Author Amanda Jayne on the inspiration behind ‘A Rainbow in Her Pocket’.
A Rainbow in her Pocket started many years ago – not the story itself, but the desire for sadness and other emotions to be seen as okay. I had some challenges when growing up and, as happens in many families, feelings were avoided at all costs. I spent many years learning about emotions and how vital it is to all of us to simply be allowed to feel them – without ourselves or others trying to stop them, stifle them, give advice or make them wrong. The healing that takes place when emotions are freely felt is extraordinary.
A second element of inspiration for the book came much later after visiting a wildlife park, where the sweetest young rhino named Mala lived. Her big round eyes seemed to communicate pure love and I could feel her sweetness and her innocence. She had a huge effect on me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her after I left the park.
The third inspiration came when I was playing a game with my friend’s son, Henry, who was 5 at the time. In our game of trains and tracks, Henry informed me that the man waiting in the station was very sad. I looked around the room and a wooden rainbow was lying on the floor behind me. I picked it up and began to tell Henry a story about the man and the rainbow that taught him that sadness was beautiful. He asked a million questions about the story (well, not quite a million, but many) and once we’d gone back to playing with the trains, he kept returning to the man with the rainbow in his pocket. For some reason, at that moment, Mala the rhino popped into my head and the story of A Rainbow in her Pocket appeared before me.
I started writing it that night as I find when stories come, they generally want to be written down as soon as possible. I write best when I’m in a coffee shop, surrounded by a buzz that seems to send me into my own world. The story of Mala and her friends flowed out of my pen in a local cafe over a few days and all I had to do was be there to let it come.
Once I’d finished the story and had it accepted by a publisher, I was offered a choice of illustrators to bring Mala and her friends to life. Although the illustrators were great, something felt wrong. I couldn’t get images of the brightest colours out of my mind, as if the story wanted them. After several days of struggling to choose who should illustrate, I found myself telling the publisher that I would illustrate them myself. She agreed and it was at that moment that I realised what I had let myself in for. I’d never illustrated before, I hadn’t really drawn much before, but I knew that I could do it because I loved the characters and I already had images of the pages in my head – all I had to do was start. That first line on a blank piece of paper is the hardest, after that, I gained more confidence, line by line and before I knew it, the book was done.
Since being published, several mums have contacted me to say how much their young children love the bright colours and how they are able to use the book to talk to them about emotions. One has a close relative who is terminally ill and she told me that A Rainbow in her Pocket was a great way to help her child feel the sadness around that. This is all I could want for the book. I believe that the more children grow up now being taught that feelings are there to be felt without shame or remorse, the easier they will be able to navigate in life. If A Rainbow in her Pocket can help even one or two children in this way, I’ll be very happy.
Thank you very much.