Monday 29 November 2021

Amelia McInerney, Rhyme Addict


by Amelia McInerney

Like a lot of children’s writers out there, I like to write picture books. I know it makes more sense to write in any other genre, because it is easier to publish pretty much anything other than a picture book, and if I did, I’d probably make more money. But I really love the unique medium that is the picture book. The type of experience young readers have with picture books is special. But if I’m honest, the main problem is that I really love writing in rhyme, so I don’t have a choice! I do have plans to write chapter books and lower middle grade, but I just can’t seem to stick with those manuscripts long enough to finish them, because I keep— you guessed it— writing picture books!

This year, I was fortunate to have published three separate rhyming picture books. My latest book came out this month. It’s called
Mary had a Little Lamb: What REALLY Happened (illustrated by Melbourne’s Natashia Curtin and published by Scholastic Australia). It’s an action-packed nursery rhyme mash-up, written in Common meter. It’s fairly hefty at around 500 words, because a lot happens in this funny, new narrative. Being the rhyme-lover I am, I’ve always liked nursery rhymes, but I wanted to re-write some of the well-known classics (that often seem to feature passive girls) and unveil them as unsung heroes.

In Mary had a Little Lamb: What REALLY Happened, young Mary is revealed as a sporty, kick-butt hero who didn’t merely ‘have a lamb’ but who was a brave and clever hero who saved the day. In the story, the old lady from There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly has absconded from her nursing home... and the town's animals are going missing. Meanwhile, Mary's BFF, Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep again... so it's a bit of a kid-friendly mystery/thriller and a race against time for Mary (you’ll have to read the book to find out What REALLY Happened!) Writing it was fabulous fun because I took facts and events from those three nursery rhymes to tell my own rhyming story.

In July, Allen and Unwin released
Who Fed Zed? an off-the-wall story told completely in mono-rhyme: every line in it rhymes with ‘Zed’. It’s illustrated by Queenslander Adam Nickel. Here’s my first attempt at the blurb (which we didn’t end up using) but it does describe this story about Zed the goldfish pretty well: With Fred’s dog Jed out in the shed, four friends watch Fred’s fish instead.

Fred says Zed must not eat bread. Later, Zed is found half-dead.

Is it to do with what Fred said? Or is it something else instead?

There’s a couple of twists in the plot and I don’t want to give it away, but despite being funny, it’s a good one to read if any little ones or their friends have food allergies or intolerances. (My daughter’s nut allergy was the serious inspiration behind this zany tale. Spoiler: Zed makes it.) 

And in February, My Bird, Bertie hit the shelves! This book (illustrated by Melbourne’s Shane McG and published by Scholastic Australia) is for slightly younger kids, and features rhyme, word play and repetition. It’s a cumulative tale that can be read like a song as it has a refrain that also builds. It’s about two introverts (a bear and a bird) on a car trip, and what happens when their boisterous friends keep piling in. The gorgeously illustrated animal characters (besides the main two) include Giggling Gertie, Silly Billy Tilly, and Jiggy Wiggle Jack. Haven’t we all been on a car trip like that?!

But amongst all the rhyme, there might just be hope for me yet, because even though my next book is another humorous picture book, it is written…wait for it… in prose!

 Baby steps, right?!

 Baby steps.

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