November is Picture Book Idea Month (better known around the blogosphere as PiBoIdMo), and this is the first year I'm participating. Like the other 300 or so writers and illustrators taking part, I've been busy trying to come up with 30 new picture book ideas before the month is over. Luckily, I've been finding tons of inspiration on Writing for Kids (the official PiBoIdMo blog) and on a new website celebrating November as the first annual International Picture Book Month. But I'm still on the lookout for additional inspiration wherever I can find it, be that in dreams, in everyday life, or in picture books themselves...
Given this context, November seems the perfect time to talk about the picture book I Love to Dance, by Australian author and illustrator Anna Walker. The words in the book are few (only 88 of them) and the illustrations quite simple, but the book resonates with me strongly and inspires me deeply.
My six-year-old thinks the main character of the book, Ollie, is a zebra. My four-year-old thinks he's a dog. I'm not quite sure what I think he is, but perhaps this is one of the reasons I love the book so much. When I read it, I pretty much forget about...or don't even care...whether Ollie is a zebra, a dog, or some other creature. I only care that he loves to dance, and I feel happy for him that he dances so easily and with such abandon.
Ollie loves to dance loudly, and to dance quietly. He loves to dance like jelly. He loves to jump, roll, and flip. And he loves to hop! However, I think it is really Anna Walker's illustrations that let readers get to know Ollie and how creative he can be. When he jumps, rolls, and flips, the illustrations show him doing it all inside of a cardboard box. And when he hops, he doesn't hop the way you might expect he would. He does it upside down--in a one-arm handstand!
I love that Ollie thinks up new and exciting ways to perform classic movements...not unlike how picture book writers and illustrators think up fresh ideas to make stories that have been told before seem new.
Picture books and the ideas behind them can inspire. They can touch the hearts of readers and make them feel connected to the characters in a book. That's how I feel about Ollie, and that's what makes me want to read other books about him. For now, though, I'm going to take the inspiration that Ollie has already given me and try to come up with some more picture book ideas of my own!
I Love to Dance is just one book in a series about Ollie and the many things he loves. He loves to sing, he loves birthdays, he loves vacations, and he loves the special people in his life. You can see a partial list of the books in the series (those available in the United States) here.