Today I thought I would tell an interesting story about my book, “The Boy Who Loved Bananas”.
Matthew, the main character in this book, was based on my son, Matthew. Around the age of 4 and a half, Matthew was in his banana phase. He would eat 4 or 5 every day and could get enough of them. Coincidentally he was also in his, climb-anything-that-can-be-climbed" phase. So one day I said to him, "Mats (my nickname for him) if you keep eating so many bananas you will turn into a monkey." I was kidding, of course, but Matthew didn't know that. He immediately upped his banana intake, hoping my words would come true. He wanted to be a monkey! And that got me thinking, what if he did become a monkey?
Apparently more than a few kids felt the same way Matthew did because it won the Blue Spruce award in 2006 after kids across Ontario voted it as their favorite picture book of the year. If I'm being perfectly honest, it would be fun to be a monkey - at least for a little while.
When Kid’s Can Press told me they would like to publish the story I was thrilled. They said they had very few changes to make and the most significant was that the mock-up that my friend Andrej Krystoforski and I had made was 32 pages in length and they needed it to be 30 pages. No big deal. Andrej and I figured out how to compress a couple of the illustrations and relayed out the mockup. Pleased, Kid’s Can gave us the thumbs up and Andrej got busy illustrating while I worked with their in-house editor to polish the text.
The only significant change the publisher wanted to make was to change the word, “Transmogrified’ to a simpler word that kids would understand. I felt that the word was too fun to let go and campaigned to keep it. It went through numerous approval discussions and the publisher gently but insistently stuck to their position.
I stuck to mine, too.
The discussion never got heated or frustrating, we just saw things a bit differently. Kid’s Can felt the word was too risky, whereas I felt that kids would like it just because it sounded fun, and they would glean the meaning from context. When I told them how, as a kid, I would get so excited if I could discover a new, difficult word, figure out what it meant and then use it. Words were power and I still feel that way now. Kid’s Can heard me and agreed to keep the word. I was very pleased.
A while later, the book won the Blue Spruce Award and I was asked to go to dozens of schools to speak with kids about the book and writing in general. One time the publisher sent along a promotions person to school reading and when we entered the gymnasium where the kids had gathered, a 30 foot banner with the word “Transmogrified” hung from the ceiling along the back wall. I’m pretty sure I was grinning from ear to ear.
The principal of the school excitedly told us how every kid was using that word like they owned it. It was their new favorite word! The Kid’s can rep was smiling, too.
I did not say I told you so. It wasn’t necessary. It was just a good moment.