Saturday, 29 June 2013

Red Sails and a Junk Sandwich by Linda Strachan

I love it that ideas are everywhere. 
Sometimes pinning them down and deciding what this great idea you've just had will turn into, can be the real stumbling block.  When you are looking for picture book ideas, listening to small children is a delight because their view of life is so fresh and often amusingly inaccurate. 

 They spend a lot of their time watching the world around them, trying to make sense of it.   They have few boundaries because in their world almost anything seems possible.

They don't really care that it is not realistic to travel to the moon for tea, or that there might be a problem getting a tiger to make friends with a mouse.

Also, the language we use can be confusing.  Imagine a small child hearing that someone 'pushed their glasses up their nose', or was 'as fit as a fiddle', or any of the many other slightly bizarre expressions we use without thinking of the exact meaning. It is no wonder that when children try to make sense of the world it is often with quite comical results.

Playing with language and taking a fresh view of how we use everyday words can make a picture book familiar and yet new at the same time.  I find that the juxtaposition of words can spark off ideas in all sorts of ways.

Jack and the Flumflum Tree by Julia Donaldson has both made up and familiar words. It's a lot of fun.
As Jack heads off to find the Flumflum tree on the Isle of Blowyernose he takes his Granny's patchwork sack. Inside is a weird assortment of things that prove to be useful to him and his friends.  When they encounter a sneaky monkey, some sharks and even when the boat starts to leak, there is something in Granny's patchwork sack that he can use to get them out of trouble. 

The story rolls along with a great rhythm that makes reading it fun for the adults as well as the child. 

 So if you are looking for ideas for a picture book story try putting odd things together, mix up the words in song titles, listen to little children, and before you know it you will be in the world of make believe where anything and everything just might be possible!

What are your favourite, but easily misconstrued, sayings?

Linda Strachan is the award winning author of over 60 books for all ages, from picture books to teen novels, and a writing handbook Writing For Children.

Interested in writing for children?  12-17th august 2013  Arvon Foundation residential course with Linda Strachan and Teresa Flavin with midweek guest Bali Rai   Almost sold out- so don't delay!

This summer Linda will be speaking about her teen novels in August appearing at  The Fringe by the Sea festival  and  The Edinburgh International Book Festival   
and in September with Sophie McKenzie at Bloody Scotland Crime festival



Sue Purkiss said...

My favourite mixed up saying came from a friend of mine years ago - she wasn't a child, she was in her 20s. I was mystified when she said she'd had a sense of 'voodoo dare' - turned out she meant 'deja vue'! I always smile now when I hear that phrase.

Linda Strachan said...

Lovely, Sue!
I used to be very confused by 'Pie in the sky' when I was young. Could not get my head around it!

Anonymous said...

Love Sue's tidbit! Great post, already giving me a great revision idea! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great post. You're inspiring me to walk down kidspeak memory lane as I brainstorm my next picture book.

Linda Strachan said...

Thanks, Julie. Go to it!

Linda Strachan said...

Love 'kidspeak memory lane ', Laura!

Linda Strachan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynne Garner said...


Child: "What's it like when you visited the moon mummy?"
Adult: "I've never been to the moon."
Child: "Didn't you and daddy go on honey-moon then?"

This conversation took place years ago between my cousin and her first born. Sadly she never told me the outcome of the conversation.

Linda Strachan said...

Perfectly logical, love it!

Moira Butterfield said...

You have inspired me to re-organise my week, Linda. I am going to have a 'play afternoon' on Friday, just to have some word fun. On a related note - I'm always misunderstanding song lyrics and go along for years assuming nutty things about songs. Lots of us do this, I think, and why not? We can make our own world!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

I agree, Moira. I think most of us misunderstand some song lyrics. It's fun, too. And I love children's misunderstandings. There was a very famous one about Laurie Lee who at the age of six, I think, was incredibly disappointed on his first day of school and on coming home his mother asked why. It was because he'd been waiting for a present and it had never come. The teacher had actually said 'sit there for the present' (meaning for the time being).

Linda Strachan said...

I'd never heard that one, Clare. Made me chuckle.
Listening to how children misinterpret song lyrics can be hysterical!

Linda Strachan said...

Have fun on Friday, Moira. Playing with words is so much fun and generates lots of ideas.

BTW the Red Sails and a Junk Sandwich in the title of the blog are two story titles that came from word play when I was looking for story-starter ideas for a workshop.

Jane Clarke said...

Fun post. 'Two heads are better than one' has potential!

Linda Strachan said...

Yes... and Yes ... they both replied!

Abie Longstaff said...

My daughter used to ask me to undo her jacket by saying 'mummy can you zip it down?' - it made me realise that we say 'zip it up' but not 'zip it down' - for this, we say 'unzip' instead. I love the way children use words - it shows how rich and varied our language is, and how confusing! Lovely post :)

Linda Strachan said...

Thanks, Abie.

Looks like you've got it 'all zipped up', there is also - to keep quiet 'Zip it up'

I think it must be very difficult to learn English for that reason, but it is fun to play with!