Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hop! Plop! - Life of a Picture Book, Part II - Gestation

Okay, so we had our idea: Mouse and Elephant go on a seesaw. Now, it needed to be developed. Tali and I brainstormed all sorts of solutions that could be attempted:

1) Mouse jumps up and down to make the seesaw move
2) Mouse and Elephant switch sides
3) Mouse and Elephant switch seesaws
4) Mouse eats a watermelon to make him heavier
5) Elephant ties balloons to his trunk to make him lighter

We generally like to follow the "Rule of 3" - three failed attempts before a successful solution, but this story was so short and simple we decided to go with all of them.

Now, all we needed was a solution. After some debate, we decided that Mouse and Elephant can simply abandon the seesaw and go on the swings. Little kids are like that. They are fickle. It had a Pooh-esque feeling to us and we worship A.A. Milne.

I then pretty much wrote the story myself. (As in all pregnancies, the mother does the work, while the other parent sits back and relaxes and offers occasional words of encouragement such as “You’re doing a great job.”)

Once we had a draft, I took it to my Gotham class. My teacher, Alex Steele, broke the strict format of the class to ask everyone a question. "Raise your hand if you liked the ending?" Half the students in the class raised their hands. The other half found it completely unsatisfying. They felt that Mouse and Elephant had not succeeded in solving their problem. Obviously, this would not do at all!

We went back to the drawing board. One further comment from Alex stuck in my mind. "What about the rest of the playground?" Why don't they go on the whirly-bird or the slide? I started a new version. I won't spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read it, but the story that began as a funny "problem-solving" book suddenly turned into a sweet "friendship" tale.


Rebecca Gomez said...

I think it's interesting that you use "whirly-bird." Where I'm from, we call it a merry-go-round (and, sadly, they are becoming rare finds at playgrounds).

Corey Schwartz said...

Well, for us, a merry-go-round is the same as a carousel. It has to have horses! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I haven't seen a merry-go-round at a playground in 20 years. I guess too many kids used to fling each other off of them. Which was fun. The broken bones are sometimes worth it! Ha!

Picture book writing, to me, is problem solving. I come up with an idea, and maybe it's just a title. Then I think about what the main problem can be...and the various solutions. It's a puzzle in my head and I have to shift the pieces around to make everything work. I think that's what makes it so much fun, solving a big problem! As you mentioned, it doesn't necessarily happen immediately, but through revisions. I love the process because when I come to a satisfying conclusion, I am likewise very satisfied!

Anonymous said...

Ummm, I don't remember if I told you what my grandmother called a "whirlybird." The word still makes me blush and giggle.

Z-Kids said...

I love hearing how this book came together! Great stuff!

Amber Hamilton said...

I didn't realize what you meant by whirlybird. My dad has a merry-go-round in his school's playground. He's the superintendent.