Alison 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.
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.
In 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.
The 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.
The 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.
As 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.