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Book Review: A Twisted Tale

kp_ill_twistedtale_85.gifThis Book is More Fun Than a Barrel of Monkeys
Title: A Twisted Tale
Author: Carolyn Fisher
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Picture book; Ages 4-8

Bailey Tarbell's world has been turned -- or rather twisted -- upside down. After a tornado touches down on her family's farm, everything is out of order -- the cat chases the dog up the tree, the cow clucks, and the chicken quacks. After several unsuccessful attempts to return things to normal, it's up to Bailey to come up with a creative idea to save the farm.

Fisher's illustrations are just as fun to look at as the story is to read. Flat as flapjacks, the pictures look as if they've been pasted onto the pages in a collage style. The cow looks udderly helpless after the tornado hits, and the rest of the farm is displayed in the same lively manner that is sure to get kids giggling every time.

You will love reading A Twisted Tale to your kids. The best thing about this book is the humor on every page. The Tarbell's are chockfull of sayings like "Well, I'll be hornswoggled" and "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat," plus Fisher adds in her own comments such as "quick as spit" and "like a prom queen steppin' on a cow patty." Readers are given a new vocabulary right off the Tarbell farm. Your kids may come up with some new catch phrases of their own!

Interview with the Author
Find out what this author -- who's as creative as a four-legged flamingo -- has to say about her new books, her childhood, and what inspires her.

Is this your first book for children?
In 1997 I illustrated a book called Fifty-Five Grandmas and a Llama (written by Lynn Manuel, published by Gibbs Smith). A Twisted Tale is the first book I both wrote and illustrated.

Where did you get the idea for A Twisted Tale?
I grew up on a farm in Southern Alberta, Canada. Where I come from, the winter cold can give frostbite to an icicle, but the warm chinook wind will yank you clean up into the air if you don't plant your feet.

I wanted to create a farm story. The idea for a farm animal identity crisis came to me all at once. I originally thought I could tell the story using just pictures, but eventually realized that the plot was too complicated to be told without words.

Is Bailey or any of the other characters in the story drawn from someone in your life?
Bailey looks a little like a girl who played the trumpet in my junior high school band. I've stolen a couple of characters from Picasso and Grant Wood.

One of the things I enjoy most about this story is the language you use to tell it. Where did you come up with the hilarious sayings such as "Well, I'll be hornswoggled" and "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat?"
I've made lists of tasty words: hullaballoo, skedaddle, fiddlesticks. Expect these to show up in future books! And generations of my family have been liable to say colorful things with a straight face, like, "A year is ten months of winter and two months of hard sledding."

Did you have more fun illustrating or writing the story?
I don't know that I had more fun with one than another. I'm trained as an illustrator, so the illustration was much easier for me to do than the writing. I designed the book, too. Being able to do everything is really fun.

I wrote down the idea for A Twisted Tale first in 1995. Then I rewrote it and redrew it many times. I tell students that I had to keep redoing it until I got it right: The redoing took six years and six months until the manuscript and storyboard were accepted by Knopf. Then it was another six months or so before I finished the final art.

What were some of your favorite books as a child?
I was a bookworm as a kid, and tended to stay inside at recess reading. I sometimes read secretly in class when I was supposed to be solving story problems or parsing sentences.

Some of my favorite picture books were Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf illustrated by Robert Lawson, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, and Froggy Went a-Courtin by John Langstaff, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.
My favorite chapter books were, any Enid Blyton book, Anne of Green Gables, Lord of the Rings, and any Steven King books.

What made you want to write for children?
I love books. I love pictures. What could be better than 32 pages of an illustrated story? It's a great medium.

Do you find that in writing for children you form a strong connection to your childhood memories?
Not any stronger than usual, although that could change depending on the kind of book I write, I suppose.

Can readers expect more stories from you in the future?
I hope so! Let's see, six years and six months per book equals 150 words per year. Hope I get a little faster!

More on: Literature

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September 1, 2014



Don't forget to hydrate! Forego sugary juices and sodas and pack a bottle of water in your child's lunch. If your child likes a little more flavor, spice it up with lemon, lime, cucumbers, or fresh fruit.


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