Flatmunder and the kids who are reading it
Recently, a friend of mine in NYC who has twin six year olds sent me the following:
“Flatmunder has quickly become a favorite at bedtime. My children relate to Bernard and his feelings and enjoy his journey to independence. They giggle at something different every time, are fascinated by the wonderful illustrations and quote their favorite lines. What I like best is that, after we read, they ask questions, make comments, point out a new favorite page and always want to reread.” A. J. Vincent
As the father of my own six year old, I’ve read a lot of children’s books. I read them to Gus every time I put him to bed. We’ve seen all the classics. Dr. Suess and Richard Scarry and Where the Wild Things Are and the good ones all have one thing in common: complexity. They stretch the medium a bit. They are layered. They can sew a little doubt and confusion. Some of them can even be a little spooky.
I feel strongly that a good children’s book doesn’t talk down to children. A good children’s book treats even five year olds like they are complex and layered thinkers, too. Just like the rest of us.
Call me crazy, but the books that kids come back to are the one’s that inspire questions and conversation about the way things work and the ways we live in the world. When I created Flatmunder, I was experiencing a lot of complexity myself. Life was full of questions. It still is. But those questions led to play. Playing with a story. Playing with color and form. Playing with my own fears about life. Playing with the shear audacity of creating something out of nothing. Believe you me, that alone is a strange and empowering journey.
But when I see kids reading the storybook Gus and I created, I get real satisfaction. When I hear the questions that are coming out of the story for them, it makes me very happy. I tried to keep my underlying lesson/message vague so that kids and parents can take away what they want to and need to from the story. A little entertainment, or a greater lesson about who we are when we become afraid. How to use play to move past fear.
It’s a buffet. Take what you want.
So as I work to push my book out into the world, I have my own fears about whether it will be accepted or rejected, embraced or ignored, a “successful” book or not. But I can tell you from the standpoint of a person who had a story to tell, I’ve already seen the kids reading. And I’m already completely satisfied my story has been heard.