Sometimes, creative projects start out as these little birds chirping at you from the nest. You can feed them and watch them grow, or you can fly away and leave them to die (awwww...) until the next season.
But sometimes, you feed it just a little, and before you know, it's taking wings and seemingly flying on its own without any help whatsoever. So it was with Tessalation!, the picture book that I've been putting together the last couple of weeks.
I set out to write the text for Tessalation! in the spring of 2014.
I wanted to create something new – a book about falling in love with tessellations, which are nothing more (or less!) than interlocking patterns with no spaces in between them.
Tesselations are awesome. You can find them in nature, or you can make them yourself. Industrial producers use them to get the maximum value out of the materials they use. Quilters use them to create stunning works of art that boggle the mind but somehow settle it at the same time.
I knew this book would be no Chicka Chicka Boom Boom in terms of its language. So I took my inspiration from my all-time favorite picture book, Margaret Mahy’s book Bubble Trouble, which has one of the most complicated but rhythmically satisfying rhyming sequences in the children’s literature. I started reading Bubble Trouble to my son when he was just 2 years old, discovering that you can envelop a child in a rhythmic world even if the vocabulary is logically like a stretch for them.
At the same time, I thought about how fun it would be to build a story based on the principles of hide-and-seek.
Seriously. It's a game that never gets old, I don't care if you're 3 or 93.
Over a period of weeks, I developed my story and my character, Tessa. I know several wonderful little girls named Tessa, but my inspiration behind my character is my niece, Piper, 2, who is half Chinese-American and half Caucasian-American. I wanted Piper to grow up with a book character that looked just like her. But Tessa also reminds me of who I was as a young girl – dreamy, lost in contemplation, not so good at listening to the adults in her life. She’s a good girl, but she doesn’t like being interrupted when she’s creating!
At the start of the book, Tessa is making pie with her mother in the kitchen. But this little girl can be a lot to handle, so her mom sends her outside to play for a while. Tessa is drawn immediately to the things in the garden that she can see in pattern -- bees, leaves, fish, mushrooms, flowers. In her mind, she is Tessalating in the patterns.
That's the basic project. There will be more, of course. Lots more. Infinite tiles of more. My plan is to share some of the questions I encountered as I made this book on this blog in the spirit of helping other people take their own little birds and watch them fly!
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