As the stay at home orders continue magicians like me are taking stock of their repertoires. The big question is will we ever approach magic the same way again? The general consensus is no. As a result, magicians the world over are looking at new ways advancing the art of magic.
This got me thinking about the ways writers and illustrators approach storytelling. There is no one way to tell a story. As artists, we must decide which method is best for our style and our story. This month, we’ll look at three picture books that highlight a few of my favorite styles.
In THE LAST PEACH, written and illustrated by Gus Gordon, two insects come across the last peach of the summer. The decide they want to eat it, but then aren’t so sure of how to proceed. Even a little help from their friends only serves to add to their uncertainty. The question Will they eat the peach? drives the story forward and keeps the reader turning pages until the last page.
What makes this story unique, thought, is that it’s told entirely through dialogue. Gus uses colors to differentiate who is speaking and keeps the cast of characters simple. This makes the story simple to follow and allows the reader to lose themselves in the story. Dialogue tends to pull the reader in closer. It gives the reader an opportunity to lend their own voicing to the characters. It’s hard to imagine the story being as compelling if it used more of a narrative approach.
If you’re considering using this approach to storytelling remember a few things:
Also repeated throughout is their response to each setback. They each pause, close their eyes, and blow a breath. This repetition is particularly important to the story because it signals Ava and her mother being able to move past an issue. When it doesn’t happen...? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out.
The last book is one of my new favorites. ONE FOX: A COUNTING BOOK THRILLER was written and illustrated by Kate Read. Counting books and alphabet books and can be tough to write well but Kate does a superb job. ONE FOX tells the story of a fox who stalks a group of chickens. Because it’s a thriller, I won’t give too much away.
It starts at one, as many counting books do, with “One famished fox”. With only a few words in each spread, Kate’s illustrations help bring the story to life. As we watch the hungry fox sneak towards the hen house at night, we can’t help but wonder what will happen. The twist at the end brings the story to a surprising, yet satisfying, ending. More than a book of things to count, ONE FOX tells a gripping story that readers won’t be able to put down.
If you want to try this approach, whether a counting book or alphabet book, a compelling story could make all the difference.
Well, that’s all for this month. Stay safe and have a magical month.
Special Guest Post: How Life Influences Fiction in "I Am Here Now" by Barbara Bottner
Hi lovely reader, I wanted to do a quickie intro to Barbara Bottner and why we are honored to have her guest post. If this were Japan, Barbara would be considered a national treasure for both the number of books she's written and the quality of them. Barbara has also mentored many of the writing greats and is also an exquisite person. She and I co-taught a picture book course years ago and it was amazing. Below are just some of Barbara's many books and below that is Barbara's wonderful post. So without further ado, here's Barbara!
Hello, I’m Barbara Bottner, author of nearly 50 children’s books for all ages. I often use my own experiences for my stories. After a hiatus of over thirty years from writing YA fiction, concentrating on picture books and work in TV and print, my new free verse novel is coming out May 19th. This novel, I Am Here Now, from Macmillan, is fiction, but it is greatly inspired by my own experiences. I’m going to share about the parallels in my life that helped me write this story.
I Am Here Now takes place in Parkchester, a planned community in the Bronx, in 1960 as we hurl toward war with Viet Nam.
There are four teen characters. There’s Rachel, Maisie’s best friend; and Rachel’s heart throb boyfriend, Gino. And finally, Richie, who Maisie relies on for friendship and a possible romance. Richie shares with Maisie his dismay about living with his father’s Viet Nam war trauma.
“Tomorrow or the next day, Richie and I will sit together and mumble our sad stories.”
The story is set in the Bronx. I was born there and lived there until the age of seven. Like my home, the Bronx was in decline and experiencing increased turbulence.
For Maisie, the tense uptown streets create a growing, urgent need to escape, as mirrored by her impossible situation with her very disturbed mother.
Like Maisie, I was always an art girl. Art spoke to me as no human could. It allowed me to see other worlds and to feel deeply connected to them. It showed me there was a way to express the pulsing, intense, uncontainable feelings I had and to turn them into something useful and lasting and even beautiful. Art sustained me and still does. Maisie is an aspiring artist and her love of painting is an important thread. It’s healing, self-realizing, and ultimately offers her a way forward.
As in the novel, I had a best friend whose mom was, for her, a challenge, but for me, a lifesaver. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in and of itself. Kiki, Rachel’s mother, is a painter and a mentor to Maisie. This leads to trouble with Rachel who becomes jealous (and has reason to).
Also, this is a sibling story. Maisie has to find a way to cherish her younger, more compliant and more lovable brother Davy, who’s secretive and dealing with his sexual orientation before being gay was even remotely acceptable. This comes out of my life as well. My brother grabbled with his orientation at a time where homosexuality was illegal and considered a curse.
Maisie is a troubled, desperate girl, especially when her father disappears in the middle of the night. Later on, Richie flees his situation as well. As a result, Maisie becomes a thief of sorts; first she steals into Rachel’s family. Then, finding Gino irresistible, she steals her best friend’s boyfriend.
Refusing to reach out to her father because of his abandonment, she faces off with her mother until her fate as well as Davy’s hangs in the balance.
If you'd like to help support this glorious kidlit matriarch, buy her books here:
https://shop.booksandbooks.com/book/9781250207692 Books N Books, Miami Florida or here:
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break