Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Image, Text and Music, in That Order

The abstract to an article by Robin Heald on Musicality in the Language of Picture Books (Children’s Literature in Education (2008) 39:227–235) begins:
The authors of picture books who write especially melodic language are doing more than simply offering up work that is pleasing to the ear. They are accessing more of the whole child.
I've always believed in the musical nature of picture book text because I guess I've always believed in the musical nature of language.  But when I was invited by Groundwood Books to write text for the already existing artwork for The Girl of the Wish Garden, I wasn't thinking much beyond the fact that the pictures did seem to call for lyrical text.

That was before my girl Lina, the incarnation of Thumbelina who began to emerge from Nasrin Khosravi's glorious art, burst into song on the page. Well, her mother sang to her, which I had no idea was about to happen, and then Lina herself began singing. Writing this book was a bit dream-like in this regard, much of it happening at a kind of subconscious level, part of it even in a real REM-sleep kind of dream.

Of course once the stanzas began to form, I quickly realized I had no idea how to sing them. Which is a problem right there, because of course when you write a picture book, people are liable to ask you to read it in schools and stores and such. How was I going to sing those stanzas when I didn't have a tune in my head for them?

Enter Cooper Appelt and Laurel Kathleen. I invited this talented duo along for the ride; they not only set the words to music but produced an audio version of the song in the book, and edited the book trailer I put together. The trailer features an excerpt of that song.

Now I can't imagine those words to any other tune but this. Khosravi's visual art felt like a gift to me, and involving yet another art form simply felt right. When you pass love on, you get it back tenfold.