Marmaduke is no fluke

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By MATTHEW DAL­LAS

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).

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