Marmaduke is no fluke
A Titahi Bay mum has her love of wordplay – and a breakfast spread – to thank for having her first children’s book published.
Juliette MacIver’s Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam has just hit bookstores – a successful and satisfying result after a ‘‘ long process’’ that began at the breakfast table.
‘‘I tend to forget where the story ideas come from. I was eating marmalade at breakfast and started mulling over how Marmaduke and Marmalade sound similar. I love words and Marmaduke was a name my husband [Ken] had joked about using for one of the kids.’’
The former English language teacher, who has spent most of the past decade being a full-time mum raising four kids, says she always wanted to write children’s books and first gave it a go three years ago, but it took a while to understand what publishers were looking for and who she was writing for.
‘‘The first thing I had to learn was writing within the parameters of what the industry wanted.
‘‘For my first story, I wrote for myself, not for a specific age group. And it was way too long.’’
While children’s books are often the domain of inventive adventures, there are some pretty strict rules – a picture book has to be 32 pages and with no more than about 600 words – while trends often dictate the publishers’ interests.
‘‘At the moment they’re very keen on animal characters. My agent told me some are turning down anything with human characters.’’
Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam is dominated by animals – of the barnyard variety – who get into quite a state when the titular duck mixes up a batch of jam.
MacIver thinks the attraction of animal characters – which also dominate children’s cinema – is perhaps because they can more easily reflect the breadth of readers, being free of ethnicity and age. But she firmly believes there needs to be human stories too.
MacIver tries to focus on a key component with each story she writes. For Marmaduke Duck it was a having a strong rhythm to the words; providing a swinging beat and lots of wordplay:
‘‘ Then down to the river came a little green frog and a hog from the bog and a dog on a jog, all a-quiver by the river where Marmaduke swam – Marmaduke Duck eating marmalade jam.’’
Mission accomplished – so much so the publisher, Scholastic, is also releasing the book in Canada and has commissioned a sequel, due out October next year.
MacIver believes she was fortunate to have the story illustrated by Sydney-based Sarah Davis.
Despite being the author, MacIver said she had no input into the choice of artist.
‘‘It maybe different if you’re less of a ‘grasshopper’.
‘‘When my manuscript was accepted I was told who the illustrator was . . . I looked at [Davis’] website, saw her work and thought ‘what a score!’.
‘‘I love her style, so sumptuous. The expressions on the animals’ faces are amazing.’’
Before Marmaduke 2, MacIver has another book coming out, Tom and the Dragon, with Kiwi illustrator Scott Tulloch. She hopes to become established in the field, ‘‘ fitting in’’ stories around being a mum.
Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam is available from most book stores.
Jam session: Titahi Bay mum, and now published children’s author, Juliette MacIver with three of her four children, Louis, 8, Remy, 1, and Safia, 3. (Six-year-old Ari wasn’t up to a photo session).