Sunday, June 24, 2007

The End???


This moment, it happens to every writer... the split-second gasp of recognition and frustration, the sudden discovery of a book they wish they could have written.

Or--more than that--the discovery of a book they think they *might* have written eventually. If they pushed themselves to the limit... and of course, if someone else hadn't beaten them to the punch.

Well, this week I found such a book. A picture book by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Richard Egielski, The End. I wish I had thought of this!!!

Why?

No-- I don't love this book because the pictures are vivid and funny (a little bit Sendak even). Or because it's a fairy tale of sorts. Or because the economy of words is pretty amazing.

I love it because LaRochelle has invented something that feels new to me. A new form.

"The End" is a book you read backwards. Duh. So obviously, it begins with "The End". And then each subsequent page contains the "cause" for the action on the previous page. In this manner, it leads readers back to the "beginning".

Like so:

“And they all lived happily ever after. They lived happily ever after because…”

How incredible is that? Simple and brilliant at once. A backwards book.

Especially brilliant because this is JUST how writers work a lot of the time, backwards. Asking themselves "Why?" before turning the page At each moment of decision or action, writers have to determine what the compulsion for the next page is. If they're worth their salt.

So here we have a book that teaches kids how to become storytellers, how to understand momentum and compulsion. How things can seem inventive and bizarre (gigantic tomatoes and big bowls of lemonade and floods of bunnies and flaming knights) without seeming arbitrary.

Because the seemingly bizarre details are connected by the all-important question "Why?"

Of course, adult writers have given us backwards books, but I don't think anyone has ever done it with pictures, have they?

Ach! Darn! I want to have written this book! But I didn't.

Sigh.

6 comments:

talldave said...

Laurel,

I am pleased as punch that my book struck a chord with you (and I'm also secretly glad that I got to the idea of a backwards book before you did!). It was an honor to be cited on your site, especially since you are as big of a fan of Edward Eager as I am (I just ordered a complete set of his seven magic books yesterday).

I'm probably posting this under the wrong heading, but if you'd like to read another great book about magic with limitations, try THE GENIE OF SUTTON PLACE, by George Selden, author of THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE. I'm rereading it now, and it is as wonderful as it was when I read it back in 1973.

And finally A HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on your new baby. May all his beginnings end happily ever after!

David LaRochelle
www.davidlarochelle.net

Carl said...

Wow! I feel totally inadequate to leave a comment after Mr. LaRochelle. I am just so glad that another person has discovered this wonderful book. This is the best and most original picture book I've seen in a long time (and I work in a children's library and have seen a lot of picture books!) This book also makes a great read-aloud to slightly older kids, such as first graders.
Carl in Charlotte, NC

Laurel said...

Carl, I feel the same. Honored to ahve an author drop into my new little blog!

But in truth, librarians matter as much as writers. So I'm honored to have you here too, Carl.

xoL

atalanta said...

That sounds so cool! Is it weird if I run out and buy it even though my kid is only 17 months old and still in board books? (I'm obviously asking the wrong person, aren't I?)

No seriously - it's on my list now.

Laurel said...

No, no! My kid is 19 months, and still in board books. It's a really simple read with vivid colors. They'll grow into it.

(and we will too)

xoL

p dog said...

LOVED this, and my boys, 4 and 5, did too. That puts it up with Not a Box and Roxaboxen and The Yellow Balloon - there aren't too many that we all 3 love.