is an emotionally-charged tale of the two, competing characters – Pickle and Bree – both with their own opinions on how best to plan a party (and style the cake, in particular) for their Panda friend. Disagreements lead to tears, but a little compassion, understanding and acceptance goes a long way. The depth of passion, drama and empowerment will certainly fuel the hearts and minds of all readers to strive for a more peaceful society. (See my previous review here)

The Decorating Disaster deals with another delicate situation in which Pickle and Bree find their stubbornness to avoid collaborating leads to an array of disastrous mishaps. In the end, a paint-splattered Bree and her bear friend in a wallpaper ‘Pickle’ choose harmony over discord. Totally relatable, comical and endearing, another ‘enriching’ book for young children to cherish.

Welcome Alison!

Congratulations on the release of the first two books in the series – The Birthday Party Cake and The Decorating Disaster!

Thank you, Romi! They were a lot of fun to write.

You also have another two being published in August this year. How did the idea for this series come about?

The publisher had asked me if I was interested in writing a series of books about positive behaviour and social etiquette, but at a higher level than please and thank yous. They were looking for an illustrator and found the marvellous Mikki Butterley, and Pickle and Bree were born. Mikki already had an illustration of Pickle and Bree, and after I looked and thought about them for a while the ideas for the books emerged.

Is there a plan to write more Pickle and Bree titles in the future?

I hope so! There are lots of different issues to explore. And I love writing about Pickle and Bree.

Each book focuses on the concepts of values, social etiquette and positive behaviour in a delicate yet engaging way. In what ways do you hope the readers will utilise and benefit from the books?

I hope these books are a strong narrative with a super subtle message in there. I really want children to realise that they’re not alone and that many of us face the same problems interacting with others. I also try to show Pickle and Bree’s different attitudes and to create empathy for other people’s point of view and experiences. I also wanted the books to be fun and entertaining!

What advice or strategies can you provide for parents and teachers wanting to get the most out your stories?

The final page of each book has a Guide to Good Deeds, which acts as discussion points for parents and teachers. I like to ask children how they would feel in Pickle and Bree’s situation and if it has ever happened to them. It’s also fun to act out some of the situations taking turns to be Pickle and Bree, so the actors get to see each other’s perspective.

imageIn The Birthday Party Cake we see differing personalities with each of the characters. Bree is outspoken, Pickle is fun-loving and goofy, whilst their friend Jason is more reserved. Where did you draw your inspiration for these personas, and which one represents you the most?

I didn’t realise it until after I wrote the book, but Pickle is very much like my lovely dad. Easy-going, fun-loving, patient but stubborn. He’s also got quite a few characteristics of my husband and old Labrador Toby. Bree is my mum. Impetuous, full of energy, well-meaning, and says what she thinks. Jason is Jason. He’s one of those lovely reserved children, who like to join in but want to avoid the limelight. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think I’m a mixture of both Pickle and Bree.

imageThe Decorating Disaster is agonisingly humorous with the mishaps rolling on one after the other! Have you ever had a decorating disaster of your own?

Pass! Actually, the way my children remember their childhood every decorating attempt ended in a disaster. But both my dad and husband’s feet always ended up in the paint tray at some point. And my mother was a star wall paperer. Probably our best effort was when I made curtains and somehow hemmed them on the wrong side.

Did you handle it as well as Pickle and Bree did in the end?

My husband often encourages me to go out when he’s decorating. And, apparently I have the unfailing capacity to spot the one bit on the wall that hasn’t been painted. But we always end up laughing.

imageThe illustrations by Mikki Butterley are warm, seductive and rich with texture. What was it like to collaborate with Mikki?

I feel incredibly fortunate to collaborate with Mikki. I have perfect faith in her to create wonderful illustrations and reinterpret the text in a new way. She adds a whole new life to the story. Unfortunately, Mikki lives in UK, but one day we’re going to meet!

How do you feel her illustrations best compliment your words?

She takes my words and weaves her own magic. I feel as if we’re playing a duet, and without both parts the book would be flat and uninspired.

What do you like about her style of art?

I love the sense of life and movement her illustrations capture and the lushness and warmth without being cloying. And they’re so much fun. Especially the added extras, like mice or birds to find.

imageAs mentioned, many of your books centre around the gentle guidance of important life values and strategies. Why is this element significant to you and your writing?

I’m not sure how it happened exactly, but I’ve been approached by four different publishers now to write on this theme. I’m not sure if I come across as incredibly polite, but suspect it’s more that I write these subjects with a light, playful touch. I also do believe that we’re all in this together and manners help us all get along better.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of creating books like yours?

Coming up with a different angle. So far I’ve managed to do this as they’ve all been slightly different. One of the next 2 Pickle and Brees is about bullying, but think I’ve managed to pull it off hopefully and still make it a fun read. The most rewarding aspect is if I can make this a kinder, gentler world for somebody, I’m happy. I feel lucky being able to communicate with so many different children through my writing.

Name one exciting event that you most look forward to achieving this year.

This is a very exciting year for me. I should have a series coming out, currently called Project X, and of course, Melbourne’s very own conference for kids and YA writers and illustrators, KidLitVic2016 Meet the Publishers in May. And Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds 3 & 4. (I used to be excellent at mathematics, but I’ve gone off as you can see by my telling 3 events.)

Completely understandable! Thank you so much, Alison for answering my questions on Pickle and Bree! I’m very much looking forward to the next two instalments! 🙂

Thank you, again for inviting me. And I’m looking forward to the next two instalments too.

Find more information on Alison Reynolds at her website

Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds is published by The Five Mile Press, October 2015.

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – RANGER IN DANGER

As a writer, I am in awe of Alison Reynolds and Sean Willmore for their ‘Decide Your Destiny’, Ranger in Danger Books.

While some writers struggle to come up with one plot, Alison and Sean have to create a number of alternative plot directions for each book so that the action can be guided by the choices made by readers.

The books are written in second person so that the reader is brought straight into the story. And from the first page, it’s non-stop action.

All the stories are based on real life ranger’s experiences and right from the start, readers are catapulted into the middle of deadly action.

Readers are invited to travel the world as rangers-in-training and what happens next depends on the choices they make. Readers decide for themselves how the story will end.  And the best part is that they can keep reading and re-reading so they can enjoy many incredibly daring experiences from a single book!

Based in different parts of the world including Africa, South America, India and Australia, Ranger in Danger is an action-packed collaboration between Australian ranger and environmental activist Sean Willmore and Melbourne author Alison Reynolds. With illustrations by Andrew Hopgood, these totally wild, interactive adventures include 20 possible endings to each story.

Diablo’s Doom

This is the start of your new life. You have been selected to travel to Africa as a ranger in training. You can’t wait!

Rampaging elephants, charging rhinos, and hungry man-eating crocodiles…The adventures start from the moment you get on the plane.

A scarred man with an eye patch sits near you. Is this the evil poacher, Diablo? Can you stop this international criminal? Will you even make it
off the plane alive?

You decide your destiny.

Hernando’s Labyrinth

You decide your destiny. You’re flying into South America as a ranger in training. You can’t wait!

Stinky skunks, gigantic tarantulas, Mayan ruins,
and flesh-eating piranhas…

A mysterious email triggers more adventures.Someone’s threatening the last Pinto tortoise in the world. Can you save him and stop the evil mastermind, Hernando?

Your fate is in your hands.

The Ranger In Danger series is published by Five Mile Press

For more information about the series, visit  www.rangerindanger.com

THE WILD WORLD OF WRITING – With Alison Reynolds

Today, I’m pleased to welcome writer friend,  and author of more than twenty books, Alison Reynolds.

Alison and  Sean Willmore (founder of  The Thin Green Line) are the authors of the very popular Ranger in Danger Series.

Alison grew up and still lives in suburban Melbourne, but she says she often feels  like a ranger in danger.

I have a pack of wild dogs, possums tap-dance on the roof all night, and the neighbour’s scarily giant rabbits bounce across the front yard. Then there are the bats, cats and marsupial rats. Melbourne

Being a writer was something Alison always wanted to do, but she felt as if it was something other people did.
After a series of jobs, as a public servant, market researcher, working in a radio station, restaurant, bookshop, and for the most curmudgeonly boss in Melbourne, I decided if I was ever going to be a writer that now was the time. I was home with youngish children. I gained a Graduate certificate in Professional writing and editing and a MA in Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne.  I was lucky enough to have my first book, The Ghostly Hand accepted in 1997 and I haven’t stopped writing since.

The Ranger In Danger books are taken from real life experiences of rangers around the world. So how did the Alison and Sean writing team come together to tell these stories?

Alison says she was approached by the publisher to write a series with a ranger, Sean Willmore who has founded The Thin Green Line – a foundation to look after the welfare of rangers’ families where the ranger has been killed in the line of duty.

Sean and Alison brainstormed and came up with a ‘decide your destiny’ book set in Africa, Diablo’s Doom.

DIABLO’S DOOM

The reader goes to Africa as a ranger in training, but on the plane they overhear a voice speaking of killing rhinoceros. The reader embarks on an adventure where they make the choices and one wrong choice may end in death.

You require all the animal facts and ranger skills you know.  You fight poachers; are charged by elephants and one, very angry rhinoceros; and need all your ingenuity to survive. It’s up to you, the reader to decide your destiny.

WHY KIDS LIKE RANGER IN DANGER BOOKS

The Ranger In Danger books are for 8 – 12 year-olds.  They are full of adventure and facts about nature.

The ‘decide your destiny’ format, gives the reader the power to imagine what they would do if they were a ranger.

The main character is the reader. Alison says,

Each book in the series features a real-life ranger, and I’m full of admiration for his or her bravery and wisdom. Even though I’ve never met Makombo, who is in Diablo’s Doom, I feel as if I do know him and admire and respect him very much.

One of his jobs has been to protect the gorillas in Rwanda against poachers who are ruthless. Many rangers die in the line of duty.

THE WRITING PROCESS

Alison says that one of the most fun parts about writing the Ranger In Danger books was meeting and becoming friends with Sean Willmore, and learning about rangers and wildlife around the world.

The actual writing is a lot of fun as Sean and I brainstorm a vague outline, then I think ‘what if?’. I try to make each strand of the story more challenging for me as a writer.

When I get stuck, I contact Sean and tell him, for example, the little ranger has accidentally jumped out of a motorized rickshaw over the side of a steep mountain in India, and ask him what can he suggest. So far, we haven’t been stumped for an answer.

According to Alison, the hardest thing about writing the books is keeping  track of all the different strands and coming up with so many choices.

Find out more about Alison and her books at http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au

On Friday, we’re going to be discussing the Ranger in Danger books in more detail at Kids’ Book Capers.