THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS (IT’S ABOUT DRAGONS)

As very directly stated above, this post has nothing to do with politics, the election, or any specific candidate. It’s about a smarmy, self-absorbed king-of-his-own-universe on a collision course with self-destruction. (And he’s happy to take you along for the ride.)

Meet the narrator of my new picture book with Shelley Moore Thomas, THIS BOOK IS NOT ABOUT DRAGONS.
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See. I told you this had nothing to do with politics.

Let me back up a sec and let you in on one of my book-marketing secrets. When a book comes out that I worked on, I talk about the concept behind the book, what makes it special, and how we as readers can see themes from the story paralleled in real life. And if I’m witty and self-deprecating and honest enough, people will share the post a few dozen times and life will go on. But I digress.

The concept of DRAGONS is pretty straightforward – a reasonably charming but foolish narrator leads us deeper and deeper into deadly circumstances, completely ignoring reality in favor of his inaccurate interpretation of evidence that becomes overwhelming. The reader tries to tell him there are dragons on every page. He only sees what he wants to see – pizza, clouds, a moose. No dragons whatsoever.

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I was offered this manuscript back in 2014, and I saw a huge opportunity to help craft a story about CONSEQUENTIAL REASONING. What happens when you’re told one thing, but the words don’t match up with the evidence?

Our narrator walks on to the page. “There are no dragons in this book. What’s that, behind the tree? That’s not a dragon. That’s a rabbit.”

Now here’s the part I love. Kids as young as four and five absorb the words, take one look at the dragon behind the tree, and stop the narrator in his tracks. “WAIT! THERE’S A REAL DRAGON,” they say. Page by page, they process this eyes vs. ears conflict of the senses and make informed decisions.

Why does this sort of consequential reasoning matter? To me, it’s because the world is full of REAL DRAGONS. We might call them by different names or refuse to see them all. But they’re just as deadly.

Someone ACTS like a bully, but SAYS they’re just joking around. And by the way, we should laugh with them. So we laugh. And folks get bullied. But it’s kind of funny, and at least it’s not us.

Someone points at a group of people and SAYS “those aren’t human beings. They’re animals.” So we coral those people into groups and treat them like cattle. And then we glance over and realize our friends and neighbors are among them. Sad, but again, it’s not you or me.

And then someone points a finger at us and SAYS “Follow me. This way there are no dragons.”  So we fall in line, trust the voice instead of our senses, and wonder at the rising smoke ahead.

That’s exactly how our deluded narrator acts. Ignoring the dragons, he travels deeper into their territory until he’s quite literally cornered. And just as soon as it’s too late to turn around, he FINALLY realizes he’s WRONG.dragons-post-rect3

Here’s the thing. It’s totally okay to be wrong. We don’t hate the narrator because he’s misguided. In the end we just feel kinda sorry for him. We can forgive him for being blithe and arrogant and for making a giant mess of things. But (and this is a biggie), while we can forgive the error, we can’t remove the consequences of his actions.

My friends and I were once wrong about the weather and sunk a boat off the coast of Florida. Rain pouring down, tossed by wind and waves, clinging to the side of our capsized vessel, we realized how WRONG we were. But that admission did not save us. It took the rescue efforts of local law enforcement (and a much bigger boat). And yes, we suffered the consequences. We were nearly hypothermic. All our gear was lost at the bottom of the ocean. And we had to pay a tow company to drag our capsized boat back to shore.

In DRAGONS, the consequences are more subtle. Because it’s a book for kids. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s a romp. The narrator realizes he’s wrong, and looks back at us one last time with that smarmy grin to deliver his mea culpa. In the end he has to change the name of the book–you could almost say he changes his story.

And while you might think that’s the end of it all, it isn’t. Carefully viewers will see deeper consequences – the consequences you might expect for any of us who enter a world of dragons and act like they aren’t there.

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