I think this is now my favorite book by Marie-Louise Gay. It begins with Gay talking about her curiosity as a child and how, now as a writer, she encounters the endless curiosity of children who read her books. Most children, and adults, are interested in how a story begins. “Where do you get your ideas?” Gay answers this beautifully. Doodling, collecting words, playing with pictures, being inspired by colors, gathering ideas, considering characters, observing, listening… Bit by bit, her stories grow. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
In the middle of this book, Gay creates the story of The Shy Young Giant. It evolves organically from messing around with ideas. Gay makes it very clear that a sense of exploration, playful persistence, openness, risk-taking, and knowing when to abandon an idea are key. She also subtly demonstrates that editing is essential.
What’s wonderful about this book is how Gay demonstrates the inventive mind in the act of creation. Creation is messy, imprecise, and cannot be forced or scheduled. It blooms in stops and starts. It needs to be fed, and encouraged, and gently nurtured. The creator needs to be relentlessly confident and yet, at the same time, critical enough to push for improvement.
The book ends with two full pages of common questions Marie-Louise Gay has been asked by children.
This book would be a fabulous introduction to an author study of Marie-Louise Gay. It would also be helpful to introduce any picture book author and would be great to kick off literacy week. This is definitely a book every school library should have. It would also make a wonderful gift for any child who wants to be an author someday.