Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, April 24, 2017

Finding Extraordinary In Errors

There are those days when no matter what you do, little or big, it simply does not turn out correctly.  The harder you try, the worse it gets.  You start looking over your shoulder to see if an evil goblin is following you, sending a dark aura in your direction.  Sometimes when you think it couldn't get any worse, it does but sometimes when you think it couldn't get any worse, something wonderful happens.

A shift takes place.  You start to find the marvel in the middle of your muddles. The Book of Mistakes (Dial Books for Young Readers, April 18, 2017) debut book for author illustrator Corinna Luyken is an exploration of turning blunders into beauty.

It started
with one mistake.

An eye is a little bit bigger than the other eye on a face.  Trying to make them match does not work but adding glasses is exactly what this girl needs.  Oh, oh!  Now her arms and neck are too, too long.  The collar and elbows receive a bit of embellishment.

A big bush is brilliant at concealing the odd being.  What is that creature?  It has parts of three animals.

The girl returns but is floating as she runs.  Ah...the addition of roller skates closes the gap between the bottom of her feet and the ground.  What is hidden behind the newly drawn rock? 

A longer than normal leg is perfect for tree climbing.  Smudges become soaring leaves.  And the girl running with roller skates is on a mission to make a delivery heading toward other like-minded children.  A magnificent scene greets her but readers there is much more.

Stepping back reveals a larger than imagined wonder.  Stepping back more alters your point-of-view with expectations growing until you gasp in understanding.  The power of the mind is a creative force.  Use it.

Those first five words written by Corinna Luyken immediately click with all readers.  We have all made mistakes.  With spare text the narrator talks to us about the process of making art.  We gently swing between mistakes and transformations supplying the story with a cadence. We explore the possibilities offered to us by our errors.  It's an optimistic and inventive outlook.  Here is a sample sentence.

Even the ink smudges
scattered across the sky

look as if 
they could be leaves---

like they'd always wanted
to be lifted up

and carried.

The remarkable use of white space throughout this title begins on the dust jacket.  The soft pastel palette and intricate lines create an atmosphere filled with a little bit of magic.  Already we are wondering about the girl with the yellow balloons and the other children with her.  To the left, on the back, a small boy in the lower, left-hand corner gazes up at smudges turned into leaves.  The text here reads

Set your imagination free

On the opened book case, on the right side, the front image shows the girl and the children flying away from us, higher in the sky.  On the left the boy is now riding a unicycle lifted by a large green balloon.  Three small birds follow the children.  On the opening endpapers all we see are two black ink blots.  The closing endpapers could be a continuation of part of the artwork.  What will you think when you see them?

Rendered in black ink, colored pencils, and watercolor the pictures appearing on the white canvas vary in size and perspective as we journey, contrasting the mistakes and the inspired new illustrations from them.  With each page turn the details increase, allowing us to see how pictures develop when we look with new eyes.  As we move from one subject to another, the original girl, the bush, the rock and the girl in the tree we get the sense something larger is being shaped.  

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages, without words (in fact five page turns have no words).  The girl is running with her skates toward the right edge.  In her left hand she is carrying a single yellow balloon.  In her right hand is a huge bunch of yellow balloons billowing out behind her and filling the left page. 

I think it would be fantastic if every child could have a copy of this book, The Book of Mistakes written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken, to remind them how we can turn the unexpected into a thing of wonder.  If we can't carry this book with us everywhere we should read it enough so the memory will help us to look at everything as a potential for goodness instead of a problem.  I highly recommend this title.

To learn more about Corinna Luyken and this book, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  There are little extras there for you.  Corinna maintains a blog here.  Be sure to read these interviews at author, teacher librarian and blogger Carter Higgins's Design Of The Picture Book and author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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