Kids Stuff

I spent the last weeks finalizing the work on my most recent book—this one is called Folk Tales for Future Dreamers, and it’s a children’s book. I wrote it last year, stealing precious time from The Hourglass, which seems appropriate given the ephemeral nature of those grains of sand.

After completion in late April 2017, the book became available on Kindle. Then I decided to have it illustrated—it’s difficult to imagine a kiddies book without illustrations. Finding a good illustrator isn’t easy. First, you may draw well, but not in the appropriate style. Then, I wanted an illustrator who could relate to all seven stories in the book—one for each weekday.

By late November, we had illustrations, and a new cover, which looked like this.

The front cover of Folk Tales for Future Dreamers.

The illustrated edition replaced the previous book on Kindle. It was a vast improvement, but digital books have not solved the problem with illustrations—for that you need analog.

Well.. that’s not strictly true—I have a copy of Tintin in America on my tablet, and it’s very good, but I think that’s because it’s all picture frames—the problem is more evident when figures or photos appear inside or around text.

I read a couple of musical biographies this summer, and just finished Springsteen’s autobiography yesterday—the photos are always a hassle—too small, out of context with the page, and unable to cope with font changes. Given the range of screen sizes, individual tuning of display fonts, and other variables, at present you have to go analog.

Little children prefer books, and acquire important object manipulation skills along the way. And when they start to bash a book violently against the counter top to signal the end of their meal, it’s better than nuking your iPad.

Book design for print is not easy. We brought yet another party to the table, and after the negotiations, export file updates, and proofing, we have what we need. The final step is to view the book in all its analog glory, before it goes to market—kind of like a private screening prior to box-office release.

There’s something magical about a child’s happiness, the bliss of knowing nothing will ever go wrong—it’s the responsibility of an adult to maintain that illusion, but also to help build a bridge between childhood utopia and the unforgiving reality of life.

All seven stories create tension, as any good story should, and present characters who are less agreeable than others—a couple might qualify as mean, like the snow leopard that wants to eat the baby yak Yingwen—she fends him off with a surprising ruse.

And then you turn to reality, to a world where so many children have nothing but suffering—kids who lost their parents at the US border, kids dying of Ebola in the Congo, kids murdered in an air strike in Yemen…

The kids who survive all the torture that grown-ups—and grown up Western nations that set immigration policy, have vast medical research capacity, and sell arms—inflict on them, will bear the scars.

And those scars will never heal.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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