A New Friend for Marmalade – Alison Reynolds

Today I welcome international best-selling author, wonderful writer and friend, Alison Reynolds to celebrate the launch of her, and very talented illustrator, Heath McKenzie’s newest picture book A New Friend for Marmalade.

Alison Pith Helmet

A New Friend for Marmalade is the sequel to Alison and Heath’s first collaboration, A Year with Marmalade, which has sold more than a whopping 30,000 copies and is being released in the USA by publisher Simon and Schuster in July. Alison is also the multi-talented, best selling author of the Ranger in Danger, Why I love and Baby Talk series as well as the gorgeous picture book The Littlest Bushranger. 

Hi Alison,

Welcome back to From Hook to Book. Thank you for stopping by on the very first day of your blog tour. Warmest congratulations to both you and Heath on the launch of A New Friend for Marmalade, your gorgeous new Marmalade adventure.

Thanks for the invite, Chris. I love reading From Hook to Book, so very nice to be here.

A Friend for Marmalade_COVER_PB copy

Ella, Maddy and Marmalade are best friends. Then one day everything changes when Toby, the boy from across the road wants to play with them. This gentle story is about accepting people, even when they do things a little differently from you. And it all revolves around a very special little cat named Marmalade.


Alison, I’m so in awe of how in A Year with Marmalade you manage to portray the complexity of how we are all different and play differently, yet can play together. Can you explain the thought process or process of elimination it takes for a picture book author to boil down such complexity to a minimum of words that expresses it so simply and beautifully?

I actually wrote this by writing a list of my thoughts about the two friends from A Year with Marmalade, and a new annoying boy  who wants to be friends, but doesn’t understand how to make friends.

I  jotted down random thoughts, for instance Toby, the new boy, annoys the girls so I thought of what he could do to annoy them without meaning to be annoying. I didn’t actually worry about the storyline, but kept writing down images and thinking what if? Eventually, a story emerged. I eliminated a lot of the extraneous words  and ideas that didn’t further the main narrative. There’s usually no room for going off on a tangent in a picture book. I always have to remember that simple is good, especially when you’re dealing with complex issues.

A Friend for Marmalade_Internals_PB_Page_06 copyA New Friend for Marmalade is really as much about the girls’ acceptance of a new friend too. There’s a significant, but subtly shown, change going on when the girls must not only share their space and creative play, but their beloved cat Marmalade too. There’s a lot going on. A lot of tolerance required by the girls for the new boy who clumsily upsets their games and yet still wins over the affection of Marmalade. As the writer, what came first for you the theme or the story?

This book started with the theme. The publisher suggested the sequel be about friendship and accepting other people even when they are different to you. I imagined an exuberant boy, Toby, who wants to be liked and make friends with Ella, Maddy and Marmalade. Astute Marmalade can see that Toby is a good friend, although he is very different from him. It takes the girls a little longer to realise this, but eventually they do. I can imagine how irritating the girls found it that when they were trying to give Toby “the cold shoulder” and Marmalade loved Toby. I really enjoyed writing that strand.

The resolution in the story got me to thinking and wondering: Is it the commonality of the childrens’ shared concern/common goal to rescue Marmalade that unites them in friendship as much as tolerance? Do you think this is a strategy that schools and those working with children might employ to bring together warring factions or isolated children – a common goal or concern?

I think by the resolution, the girls were beginning to soften towards Toby. They had the example of how much Marmalade liked Toby, suggesting that Toby was really a nice person. I do believe that sharing a common goal unites people. And the process of working together allows you to get to know another person better and most times you end up liking them.

I do think a shared concern or common goal can be used to bring together warring factions or isolated children. Often people don’t like somebody they regard as being the “Other” but once they are in a situation to really know them, their feelings can change. I don’t think that children are often given the skills to befriend somebody who is different to them. They can feel awkward and scared of doing the wrong thing and hurting the other person’s feelings. It’s easier in a sense to isolate that person. I can remember being scared of children who were different when I was little. I’m not sure why looking back.  I never bullied anybody, but I probably kept away from children who were perceived as different.  I didn’t know what to do. In this book I’m trying to show that if you accept that not everybody is the same, that can lead to different, special friendships. Toby’s brilliant idea to use the cape not only acts as a solution to Marmalade’s problem drawing the children together, but also provides the children with an excuse to be together and develop a friendship. I always felt they all wanted to be friends, but only Marmalade knew how to make a new friend.

Have you experienced a “Toby” in your life, Alison? If yes, what swung your affection his or her way?

I’ve met a “Toby” or two. Luckily, I’ve developed much better social skills and know to give people “a go”. I think if you look hard enough there’s always something to like in most people. Nobody was born mean, and most people are lovely if you give them the chance.

I should also admit that I based the character on the exuberant character of our beloved Labrador, Toby. He would run through boxes, upset drinks with his wagging tail, and lick our faces if we fell over. He never meant to be a slobbering nuisance. He just wanted to join in.

A Friend for Marmalade_COVER_PB copyA Year with Marmalade_cropped









Alison, I’ve heard a thrilling whisper that Marmalade is taking a trip abroad. Can you tell us about this exciting development?

Yes, A New Friend for Marmalade has already been released in the UK by The Five Mile Press UK and is padding in A Year with Marmalade’s paws by being published by Little Simon (Simon and Schuster US) in July this year. He is a well travelled cat!

A New Friend for Marmalade is published by The Five Mile Press ISBN: 9781743466599

Visit Alison on her website


As part of Alison’s blog tour she is offering some fantastic prizes in two different competitions. Anyone, any age, can enter her  fantastic PET PHOTO competition and AUTHORS get the fabulous opportunity to JUMP THE PUBLISHER’S SLUSH PILE.

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! 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.

Pet Photo 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 or upload to

Random book giveaways!

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


11th March Dee White – review and post

11th March Chris Bell – interview

12th March Angela Sunde – interview with Heath

12th March KBR – book giveaway

13th March Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell

14th March KBR Guest post

14th March KBR Review

14th March Sally Murphy – Meet my book

15th March Buzz Words – Interview

17th March Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X

17th March Pass-it-on Post and Review – Jackie Hosking

18th March Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett

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Dimity Powell

Brilliantly insightful questions Chris and equally superb, thoughtful answers Alison. Resolutions are important and this sequel illustrates the complexities of playground society and how they project into life beyond childhood beautifully. Loved it. CB 🙂

March 11, 2014 at 9:22 am
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Oh, “brilliant”, thank you, Dimity. And thank you for a great response. The playground is a mini world and so representative of the personality types in the adult world, yet always inspiring to me, how, sometimes, the brattiest kids can grow into the loveliest adults. 🙂 I love how Alison’s book negates the old theory, two’s company too. Good luck in the comp.

    March 11, 2014 at 10:49 am
alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

alison reynolds

Thank you for having me, Chris! And thank you (I think) for the questions that really made me think!

March 11, 2014 at 10:51 am
kelmcdonald" alt="kelmcdonald">


Fantastic interview. I really like the idea of how the girls learn to accept someone a little different. looking forward to reading and FANTASTIC news about Marmalade going overseas!
Kelly McDonald

March 11, 2014 at 10:52 am
alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

alison reynolds

Thanks, Dim. That old maxim, two’s company and three’s a crowd has always annoyed me. You’re right about a playground being a mini world. You do seem to meet all personality types there and hopefully how to get along with them all.

March 11, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Dimity Powell

    Yes, more interesting than a coop full of hens! Theories are meant to be busted sometimes. Well done you. And Chris I agree: brat to beauty is one of life’s most peculiar phenomena.

    March 11, 2014 at 10:57 am
Cherri Ryan" alt="Cherri Ryan">

Cherri Ryan

Loving this blog tour 🙂 – I particularly like the way Marmalade sees the value in all of his friends regardless of their differences, and this helps the others to think differently about each other. Thanks for sharing some of your processes too Alison – the lists you mentioned in Dee’s blog interview and the way you gathered thoughts and images to hone in on the essence of this book are very interesting. Thanks for this interview Chris and Alison. Cherri

March 11, 2014 at 2:34 pm
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Hi Cherri
    Welcome to From Hook to Book and thank you for joining the tour and for your comment.
    Isn’t it so cool the way Marmalade sees that value first and shows the girls acceptance and tolerance? A brilliant way to show, yet never telling a word of the message.
    Good luck in the competition, Cherri.

    March 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm
    alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

    alison reynolds

    Hi Cherri. And the tour has just begun! Glad you found my thought processes interesting. Chris and Dee really make me think, which I believe is an excellent thing.

    March 11, 2014 at 8:54 pm
Robert Vescio" alt="Robert Vescio">

Robert Vescio

Great interview guys! I love picture books and the way they express emotions and ideas in simple ways. Sounds like a wonderful story. All the best Alison and thanks Chris for your insightful questions.

March 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm
Lyn Oxley" alt="Lyn Oxley">

Lyn Oxley

Bright illustrations and great dialogue make this book! NF

March 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm
Marjory Gardner" alt="Marjory Gardner">

Marjory Gardner

CB….great to see a beautiful picture book have a successful sequel.! Congratulations!

March 11, 2014 at 5:28 pm
Kaye Baillie" alt="Kaye Baillie">

Kaye Baillie

Thank you so much, Chris and Alison for this terrific insight into how the next Marmalade book came about. It is a real treat to see how things start and develop. PB

March 12, 2014 at 10:10 am
deescribewriting" alt="deescribewriting">


Thanks Chris and Alison, I really enjoyed this interview:)


March 12, 2014 at 8:05 pm
christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


Thanks, Dee. And for taking the time to try commenting a second time. 🙂

March 12, 2014 at 8:08 pm
Melissa Wray" alt="Melissa Wray">

Melissa Wray

I love the concept of this book. We can all use a lesson in tolerance from time to time. BTW Alison, I mentioned previously my son is Toby. We also have a labrador dog! Funny coincidence…

March 12, 2014 at 8:53 pm
    Alison reynolds" alt="Alison reynolds">

    Alison reynolds

    Snap! Melissa I’ve never met a Toby I don’t like. Boy or dog. Alison

    March 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Hi Melissa
    I love the concept too. The more I thought about it, the more levels I found that tolerance needed to work on in the story and how subtly they come across. ANFFM is a great example of the multi-layering of picture books.
    We had a beautiful golden labrador when I was young. Lovely dogs, but I hope your’s isn’t a garbage guts like our’s.
    Good luck in the competition.

    March 13, 2014 at 7:55 am
Rebecca Sheraton" alt="Rebecca Sheraton">

Rebecca Sheraton

I keep noticing something new about this book each day. Today I noticed how the characters are in black and white and the use of colour really pops those accentuated objects. I love that Marmalade is in colour because she brings the friends altogether. A lovely concept. CB

March 12, 2014 at 11:12 pm
Corinne Fenton" alt="Corinne Fenton">

Corinne Fenton

A great blog post Chris and Alison and lovely to hear about the inner workings behind this special book. Congratulations.

March 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm


Hi Chris and Alison, thanks so much for the very insightful post about how you came up with your ideas. It’s really interesting to read about your thought process and how you were able to communicate such a strong message in so few words. I look forward to reading A Friend for Marmalade and would love to win a book. CB PB

March 14, 2014 at 10:04 am

Ali Stegert

What a lovely site, Chris, and I enjoyed your post on A New Friend for Marmalade. CB

March 14, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Melanie HIll

Thank you for an insightful and interesting interview. I think pets have a wonderful way of breaking down some of the barriers you discussed. Animals also seem to have a 6th sense when it comes to assessing personality. Kind regards, Melanie CB

March 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm
Julie Murphy" alt="Julie Murphy">

Julie Murphy

Big congrats to Alison and Heath on their beautiful new book. I really enjoyed reading how Alison’s sequel story grew and developed over time. NF

March 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm
alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

alison reynolds

Hi Julie, I’m always fascinated how a story starts from a little glimpse of an idea and swells and develops. Thanks for your lovely words. Alison

March 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm
Susan Whelan" alt="Susan Whelan">

Susan Whelan

Thank you for your thoughtful questions, Chris and your detailed answers, Alison. I love that you both managed to bring out that picture books have great depth and complexity despite, and sometimes because of, the simplicity of the format.

I loved the insight into how this second Marmalade story developed as well. (CB NF PB)

March 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm
    christinemareebell" alt="christinemareebell">


    Thanks, Susan. I am constantly in awe of the layers and levels of picture books of Marmalade’s calibre. From a first read, or listen, for the young child who gets the first basic story layer, to the joy, of sometimes hundreds of re-reads of a favourite, for the parent, they continue to delight. I think layering is part of the reason parents can bear to reread that hundred and fiftieth time without begging for a respite. 🙂 Best of luck in the competition.

    March 17, 2014 at 4:08 pm
    alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

    alison reynolds

    Susan, so glad you enjoyed reading how Marmalade 2 developed. As you know very well, the simplicity of picture books is lovely but can be very tricky to work with.

    March 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm
jacquihalpinJacqui Halpin" alt="jacquihalpinJacqui Halpin">

jacquihalpinJacqui Halpin

What insightful questions and answers! It was great to see the evolution of the story. With a skilfull picture book author so much can be said in so few words. 🙂 CB

March 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm
Yvonne Mes" alt="Yvonne Mes">

Yvonne Mes

Ah, wonderful post. Love that illustration where Toby has fallen/ dives head first in the sandcastle. I can see how the Labrador may have inspired that one!

March 18, 2014 at 8:55 pm
alison reynolds" alt="alison reynolds">

alison reynolds

Yvonne, you definitely know Labradors. I love that illo. too.

March 19, 2014 at 9:14 pm

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