Years ago my partner and I made the two-hour trek into Halifax to catch a festival of tall ships and to watch the Parade of Sail. The ships, all rigged out and with their crews out on deck or up in the rigging, sailed a wide circle around Halifax harbor and then set off to sea. A few weeks later at a summer gathering with friends, we were all discussing the spectacle and a teenager said, “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal with the tall ships?” A few of us fumbled around with bumbling half-answers but the question stuck with me. In the days when nothing moved except by the power of wind, water, or muscle, the prospect of seeing beyond one’s horizons must have been a powerful lure for the curious and adventurous. It was ten years before I finally addressed that question with the text for a picture book. What is the big deal? Tall ships are a symbol to us of worlds beyond our experience. They are about courage and curiosity and exploration. They are about setting off into the unknown and embracing what we find.
My past writing experience is mostly writing novels for adults. Writing a picture book is more like writing a poem. It requires one really good idea that is expressed within 1,000 words rather than a set-up that allows for continuous tension. What I learned is that, like any piece of writing, a picture book needs a strong foundation. Authors need to know exactly what they are saying. The story is an easily accessible narrative, but the underlying idea needs to be strong enough to support the story for years of reading and to support a young reader’s own imagination. In the case of Work and More Work: boldly go!
Linda Little is a short-story writer and novelist. She has won the Cunard First Book Award, the Lilla Stirling Memorial Award, the Dartmouth Book Award and the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize. She currently teaches composition and the literature of Atlantic Canada at Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture. This is her first picture book. She lives in River John, Nova Scotia.