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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Making Books with the 3 Year Old

Sometimes, Oggie has something specific he wants to do but is not sure how to do it by himself - like write a book, or, do a project using hole punches...

Writing books is definitely something that Ana inspired him to do. Seeing all the books she makes at home, he wanted to make his own as well.

As he is still working on his 3-fingered grip to make controlled fine motions, I put on my Scribe Hat and my Illustrator Hat to help him bring his ideas for the book(s) to fruition.

He is a taskmaster and a rather stern author, so, no Editor Hat for me.

He states precisely what the book is going to be about.

We assemble the papers, pencils, colors, hole punch, paper fasteners, any stickers or stamps if he wants to use them.

He dictates the text for the book. Usually extempore. Has me repeat the words exactly and catches me if I even inadvertently make a mistake in repeating.

He watches closely as I write it down on paper (not that he can verify my spelling or anything, of course).

He prefers to micro-manage, telling me what goes on each page, leaving no room for collaboration.

He also describes the illustration that needs to go along with his text. He seems pretty expressive about visualizing the illustration for that page, which makes it difficult for me to execute.

The end product, the book itself, then takes its special place on our bookshelf and gets chosen as a bed time read many nights.

The fun part for me is to follow his thought process and observe how he expresses himself. He even includes a joke or so in a couple of books on purpose, asking me to write "Tee-hee" or "Haha". He knows some of the punctuation marks - especially exclamation point and question mark - and insists on using them in exactly the spots he wants. And somehow, they work.

I wanted to demystify books for him, considering how enamored he is with them. What better way than to "write" a few himself.

The books themselves are not mind-blowing in the conventional sense. They are rather simplistic. But then, coming entirely from a 3 year old, they seem pretty darn amazing to me. I hope he keeps up this enthusiasm and makes more books that he can write and illustrate himself in a year or two.

Enough rambling. Here are some books we've made so far since December 2011, with me being just the scribe.

1. One Cat, Two Cats
(Inspired by Dr.Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.)

First thing one morning last week, Og came to me with this idea and would not take "later" for an answer. So, we sat down and started the book.

Nana's orange cat "Red" and our outside grey cat "Greykkidee" are a couple of the inspirations, along with our own striped tabby and black cat.

A few pages in, he was satisfied with the progress and agreed to continue after he comes back from school.

On the second page,
Black cat
White cat
Old cat
New cat

I left the White cat drawing white, but, Og colored it in orange and said, "Write 'Ha! Ha!' Mama, it's a joke, see?! It's supposed to be a white cat, only it is orange; there is no white cat in this page; so it is funny!"

My favorite page? Some are mean, Some are clean, Some are shaped like a bean. Thank you, Dr. Seuss!

This is the latest book, most recently made. And already I can see some refinement in his thought process and instructions for the book.

2. Machines Are Fun!

"It is going to be a music book, Mama, with music in it and you have to read the book like a song and sing it."

Og got a few machine stickers in his stocking for Xmas - machines of all sorts seems to be his favorite thing, next to dinosaurs. He wanted to use them for this book. And it was to be a song book.

He chose a sticker for each page and dictated the words to go along with it on each page, said it in a sort of sing-song. So I asked him if it was going to be a rhyming book and he said, "No, songs don't have to rhyme, Mama, this song book is not going to be a rhyming book."

On a particular page, it was supposed to be musical interlude, no words. So he had me draw some musical notes, as if the machines were performing.

He stuck on a cement mixer sticker on one of the pages and said, "Now write 'I am a dump truck' Mama". So I did mechanically. And then he said, "See?! it's a joke! That's not a dump truck. That's a cement mixer and it's tricking you". (Tee-hee)

3. Scary Stuff (with Papa)

This is the 3rd book Og "wrote". And this was done with Papa. There was a reason for this: as Og is becoming more aware, he is beginning to find some things scary. So, he set out to write about some of the scary stuff.

Papa illustrates very differently from me, so, Og had fun making it a bit more complex than when working with me and my limitations. Also, Papa does not use colors much.

"I am not sure I know how to draw that, Og" is something he hears a lot from me, which helps him refine the instructions and tailor it to my abilities :)

4. World of Animals

This book was supposed to be wordless book as he conceived it first. Then, he added sparse text that seem rather random but somehow tie in together.

He dictated, "What can I do? I just want an animal." Then, said the picture has to have lots of houses with outside cats wanting to go into the houses and play with the kids inside the house.

This is Og's second book and it had grand visions for illustrations. It had to be colorful, it had to have lots of different animals and it has to further the 'story' as he narrated it.

Of course, he had to be satisfied with what Mama can produce.

5. Letters Penguin

This was the first book we made. The back-story: Og was arranging the letters and numbers magnets on the fridge and ended up lumping them to form a generic rotund penguin shape.

The fact that every page stayed on the topic "Penguin" was interesting for me. I enjoyed illustrating for this as Og was very specific despite my attempts to ask 'silly' questions.

I want a penguin diving into the sea, with sea grass floating on top of the sea"

I am not sure I've seen grass on the sea, Og, is it green?

Silly, Mama! It is sea grass, and is just like other grass, only it is on the sea. It is green. Draw green sea grass floating on top, Mama.

Yep, his description for pictures in his book sometimes are as specific as that.

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At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Reva said...

Soooooo cute! Amazing to see this Sheela.. love that this is all from him! Eagerly waiting for him to start writing/illustrating on his own!

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Vibha said...

This post inspires me to compile Raghav and Medha's work too. They have worked on some stories together - written by Medha and illustrated by Raghav but I need to just give some finishing touches to the same and put them together. I must do it sooner than later.
Thanks for sharing Og's work...

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Choxbox said...


Read your blog regularly - always only have things like this to say, so don't comment. Awed by your enthu levels!


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