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)”
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!”