For the past six months or so, we’ve been stewing on a new book. Not a book for the Idiots’Books series, mind you. This book will be for kids, and this book, we hope, will be published by someone else.
Over the past five years, we’ve carved out a niche creating recombinable narratives, from Ten Thousand Stories and After Everafter to the Makers Tile Game and the One Page Wonders. People seem to like these projects. They are always our best-selling items at book fairs, and so we’ve often talked about how we might put together a children’s book with recombining elements. One day, on a run, I had an idea, and since then we’ve been trying to figure out how to make it work.
Basically, each “page” of the book is divided into four quadrants, each of which folds out in a different direction (up, right, down, left) so that when the book is “open” it looks like a pinwheel.
It’s difficult to describe. This photo gives a sense of how it works:
The reader starts in the upper left panel and from there determines which way to go (to the right or down) based on the flip of a coin. The story has been written so that it will make sense no matter which way you go. There are four endings and thousands of different ways to read the book.
After several misfires (otherwise known as excellent efforts rejected by Robbi), I finally came up with a story that seemed to work well with the format. Then Robbi spent a few months doing the illustration. At last, it was time to put the thing together to see if it worked.
Fortunately, it did work, but we had no idea how complicated and time consuming it would be to actually produce.
First, Robbi had to cut out all of the individual pages. Because there are images that cross over the page divisions and recombine with images on other pages, the cuts have to be precise.
Then she had to figure out which two pages backed up to one another so that she could glue them together.
We could duplex (print on both sides of the piece of paper) but again, due to the need for everything to line up exactly, we knew it would work better if we printed and trimmed the pages separately and then glued them together.
We use adhesive tape in a handy dispenser, a favorite of the scrapbook crowd.
There are 24 quarter-page sheets that had to be cut and glued in this way. Then, each of the pages had to be punched with the wire-o machine to create the holes for the wire binding.
A closer look.
While Robbi was gluing the pages, I was using adhesive to attach the covers to mat board.
When I was done, Robbi trimmed the covers with our rotary trimmer.
Normally, she would do this on the counter top and not on the floor, but the counter top was otherwise occupied.
Then we had to make sure that all the pages were properly situated. For an inexplicable reason, this was my job. After eleven years by my side, Robbi should know that I am impatient and not attentive to details.
When the covers and interior pages were all glued and punched and properly situated, Robbi bound each of the four sides with wire.
When it was done, she had a look.
And was pleased.
And was tired.
It had taken about eight hours to put the prototype together. But we were happy with how it turned out, so we put it in a box and sent it to our agent with fingers crossed. We liked the book but had no idea whether anyone else would. So we tried to keep our expectations in check.
But a few days later, we heard back that our agent loved the book and was going to send it out to a number of publishing houses. Which was excellent news. Except for the fact that we now had to make three more prototypes. But it was a good problem to have. We got back to work.
At our agent’s suggestion, we created a custom box to protect the book (and to class up the presentation a bit). Robbi used huge sheets of foam core to make one.
Yet another step in an already complex process.
But we’ll go to any length for classy.
The die has been cast. Our book is out there in the world, being read and considered. There’s nothing to do but wait, a pastime not among my strong suits.
I have plenty else to keep me busy for the time being.