Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Story About Fear

Sometimes the thing we fear most turns out to be a paper tiger. We run away and hide to avoid having to confront it – until we have no choice. When the moment arrives, when we summon up the courage to stand up to the beast, it shrinks to nothing.

In The Giant Jumperee, a picture book written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury, Rabbit comes home one day and hears a loud, threatening voice coming from his burrow. “I’m the Giant Jumperee and I’m scary as can be!” the voice says. Rabbit runs to Cat for help, but the Giant Jumperee scares Cat as well. Even Bear and Elephant are too afraid to stand up to the Giant Jumperee.

Watch the author and illustrator discuss the book below:

You will have to read the book to find out who the Giant Jumperee is, but I love the reaction of the other animals when he/she/it is finally revealed. I hope we can all learn the lesson our paper tigers teach us with the same disarming laughter and relief.    

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Story About Art

This week’s picture book reminded me of when I first started bringing my stories to critique group several years ago. I had the perfect story, or so I thought, then all of a sudden I had a handful of vastly different opinions about what I should change, or add, or how it should end. I felt the same frustration as our protagonist, but I ended up with some great stories.

In Be Quiet!, a picture book written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins, Rupert the mouse is trying to create a book with no words. He has the perfect scene, a serene woodland with a stream, to forge his masterpiece. Enter Nibbs and Thistle, Rupert’s eager mouse friends. They are genuinely excited about Rupert’s artistic endeavor and they try to help, by talking…and talking…and talking. They have suggestions for everything: how to draw strong illustrations, a strong and silent character, a cute and friendly character, among others. The problem is, they are putting a steady stream of words into Rupert’s perfectly wordless book. As Rupert’s frustration grows, so does the humor in the story.

This book is very meta as it has Rupert, Nibbs, and Thistle referring to themselves writing a book as they are writing it. The humor comes from the tension between Rupert, who is trying to create art, and his friends, who are ruining it. In the end, I think Rupert ends up with a great story.

Watch an interview with Ryan T. Higgins about the book: