Welcome to my latest blog piece which is part of a blog tour to celebrate Emma Reynolds debut author/illustrator release.
I am beyond excited to share this book with you all. It’s brilliant, and my minis think so too.
Amara and the bats is a warm and inspiring read based around a young girl and her rewilding mission to encourage bats to visit her new home town.
Complete with brilliant inclusive spreads, factual information and an endearing lead, Reynolds has created a story reflective of her work and passion on nature conservation.
It’s wonderful to see a female protagonist of colour exploring this important theme. Amara proves to be a resourceful character and by sharing her concerns with new friends, she brings a whole community together.
The lovely illustrations bring the story to life brilliantly. I particularly like the way Reynolds has illustrated the lighting and shadows amongst night time scenes. Though they are various details to explore on each page, the artwork isn’t too busy making it more accessible to a range of readers.
As part of the blog tour my girls and I were very lucky to be able to interview Emma.
A huge congratulations on your debut picture book. This is the first picture book which you have illustrated and written. We wondered if your book idea began with some writing or perhaps an illustration that inspired the idea?
Thank you so much for having me!
This is a great question! It all started with this illustration I drew back in 2016 of a little girl looking up curiously, and I knew I had to make a story about her.
She has always been called ‘Amara’, and I started to think about bats which I’ve loved as a kid, andimagined her looking up at a bat! In 2018, I started to work on my kidlit portfolio and a dummy book (aka sketched version) of ‘Amara and the Bats’ to pitch to agents, and the story began developing from there.
Once you had your idea, how long did it take to complete the book?
From initial idea of the first sketch to publication date, 5 years! The book has gone through many versions, with the core story being about a girl who loves bats. I signed with my agent Thao Le in August 2018, and we shared the news we got the book deal with Atheneum Simon & Schuster in May 2019, and I began working on it with my editor Julia McCarthy in September 2019, and I had completed the final artwork about a year later in 2020. So it’s a long process! I am so happy that it is finally out in the world!
Do you keep a sketch book of book ideas?
I do, but I mostly like drawing on A4 printer paper, and on my iPad using ProCreate.
Do you have early sketches of Amara and the Bats that we could share?
Yes! This is a super early sketch of Amara that I still like. As you can see, her design developed as well over time.
We love that books like yours feature main characters of colour. Are any of the characters in your book, based on people you know?
This is very important to me, to reflect the diverse community we live in.
And yes they are! Some are a combination of people I know, and some are based on friends from when we were kids. The specific ones are the teacher is based on my old Japanese teacher, and the young lady in the crowd wearing her hijab is based on a friendwhose fashion and style I love. Amara’s big brother has an essence of my best friend Mal, and Lucy is named after my best friend from primary school.
Can you remember the first person you shared your book idea with? Do they tend to be the one that you share your literary ideas with?
I usually share my ideas with my close friends and family, and now I am with my lovely agent Thao, I share my ideas with her too. With Amara, I shared my initial ideas back in 2018 with freelance children’s book editor Matilda Johnson who’d recently moved up north, and she was amazing at helping me get the book pitch ready for agents and encouraging me, I’m forever grateful for that.
Have you visited a bat cave before?
Technically I have at Chester Zoo haha but I’d love to visit one in the wild one day! (Though I wouldn’t go deep caving *shudders*, I’d need to see the entrance!) I highly recommend Chester Zoo – they are a conservation focused environment with the aim to prevent extinction of species. Their walk throughbat cave with fruit bats is a wonderful experience as they fly around you!
Your book is publishing in the UK on the 22nd July. Is it being published anywhere else in the world?
Yes! So it actually came out first in the US on July 20th in hardback, and the UK is the export edition in paperback. Fun fact – bats have different needs all over the world, so the US edition has artificial roosts called ‘Bat Houses’ which are large and on polesaway from trees, and the UK edition has artificial roosts called ‘Bat Boxes’ which are smaller and mounted on trees. There are also a couple of language changes, such as ‘Mom’ to ‘Mum’ for the UK edition. So I made different artwork for each version!
UK Edition Bat Boxes:
Are there any future projects that you are able togive us a little hint of information about?
I have SUCH an exciting project that I’ve had to keep quiet about for over a year now… But it’s my next book deal and I can’t wait to share more soon(!) A hint is it’s a different KIND of book, and if you enjoyed the themes in ‘Amara and the Bats’ you’ll likely enjoy this too!
Thank you so much for visiting our blog. To round up our interview and to find out a little more about you, my girls are hoping you can answer these this or that?
Oooo fun!! I love these….
Chocolate or crisps?
This is such a hard one!!! But I think I’ll have to go with crisps.
Tea or coffee?
This is an easy one – I don’t like coffee (just the smell of the beans) so tea! I don’t like milky tea though, my favourite tea is Twinings Green tea with mango yum yum!
Dogs or cats?
Cats all the way.
Sleep or up until late?
My sleeping pattern has gone a bit funky the last year, so it’s stay up late and sleep in!
Walking or swimming?
Ooo I do love swimming but I don’t get to do it enough. I loooove walking and being in nature, so walking!
Beach holiday or camping holiday?
Hmmm I do love camping by the beach! Beach holiday if I just need to chiiiill, camping holiday if I wanna do some exploring (but gotta have an air matress, RIP my back otherwise!)
Summer or winter?
Ooo… summer, because I like the longer days. Plus, the bats are out! 😀
Thank you so much for answering our questions. We wish the book lots of success and look forward to seeing more of your work.
Thank you so much for having me! It’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you for all of your fun and insightful questions.
To see more pieces all about Amara and the bats head over to the following book bloggers:
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.