Even in Peter's first releases, you will find perfect examples of leaving room for the illustration.
What you read in FLIGHT OF THE DODO's text (2005):
“Inventing a flying machine wasn’t easy, and the Waddlers tried one lousy idea… after another. But after months of slaving away, they finally came up with something they thought just might work. They called it the Dodo. The Waddlers said goodbye to the ground for the first time in their lives, and climbed in.”
What we actually see in the pictures:
The birds attempt to pump each other up with an air pump and try to launch into flight using ventilation fans. They create an invention that looks similar to a simplified hot air balloon. They pack their suitcases and prepare to take off.
Peter didn’t come right out and say, “They pumped each other up with hot air.” Just the hint of “one lousy idea after another” leaves lots of room for humorous illustrations. It MAKES the reader stop to take in the details of the illustrations. Art and words do si do for an unsquare dance that is outside of the box.
What you read in CHOWDER's text (2006):
“Chowder had always been different. His owners liked to think of him as quirky, but most people thought he was just plain weird.”
What we actually see in the picture:
Chowder the dog is sitting on the toilet seat doing his business.
Peter didn’t come right out and say, “Chowder was so different that he even used a toilet like humans do.” Peter's approach allows the reader to feel slightly more like a family member that can chuckle at Chowder's quirkiness, than an outsider thinking he is "just plain weird." Right then, we are vested in the story. We become part of it. Peter's interplay not only corralled the words and art, but us, too!
Peter builds on themes that kids really relate to, and he does it without shoving a lesson down their throats. The magic behind his method is linking us directly to a character’s heart and experience.
THE CURIOUS GARDEN (2009)-
Underlying Theme: When we care enough about something, we can prompt change.
Liam is a curious, thoughtful child who transforms a dull, gray city into a lush, cooperative environment. We relate to Liam's innocence and think, “If he can do it, so can I.” Liam’s efforts change the hearts of the characters around him. We see a community coming together before our eyes, not even realizing that we have become one of the team members, too.
YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! (2011)-
Underlying Theme: When you are genuine, friendship will find you at just the right time.
Lucy is an eager, excitable bear who desires to make a new friend. Mom shows her support of Lucy’s goal, and then Lucy takes it upon herself to initiate contact and deal with her failed friendships throughout the rest of the story. Through Lucy’s words and actions, it is evident that Peter Brown had a real grasp on the social interactions of young children. The child reader will think, “That has happened to me!” Instant relatability turns into rereadability. Without realizing it, the rereading creates learning and confident kids who are ready to tackle the ups and downs of friendship on their own. Genius.
Peter excels at flipping ideas on their heads, which results in original concepts.
CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS (2010)-
Peter doesn’t just write a book about a child wanting a pet. Instead, a bear wants to keep a child as a pet.
MR. TIGER GOES WILD (2013)-
Peter doesn’t just write about a child who wants to break out of the acceptable social standards. Instead, a humanized tiger desires to let lose and be a wild animal.
MY TEACHER IS A MONSTER (NO, I AM NOT.) (2014)-
Peter doesn’t just write about a mean teacher. Instead, the teacher is portrayed as an actual monster.
When an idea is turned inside out, the door is open for humor to waltz right in. Wouldn’t you like to learn from an interplay counselor, message master, and concept king? You can start by checking out Peter’s books. As you study, keep in mind that sometimes it takes 3-5 reads of a story to fully appreciate and grasp everything that is happening. Reading for research is a slow process of deep thinking and dissection. Enjoy the process, and when you are done, you might even consider joining me as an online attendee at the Picture Book Summit. I can't wait to learn directly from Peter, and I am so pumped that I can do that from the comfort of my own home.