I love Duncan Beedie’s picture books – funny, wise and beautifully illustrated. Today I have one of his new titles to share with you: ‘Oof Makes an Ouch.’ AND a piece from Duncan about where the early idea for this brilliant book came from along with a peek in his sketchbook.
Meet Oof and Pib. They come from an ancient tribe where the only words they know are their own names. This can sometimes make communicating a little difficult, but they get along ok.
Oof and Pib spend all day playing and exploring together, which is fine until Oof has a brilliant idea which leads to her inventing all kinds of new words which the tribe immediately love and start using. Pib gets jealous of all the attention Oof’s receiving and does something he instantly regrets. But can he find the word to express just how he’s feeling?
This story is a hilarious take on the origins of early language and the invention of new words. I can imagine having a lot of fun with children making up new words of our own to express feelings and emotions. Any book which encourages exploring language is onto a winner where I’m concerned.
But as well as encouraging the exploration of words, Beedie’s book also encourages readers to explore the complexities of friendship and emotions. Learning to say sorry and ask for forgiveness, as well as learning to empathise with others, are skills which can be difficult for children to to develop.
Now it’s time to hear from Duncan about how ‘Oof’ came to be:
How ‘Oof’ Nearly Became The Lumberjack’s Ancestor by Duncan Beedie
When I was first plotting out the story for ‘Oof Makes An Ouch!’ I started doodling out various characters and trying to construct the world in which they lived. This is my usual approach when initially trying to form a story in my head: I’m very much a ‘pictures first, words later’ kind of author (with a lot of procrastination and staring out of windows preceding my method.)
I knew that I wanted to set the story in prehistoric times, and I suppose it is second nature, when forming a picture of prehistoric man, to er towards a large, brutish, hirsute figure. Well, it is for me, as the entirety of my knowledge on matters pertaining to paleo-anthropology was gleaned from cartoons such as ‘Wacky Races’ and ‘Captain Caveman’. I was, however, streetwise enough to know that dinosaurs and homo sapiens did not co-exist anywhere on the prehistoric timeline – I’m not a complete Neanderthal!
As I began sketching out the protagonist for the story, he bore a striking resemblance to a certain lumberjack who features in one of my earlier books. To begin with, Oof was essentially ‘Big’ Jim Hickory with an animal skin tunic instead of a plaid flannel shirt. Also, the valley in which his village was based bore many similarities to the wooded valley where Jim swung his axe on a daily basis.
At first, these similarities just seemed to sputter forth from my subconscious, but then I thought: what if Oof were Jim Hickory’s forbear? Although the themes of the stories were different, I liked the idea of playing around with the same place (and people), just a few hundred thousand years earlier.
However, as it turns out ‘Oof’ eventually evolved into a girl with a young boy for her best friend. This decision was made after a very useful conversation with my editor, Alison Ritchie, who advised that it would be more fitting to have children as the main protagonists, as the kids who read the book would like to see themselves reflected in it. With the main thread of the story being centred around friendship, jealousy, and forgiveness, she was, of course, spot on and the book is all the better for it. Editors are essentially mechanics for stories – they get them working to their fullest potential.
Furthermore, Jim’s ascendant (or ‘Jum’ as he is referred to in the book) didn’t disappear completely, and can be seen goofing around in the background throughout the pages – along with another tribe member who may or may not bear a strong similarity to a certain linguistically-challenged character in ‘Game of Thrones’. I’ll let you spot that one.
“Editors are essentially mechanics for stories.” – I like that! And I’ve looked back through the book and have definitely spotted the Game of Thrones nod. Love it!
Another must-have book if you love funny stories with heart and depth 3+
*Many thanks to Templar Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Make sure you visit some of the other stops too*