Sir PBJ: Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey

This is a sad job for Sir PBJ today, because the original Traction Man is Here! is simply irresistible! As is Traction Man meets Turbo Dog. All three written and illustrated by the very talented Mini Grey. But as it is his duty, Sir PBJ, the ‘Royal Test-Reader’ must inform his (very) young Queen of book elements gone wrong, and offer constructive suggestions. It is with heavy heart that he informs us of his findings:

“Ah, Traction Man. I still find the drawing technique and style superb, the sense of color, texture and depth exquisite. I love an action-packed adventure as any knight of the realm, but I found some spreads, especially the end papers, too busy even for my eager eyes. The character has such magnetic charm and the story plot is unique, but with the text displayed on collage-paper scraps often dispersed in a manner that adds confusion to the illustrations spreads, my desire to read all the bits waned. Occasionally I found a page to unwind and enjoy the view, but others reminded me of the feeling you get when the undertow catches your feet and you lose orientation for a minute before you break the surface and can breathe again. I recommend more negative space be added to the compositions and the text placed with more cohesion. This is my humble opinion.”

Belated WIX: It’s Raining Female Trolls

In English it could either be raining cats and dogs, a turtle floater or a frog strangling gully washer! But in Europe it seems the most common to remark on the heavy rain as from buckets, basins, tubs and jugs, though the Czechs get a bit pushy with a wheelbarrow. The  Dutch and Swedes speak of rods and pipe stems. Much like the French, Germans and Turks with ropes, cords and strings, and the Greeks with chair legs.

The Afrikaans may have personalized the Welsh (old ladies and sticks) with Ou vrouens met knopkieries reen: it’s raining old women with knobkerries (clubs).

But I really enjoy the Swiss German: Es schiffet wiä d’Sau! because of the historical reference for schiffet: In olden times, noble women didn’t wear undergarments (gasp!), and when they needed to urinate, servants gave them a container shaped like a little ship (Schiff is German for ship). So the English translation becomes ‘pee like a sow’.

More humorous examples:

Catalan: Està plovent a bots i barrals / it’s raining boats and casks (barrels)

Danish: Det regner skomagerdrenge / it’s raining shoemakers’ apprentices

Irish (Gaelic): Tá sé ag caitheamh sceana gréasaí / it’s throwing cobblers knives

Norwegian: Det regner trollkjerringer / it’s raining female trolls

Estonian: Sajab nagu oavarrest / it’s raining like from a beanstalk

In any case, I just wish it would!

More at Omniglot:

Sir PBJ: Charming Opal

Sir PBJ strikes again! (More details on the first post). This time with With Toot & Puddle/Charming Opal by Hollie Hobbie, Little Brown and Company. 2003. And Opal really is charming! The cover is striking with it’s strongly contrasted black background and apple-green grass and Opal, cousin to Puddle the pig, decked out in puffed sleeves, an oversized bonnet and mischievous gleam in her eye.

But it seems the cover was reconsidered and rolled out again in 2011 with one of the inner illustrations. A bit more personality? Perhaps.

Hollie Hobbie’s master watercolors are stunning. As we are introduced to our main character stepping off the train at Woodcock Paddock Station the loose yet fine details are not photo-realistic, but convince us just the same of the normalcy of a well-dressed pig among humans stepping onto the sunlit platform. Each perfectly composed illustration tells a story worthy of framing and admiring on any castle wall. But the simple vignettes only loosely tie the plot together failing on their own to compel the reader onward. The plot itself is familiar – a loose tooth, it’s disappearance, the inevitable retrieval and the appearance of a tooth fairy. All these scenes are cute as a button, but the draw to turn a page relies strongly on the reader’s desire to view the next illustration – which is more than good enough for me!

WIX: Rating of Olympic Proportions

So thrilled the wonderful volunteers at Rate Your Story, a free service, liked the badge I created for the Writing Wednesday Series.

Any writer can submit their work to be to be read by a published author volunteering to rate your story on a scale of 1-10. Only Rate Your Story’s interpretation differs from the familiar scoring method we all know from watching the Olympics: 10 is the lowest score. And when I say we, I mean the whole wide world – or almost. This makes the method universally acknowledged, which I find fascinating! Surely, you say, there is still someone out there who has never seen the Olympics live or broadcasted. Okay, but don’t exceptions prove the rule?

Baaaeeehhh! That’s the buzzer going off identifying the misuse of this English idiom, which, according to Wikipedia was taken from the medieval Latin legal principle exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis, or “the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted”. Still confused? Well I used it in a ‘loose rhetorical sense’, pointing out the rarity of someone not having experienced the Olympics in some way, not that there is any established rule.

Quite a few Europeans agree that a truth is truer if it is sometimes false, all claiming that exceptions confirm the rule. German: Ausnahmen bestätigen die Regel; Dutch: Uitzonderingen bevestigen de regel; French: L’exception confirme la règle; Czech: Výjimka potvrzuje pravidlo.

Seems there are truths universally overlooked too!


PPBF is on summer hiatus, but a picture book-junkie needs her fix!

Role play! Yes, I dub myself ‘Royal Test-Reader’ to a (very) young Queen. Not to decide which books remain in the kingdom and which do not, but to have a close look at the elements I don’t like and offer constructive suggestions (though my character’s ambition is to make her own good books!). Role play is improvisational, and comments are formed from my tastes, my notions. I am well aware that if all proposals lead to changes, the picture book industry would die of uniformity, but I hope through this experience to come clean in my own writing and illustrating, and have a little fun!

“Your Majesty may I present…

…CHLOE, by Peter McCarty (Balzer +Bray, 2012)”

Click here to have a look inside

Okay, okay, I hear you wondering, how I could possibly find anything wrong with a book by such a distinguished writer and illustrator of several award-winning books?

Well, I just…did.

“The cover is gorgeous, the end papers lovely, though a character swinging from one of the branches would suggest ‘real’ fun. The tilted house is perfect as a symbol of things to come in Chloe’s world. The text is concise, the font choices clean and fitting. Every page has been carefully composed and the reader is happy to linger. I know children can enjoy taking a stand against something everyone else likes to do, but on page eleven I feel uneasy about Chloe’s choice to not even give the new gadget a try. I understood her revolt on page 13 – it ‘s fitting and funny. But when she manages to convince 20 siblings NOT to watch TV with just two simple suggestions (despite an attractive screen character), I begin to feel I’m being lectured to and soon the taste in my mouth is rather pedagogical. The adorable character and her siblings carry me to the end, and I do smile when I see who is responsible for the “sound of popping bubbles”. But what could have been perfection leaves me wanting, especially when Chloe’s house is still tilted.”

“What do you suggest, my royal servant?” asked my (very) young Queen.

“I think the main character must act more realistically. I believe she would have joined in on the family’s excitement and decided for herself that TV is boring and realized that watching it is not the family fun time she knows and loves. And as her father ‘agrees’ in the end, the house angle should be righted.”

“Arise Sir PBJ, you have served me well. But I still love those rabbits!”

WIX: Footloose and Fancy Free

Way back in the 16th century “fancy” meant love. In the 17th century “footloose” meant you were free to go anywhere.

On the fourth of July in the United States we celebrate Independence Day and our freedom. So today I ask, how footloose are we when our government can and does restrict the freedom to go anywhere. Especially Cuba.

Ordinary citizens cannot just hop on a plane headed directly to Cuba. Actually it is not technically illegal, but unless you are a journalist, a student obtaining credits or are a Cuban-American visiting relatives you are prohibited from spending money there.

You may have heard that President Obama made a few changes in policy earlier this year and now the Treasury Department can again grant “people-to-people” licenses, which President George W. Bush had stopped issuing in 2003. Now in order to go you have to sign up with a licensed operator who has to apply for and be issued said license. Ah, but the Treasury Department has guidelines: the tours must “have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.” You can’t bring back any famed cigars or rum for Uncle Bill either.

So, if your feet are restless to experience the forbidden fruits of a 50 year embargo, learn the steps of the traditional Cuban Habanera: the pace is slow and the movements are delicate.

Click to view One Dance, One Song – La Habanera a film by Pascal Magnin, embraces my intentions in spite of it being filmed in Buenos Aires and interpreting Bizet’s aria from the opera Carmen.

Happy Fourth! And know your freedoms!

Related and interesting articles:

New Ways to Vist Cuba – Legally by Michelle Higgins

How Free Are We? By Tishani Doshi

How Free Are We?? by Toritto