David Wiesner, author of Tuesday, Flotsam and other clever yet ingeniously designed picture books, specializes in telling stories without words: "It allows the reader to provide the voice of a book, instead of the author." The author will raise his own voice in a discussion of his work at the Decatur Library Feb. 28, and shares some of his "Ah-ha!" moments from crafting his now-classic children's books that are so interesting, you could give them to grown-ups as "art books."
Tuesday (1991), in which flying frogs buzz a small town. "It came about in the way I've always liked, almost since art school. I'll get a very vague, random suggestion and see what I can do with it. This time, I was asked to do a cover for Cricket magazine, and though I could've done anything I wanted, they happened to have a lot of stories about frogs that week. I started to draw frogs, and when I drew one on a lily pad, it looked like a flying saucer, with a domed top and flat saucer bottom. And it occurred to me that the lily pad could be like a magic carpet that flew the frogs around. When I wrote the book, I asked myself, 'If I were a frog and found I could fly, what would I do? Well, first I'd probably fly out of the swamp.'"
June 29, 1999 (1992), in which giant vegetables float out of the sky. "This came out of a black and white painting I did of a giant pepper floating in the air and people holding it down with ropes. I looked at it for years trying to figure out the story behind the image, and one day I wondered, 'Why is that pepper floating down to the ground?' 'Maybe something went up first?' 'What went up?' 'A seed!' And the story gradually came from there. At one point I refer to it as an 'airborne vegetal event,' which is a reference to a line in Don LeLillo's novel White Noise, but only two people have ever gotten it."
Sector 7 (1999), in which a boy befriends a cloud on the Empire State Building. "I grew up in New Jersey and was fascinated with New York architecture and the Empire State Building. For this, I thought of a place where clouds are made and a kid who draws pictures -- it's a little autobiographical -- inspiring the place. The clouds became sentient characters, and it didn't seem right that they'd be made, so Sector 7 became this bureaucratic place where clouds get their assignments, and the boy inspires a kind of revolt. I live in Philadelphia but wanted to get pictures of the Empire State Building observation deck for reference -- because there's always a kid who will write a letter if you make a mistake. I went up on a day that happened to be a wintry day with low cloud cover, which was perfect for the story. Usually there's a long line to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but no one was there. I walked up and the ticket taker, who was engrossed in a book, he told me 'You can't see anything.' I told him I wanted to go up anyway and he said 'Suit yourself.' No one else was up there -- it was great."
The Three Pigs (2001), in which the title characters go on a postmodern adventure outside their story. "That's another one that has some specific starting points. The first is a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Elmer Fudd chases him right out of the cartoon -- they go past the edge of the sprockets and into this blank nothingness. I was interested in having some characters leave their story and go out into a place like that. I realized that instead of using new characters, I'd have to pick a story that as many people as possible would know. I picked the Three Little Pigs, partly because every time the story gets read, two of the three pigs get eaten, so they'd be thrilled to leave their story."
Flotsam (2006), in which a boy finds miraculous pictures in a castaway camera. "I grew up in New Jersey and always loved finding stuff on the beach -- you could find things that have a long history. I hit on a boy finding an underwater camera and developing the film inside. I drew about 30 pictures of what the camera took, but could use only eight of them in the book, so I show the "out-takes" when I do talks. When I was doing the pictures, I had an 'Ah-ha' moment to have a picture of another kid ... who's holding a picture of another kid who's holding a picture of another kid, and so on. It goes back to the cereal boxes I remember when I was a kid, and how some of them would contain a picture of the cereal box on it."
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
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