How do children use their imagination to understand new life situations? And how can children’s stories help us approach topics like loss and grief implicitly? Andrés Pi Andreu introduces these topics from an exciting perspective, focussing on the powerful and resourceful imagination of children as they are either facing unexpected loss in the family or trying to define their feelings and their relationships with their parents. The children in Andrés’ stories, mirror real life by creating imaginary worlds with imaginary friends as a natural reaction to the big questions of life, and in these almost surreal worlds everything becomes possible. Children naturally think in a metaphorical language which helps them rehearse for real life situations.
Andrés have written two exciting books about these topics for the Helbling Young Readers series: Dad for Sale (illustrated by Enrique Martinez) and The Sun is Broken (illustrated by Catty Flores), both addressing the experience of losing someone. In Dad for Sale a little boy has to face the reality of losing his mum, and at the same time defining his feelings towards his dad. The boy, who becomes even more universal by never actually being named, follows an adventurous learning curve and addresses what he perceives to be missing in his life with the help of his vivid imagination.
In The Sun is Broken we see the world through a little girl’s eyes (again she is never named) as she learns what it means to lose somone. We realize that children with their imagination and natural sense of humour can often help themselves and their parents to come to terms with loss.
There are several reasons for the success of these stories. They both contain powerful illustrations, which work interdependently with the text. The interplay between the text and the images creates a magical level of meaning where various functions of the story come to action. There is a rhythm in both stories, a curve that follows the child’s pyschological development from an initial sense of the absence of a loved person, through to a natural acceptance. Both books, although dealing with serious issues, are fun, showing how children invent playful ideas as they learn about the reality of life. Both books present these topics in a honest way, often alluding to the idea of death.
In the classroom let the texts work on their own, without adding any introduction to the topic. Focus on the Play Station activities and practise the language structures and vocabulary with the games and chants. The combination of fun activities, images and the depth of the stories will make sure they become memorable reading experiences for your students and children.
We chatted with Andrés about his stories.
Helbling Readers: This is the second story you have written for the series, how do you get your ideas for stories?
Andrés: Stories just float in my head like Cheerios in milk, I grab them and write them the same way you take one of those little lifesavers and put it in your mouth.
Helbling Readers: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Andrés: When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, which I now realize was one of my writer’s fantasies… So yes, I wanted it even if I didn’t know .
Helbling Readers: Do you imagine your stories or do you leave that up to the artist?
Andrés: Generally, after I write a story, I also write what is called a “graphic script” together with the illustrator, we brainstorm and write down what we want to narrate with drawings and what we want to narrate with words in a story. That results in a better book, remember, two minds are always better than one!!
Helbling Readers: What are you working on these days?
Andrés: I recently finished an illustrated book, right now I’m working in a story with famous illustrator Kim Amate called “Little Bird”, about a kid that could fly.
Helbling Readers: We know you are a father too… have your kids ever tried to put you up for sale? 😉
Andrés: Well, they haven’t tried it yet, I’ll ask them if they want to do it, wait here a second… Yes, OMG, they want seven and a half chocolate milk bottles for me!!! I’m doomed!!!
Helbling Readers: Thank you for the interview!
Andrés Pi Andreu is an award-winning children’s author, his story One Bee Too Many (La abeja de más) is included in the prestigious White Ravens 2013 selection.