300 Writing Prompts: #20

“You are a children’s book writer. Write the first few lines of your new book.”

It was a stormy day in Montmartre when the Grosvenor triplets stepped off the bus and disappeared into the fog surrounding Paris in late afternoon. Trena thought it was the most beautiful dusk she had ever seen, even though the colors were suitably dulled for a Paris evening. Yvonne was simply exhausted from traipsing across the city all day and kept sighing. And Siobhan was somewhere in between, not so tired she couldn’t go farther, but she would need prodding to do so. She was the youngest so she usually just went with the flow anyway, letting her sisters make the decisions most days. It was her way.

Besides, it wasn’t like that day was different from any other, not noticeably anyway. At the crack of dawn the triplets would be let out of the dungeon and given the day to wile about the hours in some semblance of play. However, they had to be back home by bedtime, which was 8pm in summer while the days were longer, so they could be locked back away until the next morning. In the between times they were left to fend for themselves, to find food, clothing, and shelter (if the rain began to pelt them too hard), and to stay alive long enough to return at day’s end. For five long years they had done exactly that and no more, if not satisfied with their fate at least tolerant of it. But that day they stepped off the bus into the gathering fog wasn’t like any other day. That was the day they met Destiny.

Now, Destiny was invisible, but she had considerable power, not the least of which was making dreams come true. And while she didn’t speak, she had an uncanny knack of knowing the deep, dark secrets of a person’s heart. That was her gift, and her curse, because no matter how much someone might publicly wish for one thing, she would give them their heart’s desire instead, which was always different. She had been following the triplets all day long, from their morning stroll in the Parc de Choisey, to their scrounging for scraps behind Beau’s Baguette Shop, to their stolen ride aboard the bus when a patron inadvertently let them in the back. As they turned onto the heavily graffitied avenue she finally caught up to them, leading them down a narrow alley, and into their new future.


Why the Duck is an Ass

Too many people make the mistake of thinking that children’s books are all the same, that they preach a common theme and align themselves perfectly with what’s true and right, teaching kids the value of human nature and the beauty of our world. But our world is oftentimes not beautiful, and human nature is frequently negative and judgmental. So often we shield our children from these realities in favor of the cookie cutter “perfect world” we ourselves would desperately like to live in, hiding the rough spots as much as we can with spit and polish, not thinking about how shocking it will be to our kids when the truth comes out. And believe me, it will come out. Now, I’m not saying tell your kids everything about the cruel world and cruel people, but just having a heads up would suffice sometimes instead of a brick over the head. Some children’s books give that heads up while also teaching a lesson. Those are the kind I get for my kids.

IMG_0553Duck in the Truck is a children’s book written by Jez Alborough that I bought when I was in London. It appealed to me because of the cute picture of the duck driving a truck on the cover, but it proved itself to be a true compass for human nature as I sat in the huge comfy chair and read it over several times. Now, I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of using cute, cuddly animals to sell something. Hell, Disney was founded on it and still thrives to this day because of a mouse, a bear, and a sheer cadre of other wildlife. But what I found in this book wasn’t a straight morality tale like Disney is so fond of, but a story plainly told and illustrated that makes its adult readers think and might just confuse or amuse the younger readers.

It’s a tale of a duck who drives a truck down a lane, plain and simple. However, this duck loses control of his vehicle and it becomes stuck in a pretty nasty muck. Look at the duck’s face in the page pictured. Does he look like one of those pleasant animals I talked about above? No. In fact, he’s pretty pissed off, in my opinion, and probably ticked off mostly at himself for driving so recklessly. With the angle of the vehicle in the muck, it’s really a surprise to me that he didn’t fall out and do some serious damage to himself, so he should actually be thanking his lucky stars instead of being angry at the vehicle. Luckily for him he has some random strangers come by to try and help him get unstuck from the muck. Continue reading “Why the Duck is an Ass”

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