There is a new super hero in town - Q&A with Susanne Gervay.
What is The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses about?
A boy. A super hero. A brave pirate leads his crew of girls and boys. Until the day Sammy feels different. He gets glasses. His parents, teacher, family are happy for Sammy, because life is no longer blurry. So, the great miscommunication begins. The super hero is still heroic, funny, determined as he uses clever tactics and quick thinking to stay on top. But he's losing his special powers, as he feels no-one can hear him at home or at school. Sammy's self-esteem plummets, until there's a crisis where Sammy is alone wearing his big blue glasses. Things have to change.
Through humour, self-realisation and the indomitable spirit of kids, Sammy wins the challenge of change. The heroic pirate returns leading his pirate crew.
Is there a particular theme in your story?
Glasses are an essential part of a child managing vision issues, so they can learn at school and access the world around them. Children with glasses, need to adopt glasses as a natural part of who they are. For other children, they need to be inclusive and accept children with glasses as part of the diversity within their classroom and society. On a broader scale, sight impairment is serious, as evident when Sammy takes off his glasses and the world is a blur. It opens the broader discussion of the importance of sight. How eyes and vision must be cared for and how those who are sight impaired and blind adapt and meet challenges.
Was there an inspiration for your story?
I come from a family of glasses – so it's close and personal. I remember being upset by wearing them, but I needed to see. Every photo of me as a child, teen and young adult is without glasses as I grew up. As an adult I wear my glasses with pride. It took a long time to get there. Now I often refuse to take off my glasses for photos, as it is part of me and I have a right to see. Glasses can be a trial when you lose them. Break them. Crack them. They can hurt the back of your ears. I hate it when they dig into the bridge on your nose. I've wore cotton balls under my eye pads on my glasses as it got so sore. Then there are the eye tests, which take forever and the drops sting. Swimming without glasses means you can't see someone waving at you from the shore. Some kids can be mean about them. Make mean jokes and all that rough and tumble of the school yard, can focus on your glasses. It often isn't about the glasses, but something that they can point too to make you a scapegoat. I wrote The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses because glasses are a gift to kids with sight impairment. Because other kids should embrace kids with glasses or any other difference. Because as you're developing your sense of self, you're vulnerable. Glasses or any difference, needs to empower you, not undermine who you are.
What is the story behind the story?
1 in 5 children suffer from undetected vision problems.
Vision problems are secretive, incremental and make school very hard. Children usually can't tell there is anything wrong as they assume everyone sees the world as they do. It effects their sport, reading, taking notes from the whiteboard, falling over, recognising people in the distance. It can lead to inaccurate labelling of children as slow learners, lacking confidence or even troublemakers when they actually have an undetected vision condition.
A boom in childhood myopia – or short sightedness – is a major contributing factor with more children than ever at risk of developing poor vision through a variety of factors including increased screen time and decreased 'green time' (time spent outdoors).
It is crucial for children to have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and then regular visits as they progress through primary and secondary school, as part of their general health regime.
The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses raises awareness into this important issue.
Vision for Life endorses this picture.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to write picture books?
Invaluable information on the process of creating The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses Susanne Gervay and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall give a practical guide to the process :- https://vimeo.com/321932407
While many classic picture books are rhyming like the Dr Seuss books, unless the rhyme is totally outstanding, it is difficult to publish.The reasons include, lack of skill in rhyming and also that rhyming picture books are difficult to translate well into non-English languages. However great rhythm is always welcome.
Don't write notes to the illustrator in the text. It is regarded as unprofessional. The illustrator creates their own illustrative narrative. You may write a brief overview of the picture book concept. Then write the text without illustrator notes.
Most publishers do not require you to paginate the story.
Entering the mind and world of children is the first step. Read picture books. Watch good children's shows. Talk and play with children. Make notes.
Child focus is key. The story is driven by characters - children or animals or aliens or … just not adults.Adults are there to instigate children's reactions, act as spring boards for events, to facilitate the plot/ideas. In rare picture books, an adult drives the story.
Your idea needs to be original in theme and/or style or an idea that can be reinvented. Yet another picture book on 'First Day at School', joins a very crowded and often dull marketand is not recommended. Read Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and discover originality and the child.
'The question I am obsessed with is: how do children survive?'
- Maurice Sendak, author/illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are.
'The answer I am obsessed with is: story is how children survive.'
- Susanne Gervay, author of The Boy with the Big Blue Glasses
For more on The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses study guide and play activities:-
Publisher: EK Books