MARCH breAK! 2012: A Study in Emerald, An Illustrate-Your-Own Book

March 12-16, 2012

Over the course of the next five days, the kids will be illustrating a book that I have written for them. It’s called The Adventures of Sir Lóchrann Holmes: A Study in Emerald. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this.  As I mentioned in a previous post, just two years ago, I wrote them a book called The Coronation of the Easter Bunny Bear, now known as The Easter Bunny Bear, and I selected sentences from that book for them to copy or rewrite and to illustrate.  This year, I’m asking the kids to keep a highligher handy as we take turns reading A Study in Emerald aloud. I’ll have them choose their own favourite scenes, conversations, and images. Then, I’ll have them edit that language to create their own captions, and illustrate those captions accordingly. I’m also asking them to use different artistic media or materials each day of the week. I’m hoping that this will facilitate a variety of imaginative responses each and every day. 

Of course, it isn’t necessary to write an original story or book for kids to illustrate. Simply pick an existing chapter book, hand the kids some paper and art supplies, and go to town.  I’m also a fan of the  Book Copying featured on the Angry Chicken blog, in which a child takes a simple board- or picture book and tries to reproduce it on their own blank pages using markers or crayons – a fabulous idea! 

But what’s A Study in Emerald all about? I didn’t want to write another Easter book, so I went for the next best thing, St. Patrick’s Day!  I liked having animal characters last time, so I decided that I would write about the “only snake” in Ireland. Well, that lonely creature soon turned into an entire race of grass snakes living secretly both above and below ground on. Of course, aside from zoos and pet shops, there really aren’t any snakes in Ireland, on account of the weather and geography, or so they say.  However, there were attempts to “naturalize” the English grass snake, at one time, I learned. So, I simply reasoned that instead of dying off after their first Irish winter, these British imports went underground and developed a secret society. 

But what would my story be about?  Last time, I based the book rather loosely on the good old Jacob and Esau story. This time, I thought that I would go for one of the kids’ fast favourites: Sherlock Holmes. We had a Sherlock Holmes Party at home on New Year’s Eve.  And the kids went on to read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with their father.  But they hadn’t yet read or seen a film or television show based on Conan Doyle’s famous Study in Scarlet.  (I don’t think they’re quite ready for the recent BBC Sherlock, or I’d have let them watch A Study in Pink).  I was a little nervous about the content of the story, as there are two murders set out to look like suicides. I wasn’t sure if I would have my snakes take part in this kind of behaviour. But at this point, I figured, my kids have read all of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games triology. So, I decided I wouldn’t shy away from the murder angle.  I did, however, decide to make the murder victims, however, a pair of agressive  English pythons who have been lured over to Dublin by a both a threat and a promise. 

My writing process for this story was quite different than the last.  I did a lot of cutting and pasting from the original text of Conan Doyle’s book, basically cribbing the first seven chapters and tagging on a decent summary of the criminal’s history with his or her victims on the final page of my final chapter.  I think I came pretty close to recreating, for myself, what must be the experience of one of the people who writes those horrible “Novel and Inavder” books, you know, a Jane Austen Title and Zombies, or Sea-serpents, or Vampires, or what have you.  Although, mine’s more about substitution of animals for man as opposed to the addition of extraneous violence.  And, I think the outcome of the serpent story is a whole lot more entertaining.

Here’s a little pitch or summary of
The Adventures of Sir Lochrann Holmes: A Study in Emerald.

Irish grass snake, Dr. Seann McUaitson, has just returned to Dublin from a tour abroad, upon which he was severely injured, having been mistaken for an old man’s walking stick and beaten against a cudgel in a brawl. Returned home to recuperate, he finds a place to live with a new acquaintance, Sir Lochrann Holmes, Ireland’s first and only consulting serpent detective.  McUaitson soon becomes involved in one of Holmes’ most intriguing cases, what the papers call the “Wolfe Tone Mystery.”  A python (the first python in Ireland since the days of old St. Patrick!) has been discovered, dead, in an abandoned subterranean home. And, the Gaelic word for “revenge” has been scratched in blood upon the wall above the corpse. Holmes must use his powers of deduction to spirit out the culprit, but can he catch the killer before a second murder takes place?

I’ll be posting chapter summaries along with the kids’ illustrations as they become available!

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