In this (presumably) made-up account, a promising picture-book project falls afoul of a series of aggravating mishaps.
Sitting in his tiny writing shed, narrator Ahlberg begins a brilliant narrative (“Little ducks dreaming / Afternoon nap / Riverbank steaming / Crocodile… / Snap!”). Alas, this proceeds to be splashed with spilled coffee, put on hold in the heat of composition by a family vacation, eaten by garden snails, and finally delivered to illustrator “Bruce”—who unilaterally decides to draw hippos because there are “too many crocodile books.” Then the editor wants to make changes too; an overeager designer must be likewise quelled; and the printer’s young daughter decides to “tidy up” the loose pages. The author mournfully offers on one side of a double gatefold his original vision (“Not Roald Dahl, of course, or Julia Donaldson even, but not bad”) and on the other, a spread-by-spread layout of the jumbled result, complete with changing typefaces, random sketches, mismatched orientations, sudden shifts to French and then Chinese, and a small chocolate handprint. His mild “Oh dear” at the end of this chain of calamities signals his intent to deliver a mild ribbing rather than vengeful slashing to his collaborators over the years. “Anyway, mustn’t grumble,” he writes midcourse. “That’s how a book gets made, after all. Teamwork.” The informal illustrations help to make light of the episode. Ingman’s nearly all-white cast inadvertently reinforces current criticisms of the industry.
Glimpses of a writer’s life, with an engaging bid for sympathy at the travails thereof. (Picture book. 7-9, adult)