They come when you least expect it. Perhaps they are invited by an overheard bit of conversation. Maybe an odd-shaped leaf, late afternoon shadows, the popping and cracking of trees in the bitter cold, or a smell drifting on a summer morning breeze sends them. They seem to gleefully push aside an earlier arrival, making sure to place themselves squarely in the front. Ideas are tricky.
The Best Book in the World written and illustrated by Rilla (Alexander), I was intrigued by the rerelease of Her Idea (Flying Eye Books, February 1, 2015 UK, April 15, 2015 US) which she both wrote and illustrated. I sent an email to Flying Eye Books, receiving a gracious reply from Sam Arthur, Managing Director, Nobrow Ltd/Flying Eye Books. When I asked whether there were any other differences in this publication (I noticed a change in the typography on the dust jacket.) compared to the first he said,
We worked with Rilla to edit the story a little and we changed the
production to create colours and textures that Rilla had wanted originally. So
the main changes were in the printing techniques, for our edition we used spot
colours (or Pantone coloured ink) to achieve the bright saturated look. We also
made the book bigger as we felt it would have more impact at a larger size.
Sozi had an idea.
A single idea is fascinating. Sozi has hundreds. If her mind is not focused, they simply keep coming numbering in the thousands. Each new one looks more appealing than any of the previous thoughts in her head.
There never seems to be enough time to devote to any one of them. She decides to do the only thing she can think of to do. She sits down to start. She begins writing. She needs to make one of these ideas come alive. She wants to create something memorable.
No matter how hard she tries, words, her words, can't join together to make something extraordinary, impressive or monumental. Play sounds like a much better plan. What happens to all those ideas? They leave, bringing Sozi to tears.
Fortunately a friend, a book, happens to walk by capturing one of the escaped ideas within its pages with a loud
Sozi is so happy, they set off together to reclaim as many of the ideas as they can. You would be surprised what else you can find; all kind of good things. As she looks at what she now has, one seems better than the others.
This time she writes fashioning a beginning and a middle. The finish of her book seems elusive though. Does she decide to play? Does the idea vanish? A friend is always a friend especially in the end.
I have read this title multiple times, knowing from interviews and videos, Rilla Alexander views Sozi as her alter-ego. Using easily understood sentences, she takes her readers on a journey into creativity. Lyrical prose or rhyming lines follow the narrative; ideas come in all shapes and sizes flowing freely, never the same. Sozi is every single person who wants to write, who has ideas to share, who gets stuck, who seems to have no single coherent thought and who finally works through to the finish through practice and persistence. Here is a sample passage.
Happy at last, her mind was now clear.
She looked through the pages of captured ideas.
There was an idea for a book. That was the one!
She made a plan to get it done.
When opening the dust jacket and book case, the obvious common element are the holes, one in the front and one in the back, replicating the mask worn by Sozi. Not only is she a superhero but so is everyone who reads and writes. The book case is a plain and textured cloth in Rilla's favorite color of red. The opening and closing endpapers feature an idea swimming in a swirl of blue/green, black and thin red swirls first, then yellow, black and red at the end. Can you notice the subtle difference in the idea?
A limited color palette is used to create the illustrations first made in pencil and then brushed in ink. They are colored layer by layer, page by page; one for each hue. All of the visuals extend across two pages full of Sozi's lively spirit. Even in those moments when she is struggling or stopped, her emotions are clearly conveyed to the reader. It's a joy to see her swimming to claim an idea, welcoming even more in the outstretched palms of her hands, marching in the lead beginning her quest to create and pursing a vision to the end.
Rilla constantly shifts her perspective bringing us close to Sozi or having us step back to visualize the bigger picture. She may only show us a portion of her character or several different views on one page to depict the passage of time. Her work in graphic design is evident with every page turn. Thick matte-finished paper supplies the final touch.
One of my favorite illustrations accompanies the sample passage above. We only see a portion of Sozi's face across the top of the page as she looks through the book. Her hand is pointing to the idea she is sure she needs to follow. The idea is smiling pointing to itself. Other ideas can be seen poking out of the pages of the book. Yellow and white arcs provide the background. It's a turning point for Sozi, for all who make any kind of art.
Her Idea written and illustrated by Rilla Alexander is a book to be enjoyed by people of all ages who have ever struggled to bring a dream, a thought, into reality. It opens up a world of opportunities for discussion inside and outside of the classroom. I am looking forward to sharing it with students. Enjoy all the extras listed below.
To learn more about Rilla Alexander, her work and her process please follow the link attached to her name taking you to her website. If you select About you can read a series of fascinating interviews about this title and The Best Book in the World. This link takes you to Flying Eye Books to view exterior and interior pictures of the book. Here is a video of Rilla Alexander speaking about the writing process and this book when it was first released. This would be wonderful to use in the classroom to compare the changes in the two editions and to discuss why they might have been made. Here is the link to a site dedicated to Sozi. Please follow this link to MagpieThat for an interview and some sketches of Rilla's work.