Chatting with Leigh Hodgkinson + a Giveaway

GOLDILOCKS AND JUST THE ONE BEAR. Copyright © 2011 by Leigh Hodgkinson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Nosy Crow, London.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved books about bears.  Therefore, when I picked up Goldilocks and Just One Bear, which feels like the sequel to “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” I was giddy.  Leigh Hodgkinson‘s new book helped me to envision what became of some of my favorite fairy tale characters after the story ended.

I enjoyed Goldilocks and Just One Bear for more than the fact that a bear is the protagonist.  It is a well written, humorous book that is an excellent model for character development.  Furthermore, as a writer, I loved Leigh’s choices of words throughout the text since they were so precise.  In fact, it boggles my mind how she was able to really choose the best words page after page.  In addition, the story structure of this text can be used to show students how to create rising action, a climax, and a resolution (that includes a surprise ending).  For these reasons (and the fact that it includes a bear), I wanted to share it with you since it has all of the makings of an excellent mentor text.

If you choose to use Goldilocks and Just One Bear as a mentor text in your classroom, then I hope the following interview with the book’s author and illustrator will be helpful to you and to your students.

Stacey:  How did you come up with the idea for Goldilocks and Just One Bear?

Leigh:  Like most children, I loved fairy tales and traditional stories. They seemed so strange and exotic and always left me wondering what happened to everyone once the story had been read and the book had been shut. Thinking as an adult of all these stories I loved as a child, it got me thinking about the fact that everyone has to grow up…. Even me! So what had happened to all of the characters in those storybooks? Had they grown up too? If so, what were they like? Would I still recognise them? How had their lives turned out?

I wanted to do a book that was like a homage to the original- without taking away any of its integrity, but instead to give it a new contemporary twist and context. And of course it was such a pleasure for me to draw some of the wonderful characters without infringing on their original identity. (As in this way, it gave me the opportunity of visualising and illustrating them in a different way, in a different time).

Also, it was really important to stick to the original Goldilocks’ storytelling rhythm in these sections so that the structure and parallels had clarity and form.

Stacey:  Without giving too much away, how did you come up with the surprise ending for this text?

Leigh:  The ending was pretty much there intrinsic to the initial idea. It was a natural solution to making sure the original main character was in the story. I like the karma of it and the shifting of perspectives in terms of understanding why such a series of crazy situations would take place. And seeing what it feels like when the boot is on the other foot.

I think it always bothered me that protagonist Goldilocks was never perceived as the villain in the original story- more like the victim (as she was a little girl all alone in the woods). What she had effectively done was wrong- yet she never showed any remorse and she never said sorry. This I found to be most unlike any more conventional children’s tale where there has to be a strong thread of morality and meaning- Where there had to be an obvious point of view in terms of who we were supposed to identify with and who we were expected to have empathy for. As a child (and indeed an adult) I found this confusing and challenging. In my book it is apparent that nobody is perfect, and Goldilocks’ way of saying sorry is by making “little” bear what he loves most (the perfect bowl of porridge).

Stacey:  The word choices the bear uses as he invades the NYC apartment are classic.  The porridge is too soggy, too crunchy, and a bit on the dry side.  The chair was too ouchy, too noisy, and (of course) just right.  Can you talk a little about the words you choose to use throughout the book.  Did you get most of them right on the first draft or did it take a lot of revision to select just the right words?

Leigh:  I wanted the way the book sounded to be easy and distinct. For the “traditional” bits and phrases to be obvious, but melding with the contemporary bit comfortably I found that I really liked the juxtaposition of the idiosyncratic adjectives like “soggy” and “crunchy” embedded into the straighter well known Goldilocks sentences about porridge/chairs beds. It made it all sound funnier and gave the “little bear” an eccentric character who really did believed that a cactus was chair, or a bubble bath was a bed.

I am a big fan of odd adjectives- so find it quite natural for such words to be in the text. It is the way I speak actually!

Stacey:  Would you consider your book a fractured fairy tale or something else?  Please explain.

Leigh:  For me, this story is a mixture between a leap forward into the future of the original Goldilocks tales timeline and a table turning exercise where roles and environments switch places. So hopefully it provides the reader with a combination of things…. The satisfying taste of familiarity and joy at recognising elements of the original story, with the fun and humour of new ideas on the flip side.

Stacey:  I noticed you changed the font type of several words.  Would you explain more about why you chose to emphasize particular words, including the word “somebody,” which I noticed was always consistently different throughout the book.

Leigh:  There are three different “persons” in this book (a daddy person, a mummy, person and a little person). Like everybody, they all have their own voice yet, (as I explained before) these particular sentences had to be limited as had to ring true of the original story. So by giving each of the three people different hand lettered words, it gives all of the family members, a touch of their own personality. The daddy’s lettering of “Somebody” is loud and in capitals, the mummy’s lettering of “somebody” is twirly and curly, and the little persons “somebody” is naive and crayonish).

I always love combining hand lettering with typed fonts within a picture book. For me, there is something really satisfying and pleasurable about seeing something rigid and formal next to something a bit wilder and looser. They are like opposites yet visually compliment the other ones form and strengths. I also think it has something to do with me coming from an animation background. In film, instead of having the written word you have sound (which of course can be voice, effects and music). These elements add another sensory dimension that as a film maker you can control and manipulate. In a tradition book, it is impossible to do this- you don’t know how someone will read your book (straight, speedily enthusiastically,) or what type of voice it will be (high, low, will they do different voices for the different characters?)

My way of adding sounds and dynamics to the text stretches beyond the actual words to how they visually look and react with the composition. This acts as a “serving suggestion to the reader. For example, some words stand out like “VERY” and “LOUDLY” as I have written them big and bold encouraging the reader to read them with more emphasis with more volume. Whilst “OUCHY” looks like it sounds, all prickly and, well- ouchy. I hope it adds fun and flavour to the book. That is the intention anyway.

Stacey:  I’ve read that you started out at university as an illustration major, but you took a different path once you were there (as many of us do) and studied animation.  Can you tell us a little bit about your work in animation as well as road back to life as an author/illustrator?

Leigh:  I did an illustration degree- but specialised in animation. I got seduced by what you can achieve in animation. You can create whole worlds and stories that can be filled with emotion and magic by blending all of the key ingredients… design, sound, music, narrative, characterisation, movement (all of the things a creatively enjoyed and was inspired by). So after my degree I continued my study of animation direction at the National Film and Television School which was such a valuably creative time. I worked in the animation industry for about 7 years on numerous eclectic projects in numerous roles (director, designer, animator, compositor)- but found that  apart from writing and directing my own animated short films, my creative role on these jobs were specific and didn’t exercise my love  of the creation process in an entirety.

Making books was always a fond daydream of mine. Throughout school, university, my working life, I continued to write and make books for myself in the hope that one day… one day…. But everyone said it was so competitive and hard (which it is). Getting my books published took a long time and was a magic combination of luck, dedication and being stubborn. It feels like a completely natural thing for me as it contains all of those key ingredients (bar sound and music) that acted as my initial starting point to animation all those years ago. Even though they are different forms, I see making a short film and making a book as being very similar in process and fulfilment.

Stacey:  How does blogging (http://leighhodgkinson.blogspot.com and http://eebeedoes.blogspot.com) help you as a writer/illustrator?  Also, can you tell us more about how you came up with the name, Wonky Button, for your blog?

Leigh:  The internet is useful when you work by yourself- it provides a community of others in the same situation and so will inspire and encourage when you need a break from your own work. There are always new things/people to discover and I am constantly amazed/intimidated at the huge wealth of amazing creative talent there is out there.

I sometimes find it hard to keep the balance of work and blogging and wonder how some illustrators/writers find the time to juggle both (as they both are full time jobs!)
As for my blog name- it came from my original illustration website (which is so rusty and dusty and out of date now). I love buttons and I think my style is a bit miss-mash and higgledy piggledy. I can’t seem to do things neatly and straight- they always turn out jaunty and wonky by mistake! So combining the two words “wonky” and “button” seemed obvious to me and had a nice friendly sound to it. I suppose I should have just been sensible and used my actual name- but putting your name in big letters makes me feel a little awkward and show-offy or like I am still at school or something. So much nicer for me to use “Wonkybutton”!

Stacey:  What are you working on next?

Leigh:  I have just  finished my next picture book with Nosy Crow called “Troll Swap” which was just lovely to do (I love drawing hairy trolls!).

Right now, I am busy illustrating the 3rd book in the “Magical Mix-up” doodle chapter book series (also with Nosy Crow) and while away the days in my garden shed studio drawing acrobatic guinea pigs and dancing dogs!

Take a look at some pages from the book:

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Goldilocks and Just One Bear for one of our readers. Many for thanks to Candlewick Press / Nosy Crow for sponsoring this giveaway.
  • To enter for a chance to win a copy of Goldilocks and Just One Bear each reader may leave one comment about this post in the comments section of this post. Feel free to share your thoughts about how you would use this book in your classroom or about ways you use nonfiction mentor texts in your writing workshop.
  • All comments left on or before Thursday, September 13th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on Friday, September 14th.  I will announce the winner’s name at the bottom of this post on Friday, September 14th.  Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Candlewick send the book out to you. Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.
    • Sorry that the time to enter the giveaway is a day shorter than usual.  I’m taking off from blogging for the last two weeks of September for the Jewish New Year so I want to make sure I wrap-up the giveaway before Rosh Hashanah begins on the 16th.

Comments are now closed.  Thanks to everyone who left a comment and expressed so much enthusiasm about this book.

I used a random number generator which picked Karen Scalzo’s commenter number.  Karen will receive a copy of Goldilocks and Just One Bear.  Her comment was:

This is such a rich book for teaching writing in so many ways. Can’t wait to create a craft table! I appreciate the interview as well, since it provides wonderful information to share with students!