Sunday, June 24, 2007
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!!!
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".
“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.