Community is such an important lesson for children to learn growing up. Disney generously sent us this picture book Malina’s Jam that introduced the idea of the importance of community to a sweet little hedgehog. Here is our review of the Malina’s Jam picture book!
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Malina the hedgehog loves to tend to her raspberry bushes and loves to make delicious raspberry jam, but when winter comes, she realizes that a caring community is sweeter than any sweet treat.
At its core Malina’s Jam picture book is a gentle reminder on how our communities shape us! Malina pours her love into her jam and she shares her love with her embracing community. What I liked is that this book is also a great reminder that reciprocation is important. The community enjoyed the fruits of Malina’s garden but also recognized that she needed help with prepping her garden for future berry harvests.
One other aspect of this book that resonated with us was Malina being a shy introvert. Malina’s Jam picture book reminds us that even introverts need interaction with their community if only for a cup of tea or a few hours in the garden.
We had the chance to interview author Svetla Radivoeva, check it out below!
Hi Ms. Radivoeva and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! Malina’s Jam is such a sweet story of a caring little hedgehog. My six year old loved Malina’s character and wondered why you choose a hedgehog to share this story?
Thank you so much!
Actually at the beginning Malina was originally supposed to be a bear. I did a first pass of the story, after which I was made aware that bears are a frequent choice for a main character in picture books. After that I had the task to see if there is another animal that I could switch to. I wanted her to be an animal that hibernates during winter, which determined the food that she stocks up in summer. I did a little bit of research and it turned out hedgehogs hibernate as well. I loved the fact that she is tiny compared to the world around her and it made everything even more fun to draw. As bonus – hedgehogs are super cute and I really wonder why I hadn’t thought of them right away!
At the core of the book, Malina learns about how she can support her community and in turn how her community can support her back. How important was community to you growing up?
Community is always important since it gives a feel of belonging. I never thought specifically about it until I felt the lack of it very vividly when I moved to the US. I was far from the comfort of being surrounded with family and friends who I felt I could always rely on. I was by myself and felt very vulnerable and lonely. I think that was the moment I felt how much my community mattered to me. Through the years here though I managed to meet wonderful people that became friends and they bring a lot of comfort and happiness in my life and in a way are my family in the US.
We loved pointing out the little details of Malina’s community, especially the frog with the jam tied to his back and the bunnies sharing raspberries behind the mushrooms. Do you have any words of wisdom for budding illustrators?
Those were some of the most fun parts to draw in the book. Everything was fun but this part was almost the cherry on top. They are little side stories that are not really part of the main story but are bringing some extra life to it. They are also for anyone that wishes to explore the drawings a bit more with their imaginations. I wish I had done more of them but at the same time I wouldn’t want to overwhelm the picture with too many side ideas to distract. I think I had idea for these ants that are sneaking out raspberries and you can track them for a few pages but it did feel like Malina’s house is infested with bugs and was definitely not supporting the story since she was giving away the jam, not having it stolen by the animals. But it was a fun idea.
I am extremely new at children’s book illustration and would honestly love to dive more into it and learn more about it. I’m not sure I have any advice to give since I’m so new to it myself. It does seem though one has to enjoy the medium of children’s books in order to do them because you can definitely tell the fun the illustrator has when they do the drawings.
What’s next for Svetla Radiveova?
Work wise I am excited to see what will be the next project I will work on after we finish the animation of the upcoming Disney film Raya and the Last Dragon.
In terms of the book – I am very excited for the release of Malina’s Jam, which I wasn’t sure if it would be able to come out this year given everything that’s going on in the world. Since drawing is a passion of mine I am looking forward to learning more about the world of children’s book illustration which this project opened for me, and hopefully one day to be able to make another one.
About the Author
Svetla Radivoeva is a character animator at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, and she’s worked on films such as Frozen, Moana, and Zootopia. More of her art can be seen here.
For Ages 3-5
Malina’s Jam Releases September 7 2020!
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