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  • Manju Howard

Joint Interview: Author Janie Reinart & Editor Alayne Kay Christian

I’m happy to interview kindhearted picture book author, Janie Reinart. Plus, I have the pleasure of welcoming Alayne Kay Christian, past acquisitions editor and creative director for Blue Whale Press. They teamed up along with illustrator Morgan Taylor to create WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN. Their picture book will be released this June.


This is the first part of a two-part interview on the making of WHEN WATER MAKES MUD. Coming in May, I will post my interview with illustrator Morgan Taylor and share her sketches.


For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a picture book critique from fellow Kidlit Creatives member, and the new Blue Whale Press acquisitions editor, Jackie Kruzie. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.


First, I want to share Morgan Taylor’s cover art!


Hi Janie! Congratulations on your debut picture book, WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN. Please share how you pitched your story.


When war forces two sisters to flee from home with nothing, big sister helps little sister laugh again at the refugee settlement. A smile perches on my little sister’s lips like a pigeon. Then it is gone, until… big sister creates just the right something for little sister. WHEN WATER MAKES MUD: A STORY OF REFUGEE CHILDREN (184-words) is a tribute to the resourcefulness of children who have no toys. This lyrical picture book is dedicated to the 200,000 refugee children living at Bidibidi Settlement in Uganda.



Hi Alayne! Why did Janie’s manuscript, WHEN WATER MAKES MUD, appeal to you?


First, thank you for inviting us to talk about this beautiful book. The title drew me in immediately—great title! But then I got to the manuscript. Janie’s lovely words and imagery touched my heart and made me cry. It’s impossible not to fall in love with a story that can move me to that degree. You described Janie perfectly in your introduction when you said “kindhearted.” It’s obvious to me that Janie’s heart and soul touched every single word she put into this story. I am grateful to her for bringing this story to me, and now, to the world. I am honored to know Janie and to have worked with her to create this beautiful book. I feel like it is a very important story for all ages. I believe it will open up minds, hearts, and many good conversations with children.



Janie: Please share what sparked your interest in writing about refugee children. How did you research their lives at Bidibidi Settlement in Uganda? Which picture books did you consider your mentor texts?


A National Geographic article about refugee children making their own toys from mud, paper and plastic caught my eye. The exquisite pictures in the article started the picture book story for me.


I noticed the photographer, Nora Lorek was on Instagram. I contacted Nora to ask if she would consider confirming what animals might be found in the Bidibidi Settlement. Nora was gracious enough to give me her email, and became my inspiration and resource.


When I started working on the manuscript, I knew I wanted a playful structure to match the heart of my story—children playing with toys they created. A picture book that stuck with me and became my mentor text was Miranda Paul’s, Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle illustrated by Janson Chin.


Thanks very much, Janie and Alayne!


With her words, Janie Reinart makes something from nothing. From paper and pencil to page turns, she crafts stories celebrating the creativity and playfulness of children. Janie encourages readers to use their imagination, find their voice, share their stories, and believe in their dreams. She lives in Ohio with her darling husband and delights in playing with her 16 grandchildren.

Connect with Janie online:

Website Twitter Instagram Pinterest



Alayne Kay Christian was the acquisitions editor and creative director for Blue Whale Press, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing, from 2017 to 2021. She’s an award-winning children’s book author and the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. She has been a professional critique writer since 2014 and was a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Her published works include the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series, and picture books Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa, An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin, and The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed. Her fourth picture book, Faith Beneath the Bridge is planned to release in the fall of 2021. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. To learn more about Alayne visit her website.


To learn more about Alayne stepping down from her position with Blue Whale and Jackie stepping in, go here.


Prize offer: For a chance to win a picture book critique from Blue Whale Press acquisitions editor, Jackie Kruzie, leave a comment about WHEN WATER MAKES MUD on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and let me know if you shared this interview on your Twitter or Facebook. Deadline to enter is Friday, April 23rd.

Also, learn about how to submit to Jackie, click here.


All posts on Manju's blog promote members of Kidlit Creatives: Create, Query & Support. Request to join our group by hopping over to our FB page and answering the questions.


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