by Bryan Patrick Avery
I listened to a discussion recently between two magicians about the difference between magic “tricks” and true artistic magic. After a lengthy debate about magic videos on a certain streaming video site, one magician mentioned that magic, as an art, has always been intended to be performed for and with and audience. Furthermore, he said, magic is much more that well executed secret moves. Each affect relies on a plot (beginning/middle/end) to engage the audience.
Even the simple coin from behind the ear trick follows this approach:
Plot is essential in picture books as well. With all the discussion on smaller word counts and leaving room for the illustrator, it can be easy to lose sight of plot’s importance. This month, we take a look at three great plot-driven picture books. First up, a delicious story which teaches a valuable lesson.
Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, tells the story of two friends (you guessed it, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast) who embark on a race to get the last drop of maple syrup. Along the way the find ever increasing trouble. On skis and boats they race, with Sir French Toast even using celery as a ladder. They find trouble along the way, including a chick pea avalanche, but finally make it to their destination.
The twist at the end (I won’t spoil it) gives Pancake and French Toast one more challenge to overcome and they do it well, by embracing a very important lesson. The book, from start to finish engages readers in the trials of these two characters and Josh Funk manages to do it in rhyme, primarily by ensuring the plot drives the story, not the rhyme.
A new favorite of mine, particularly as a fan of private eye novels, is 7 Ate 9. Written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, 7 Ate 9 is a funny, pun-filled ride based on a familiar joke. When 6 comes to Private I for help because he’s concerned that 7 at 9 and he (6) might be next, I gets to work solving the mystery. As with many mysteries, not everyone is cooperative and arriving at the solution proves difficult. Like Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, 7 Ate 9 packs a twist at the end that wraps up everything nicely. And is that a hint at a sequel at the end?
Though it tackles a much more serious subject, Daniel Beaty’s Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, deserves a place on this list. Beautifully illustrated by Brian Collier, Knock Knock tells the story of a boy relationship with his father. At the beginning, we see the boy interacting with his father and the love they both feel for one another is unmistakable. When the father goes away, we watch the boy struggle to deal with the void he leaves behind. As time passes, we see what the boy has become in spite of, and perhaps because of, that void. The closing image, for me, was both uplifting and a little bit haunting. Knock Knock is an incredible story because it opens a door to a conversation that isn’t often held with young children, but should be.
That’s all for this month, I’m off to plot my latest picture book. More on that later. Have a magical month!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
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 the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.