This week, I'm handing over the reigns to illustrator, Molly Idle (remember when I interviewed her for FLAMINGO?) to talk about why she agreed to take on her latest picture book, ZOMBELINA...
Halloween is a time we face our fears. Ghosts, Ghouls, Vampires, Zombies...
What scares you?
When I first read Kristyn Crowe’s manuscript, ZOMBELINA, I immediately felt a connection to this little green ballerina who suffers from stage fright, for, you see...
I have a recurring nightmare.
I’m walking into my old school auditorium and I find that an audience is assembling, and people are bustling about back stage getting ready to go on, but they were waiting for the lead in the production... for me. The problem? I didn’t know I was in a play. I don’t know my lines, I don’t know where I should stand... the curtains open and..... I wake up.
In a cold sweat.
And I look around, and I’m fine. I’m safe and sound in my own bed, in my own home, surrounded by the people I love... who love me.
It’s a silly thing to be scared of really, that feeling of anxiety and helplessness on stage...
I mean, what’s the worst case scenario if it were to really happen?
People would “BOO”... laugh at me... maybe throw a few rotten veggies... and I’d go off home to my family, who would give me a hug, make me a cuppa hot chocolate, and soothe my shaken nerves and... life would go on.
There are, after all, much bigger and scarier things in the world than public humiliation, or zombies... but even those much bigger and scarier things can be made bearable if you have a sense of humor, and the support of people who love you.
My brother-in-law Chris, was in his 20s when he decided to dive off of a balcony into a pool.... and missed. His nightmare began when he awoke and found that the nerves of his spinal cord had been severed. He was a quadriplegic.
I can’t imagine much that’s bigger and scarier.
Chris told me, years later, that while he had lost the feeling in his body, what he did feel for a long time after the accident, was anger. Anger at the world, anger with himself, and he often felt that it would have been better if he hadn’t woken up at all.
But then, he decided that, as he was still here- waking up day after day- he’d better get on with it, and make the most of what he had.
And, with the help of his friends, family, a great deal of bravery, and a great sense of humor... he did.
One of my favorite memories of Chris...
His roommate, Patrick, was blind, and made his way about town with a cane and the help of his seeing eye dog, Alvie. Chris, confined to his wheelchair, made his way about town with the help of his canine companion, Ilsa.
When they wanted to go to their favorite pub together, Patrick would put on his sunglasses, then put sunglasses on Chris and tuck his cane in the crook of Chris’s arm. Then, Patrick- with a dog on either side- would push the wheelchair. The effect was that it looked as though the blind were leading the blind... or that the blind were pushing the blind. Anyway, as they walked, Chris would describe to Patrick the looks and reactions they were getting from passersby, and they would laugh so hard they’d cry!
Chris tried skydiving, ate insanely spicy food, watched grisly-zombie-horror movies, all of which made him feel exhilarated, feel tough, feel suspense, feel... something. Feeling something was so much better than feeling nothing.
But none of these bits of bravado matched his last act of real bravery.
For a few years, Chris had been ill more often than not. Each illness lasted a little longer, and took away a little more of the little independence he had left. He bore the endless tests and treatments without complaint. His friends and family all knew what was happening, what was coming... but we couldn’t bring ourselves to face it.
The anxiety, the helplessness, of watching someone you love suffer... knowing that there is nothing you can do to help... that is the biggest and scariest thing there is.
In the end, the only one brave enough to take center stage and talk about it, was Chris.
He said, he’d had enough, and he was ready to go. And while we were afraid to lose him, Chris wasn’t scared. And his bravery made us brave.
And so, safe and sound, surrounded by the people he loved, and who loved him, we shared funny stories and laughed until we cried.
I know he couldn’t feel our hands on his... but he could feel what was in our hearts.
ZOMBELINA is dedicated “post-humorously” to Chris.
Molly Idle grew up in a theatrical family, and her recurring nightmare is of stepping onstage and forgetting her lines in front of a packed house. EEEEK! Waking up, she is always relieved to find that she is safe and sound in a house packed full of the people she loves. Molly is the author/illustrator of numerous books for children, including TEA REX and FLORA and the FLAMINGO. www.idleillustration.com
Molly is very graciously going to send a signed, dedicated copy of ZOMBELINA to one of my lucky commenters, so be sure to sign up below! (Must live in the US/Canada to win.) The winner will be chosen in one week.
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