There’s a new encyclopedia on shelves, one that will assist children in clearing up a handful of everyday, vexing mysteries. Blisters, disappearing homework, belly button lint, that itch on the part of your back you simply can’t reach? They’re all caused by bizarre creatures cataloged in William Joyce’s newest picture book, The Mischievians. It’s an “encyclopedia of things that make mischief, make mayhem, make noise, and make you CRAZY!”
Filled with intricate details and its fair share of scatological humor (someone’s responsible for those boogers that attractively dangle from noses), Joyce has created a resource that parents and teachers need to know about—merely because sons, daughters and students will come running with the book in hand, pointing and blaming. I can hear them now: “I didn’t leave that toilet paper roll sitting in the bathroom! Don’t you know The Endroller is the one unfurling toilet paper, just for kicks and grins?” (In point of fact, The Endroller is unfurling the toilet paper in preparation for his friends, the Clog-La-Dites, “fiendish little toilet dwellers whose sole purpose is to secretly clog the toilet!” But that’s a whole other issue.)
Joyce frames this tale—er, his research—with two children who mysteriously disappear from their own backyard after having been sucked down a tube and into the laboratory of one Dr. Zooper. The children are irked by things like missing socks and homework they know they have completed yet is missing. But Zooper clears it all up for the astonished children: “The problems you mentioned…are caused by a race of pesky creatures called Mischievians,” he explains to them, showing them the top-secret encyclopedia of creatures.
“There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Mischievians that we are filing by genus, species and phylum,” Joyce tells me when I ask him how hard it was to narrow the list of creatures in this 56-page book. (Joyce is super tight with Dr. Zooper, you know.) “We keep discovering more and more about them and the team is dedicated to uncovering every last one. Now that we've enlisted the public in our quest, we can bring peace and tranquility to the planet faster than we've ever hoped.”
Yes, help from children has been enlisted by the very release of this catalog of creatures, top-secret no more, not to mention the volume closes with a blank entry for children to enter their own Mischievians, the pesky creatures in their lives, wreaking their own particular brand of havoc.
Joyce has recently been touring in order to spread Zooper’s message. He notes that his studio, Moonbot—who create stories told on a variety of media platforms (books, films, apps, games, and more)—is “besieged with Mischievians from children from every appearance on this…tour. I expect a tsunami of documentation to come pouring in. We hope to post them online for evaluation. Then, on certain ones, we hope to do further study and possibly present them in future volumes of the Mischievians, crediting the child who made us aware as the source scientist for further research.”
Are you waiting for Joyce to break character? Not gonna happen. He’s quite clearly and ardently devoted to bolstering Dr. Zooper’s cause, reminding me this is a work of nonfiction and a scientific study. “We originally had a different format planned for the book, but the Mischievians got into the press where it was being printed and made some subtractions and added a few bits of information. So, we know this is going to be an ongoing process and always evolving. We need to subvert the Mischievians' efforts. It's obviously not in their best interest to have this information out there. Moonbot is trying to get the truth out the best we can, despite their attempts at sabotage, so that we can bring peace and harmony to the world.”
And what, I asked him, is next on his plate, once his feverish documentation on household imps is complete? It’s storytelling as Moonbot likes to do it—on a wide array of platforms. (Fans of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, both the Academy Award–winning short film and book adaptation, know this.) “Right now, our interactive team is working on a new game for iOS, called the Lollipop 3, which will be out later this year. We are premiering a new short film based on one of our apps, The Numberlys. It'll be presented first in our hometown, Shreveport, with a live score performed by the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra. There are two other animated shorts and an app based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe in the works. Of course, we are continuing to publish books on our Simon and Schuster imprint, Moonbot Books. There's a Numberlys picture book and another that is a reinterpretation of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ The Moonbot team is also still developing our story The Golem, which we want to tell as a feature length film and video game. It's all extremely exciting.”
Well, we’ll see if Dr. Zooper gives Joyce any time off.
THE MISCHIEVIANS. Copyright © 2013 by Moonbot Studios. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher, Moonbot Books, an imprint of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.