Monthly Archives: January 2016

World Building for a Little Girl

An artist–with a delight in beauty and order and a gift for visual storytelling–fashions a world for a little girl and her forest friends.

Coralie and I looked over each other’s book dummies (the book printed out page by page and stapled together to give a rough idea of the finished product) on Friday. I wanted to see how the narrative for Marie and Mr. Bee flowed from page to page (I’d been warned about “plot holes”). Coralie was looking for consistency in her portrayal of the characters before she colors them.

2016-1-19 Page 2

 

As I looked at her pictures, something I’ve noted all along emerged more clearly than ever–Coralie is unifying the storyline through the art (and this may take care of any plot holes).

Note the stump to the left. As Coralie fashioned Marie’s world, she realized that the child (who uses a wheelchair) would have a hard time picking up sticks for her woodstove. Voilà!–the meeting place where her friends leave the firewood they’ve gathered for her.

On another page you’ll see both squirrels on the stump, preparing mushrooms to dry for the winter. (Interestingly, Coralie’s brother-in-law has a treasure trove in one of his abandoned outbuildings: a spectacular collection of mushrooms of various species and sizes, piled on the shelf and in the corners. Some enterprising animals should have a very good winter.)

See the branch Fox is carrying? She’ll use it to sweep her den. And Little Bear needs to dig roots before he plays with Marie.

Coralie recently added the picnic table where Marie and Mr. Bee will later play “Helper Bee,” a board game invented by our artist.

While assembling the pages, I reflected on Marie’s pretty, floral-patterned dishes, the floral sign with the same pattern over the cabin door, and her tidy cabin.

Beauty and design, functionality and order crown this little girl’s world (until, of course, Mr. Bee’s unseemly, batter-splattering invasion!). Marie really has it together–much like the artist. Our hero reflects Coralie’s love of beauty, design and order, just as she reflects my granddaughter Tina’s compassion for small creatures.

Coralie is careful to make the illustrations not only true to the characters, but to nature itself. The story takes place in the fall, when drones are expelled from the hive.  She suggested that Marie find the ailing Mr. Bee when she was picking cranberries, a fall fruit, rather than the strawberries I’d planned on. And at Coralie’s suggestion, asters, rather than the (springtime) daisies I’d originally planned on, set off fall’s gorgeous foliage.

We have a little girl of industry and compassion portrayed by an artist with a gift for visual storytelling and an interest in real-life accuracy . . . . I believe Marie and all her forest friends are in very good hands.

I’m hoping for a spring launch of Marie and Mr. Bee.

2015-10-26 Cover Working Copy

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Premie Poetry: Ode to a Tiny Granddaughter

To herald the safe arrival of Tommy’s new baby sister, I’m publishing my first ever poem to a premie.

newborn

You’re ever so tiny, impossibly cute,

Utterly miniature, very astute.

You know when it’s dinner; you know when it’s snack.

You’d charm the shirt right off a car salesman’s back.

We love you with all of your sweet winning ways,

And we know that we’ll love you for all of our days.

But always remember that God loves you more.

From before you were born until forever more.

stars

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Truth from the Trenches

leave me alone catleave me alone giant

“Leave me alone,” protests our sad little protagonist. “My problem is a giant So big he blocks the sun . . . .

A giant full of nasty words, A giant huge and strong, Who casts a shadow over me As dark as it is long.”

Kes Gray put this small sad rhyme into the mouth of the little boy before the current terrorist attacks cast their black shadow, but his message of despair still rings true. And, as many other fine picture books for children do, this story offers hope. Through the compassion, courage and initiative of the rabbit, the fly, the cow, the frog, the pig and others who inhabit his world, our young hero finds peace and safety.

After sharing hundreds of stories with children over the years, I’m now more fully realizing why I like this genre. Simply and cleanly, these stories affirm truths we learned as children—that we need each other, that meanies can very quickly become cowards, and that even the smallest of us has important work to do.

Are there stories and memories from your childhood that you draw on for courage in uncertain times?

 

 

 

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