Bryony Thomson (@Art_Bryony) is the début author and illustrator of The Wardrobe Monster, a reassuring story for all children who imagine monsters in the darkness. Its fluid, friendly illustrations (they reminded me a little of illustration by Rebecca Cobb) and funny story full of understanding are just lovely.
I’m delighted to bring you a guest post by Bryony today as part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of her first picture book. I really do hope we’ll be seeing much more from Bryony in the future! So without further ado I’ll hand you over:
“I came to realise recently that most of the stories I write are, at their heart, about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of unexpected consequences or, in the case of The Wardrobe Monster, fear of that banging noise in the middle of the night! What I haven’t quite figured out is if this is because deep down I’m a big scared-cat with an overactive imagination or if it’s because fear is one of those universal emotions that everyone to a greater or lesser degree has experienced and can relate to.
I’d like to believe it’s the latter; fear is something that, whether they will admit to it or not, everyone from the tiniest newborn baby afraid of the sudden cold and harshness of the world, through to the 90 year old man afraid that he can’t cross the road fast enough to avoid the speeding cars, can relate to. For me this makes it a great subject for picture books as it creates an immediate bond and understanding between the child audience and the adult reader. It’s true that as adults we may have got past the idea that the strange noises we hear in the dark of the night are caused by monsters in the wardrobe or under the bed, but at one point or another we have all woken with a start to a sudden bang or creak and immediately assumed the worst.
Picture books provide the opportunity for children to explore the scarier parts of life within the safe confines of a book that can always be closed and set aside if things get too frightening. They provide a platform to explain different emotions and hopefully offer some comfort that things aren’t usually as bad as they seem in the middle of the night.
In The Wardrobe Monster I have tried to build the tension gradually across the first two thirds of the book, aiming almost to recreate how I experienced this fear which would build and build as the noises continued and my imagination ran away with itself trying to find an explanation. At the point at which this tension becomes unbearable it is then released with the discovery that Wardrobe Monster is actually a big cuddly, and inherently polite creature rather than this terrifying unknown. Not only is he far less scary than Dora and her friends initially imagined but it turns out that he was just as scared of them as they were of him. Whilst the tension then builds again because there are further noises in the room it quickly becomes clear that there is a perfectly innocent explanation that really we should have seen coming all along – it was just Penguin hitting the ground…hard.
Through The Wardrobe Monster I wanted to write a book that would show children that it’s ok to get scared – everyone does, even those, like Lion, who put up a great front and pretend not to. Being scared is nothing to be ashamed of and if you can persuade yourself to be brave and face your fear most of the time it won’t actually be as bad as you think it is.
Ultimately I wanted to write a book that would have made me feel better when I lay awake afraid of the strange noises in the dark.”
Thank you Bryony for stopping by Playing by the Book today 🙂