Children’s book giant David Shannon reimagines King Midas as a greedy child in “Gold!” – Pasadena Star News


Children’s book author and illustrator David Shannon says he had thought for years about recasting the tale of King Midas into a story about a boy obsessed with gold.

“Lately I’ve seen so many greedy people making other people angry,” says Shannon, winner of the Caldecott Honor Award for her 1998 book “No, David!” “More and more it started to suggest to me that I should do it.”

But the Midas mythos was potentially intense for picture book readers, given that the king doesn’t realize that he too can be turned into gold.

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“I always thought maybe it was just a little too dark,” Shannon says. “And then when I started, I kept accidentally rhyming things, and that added a certain levity or an element of fun.”

“Gold!” is the story of Maximilian Midas, a little boy with a great love for gold, which he acquires thanks to his business acumen. Or more exactly, his cruelty. This, after all, is a child who buys a house for his family and then charges his parents’ rent.

The book, which is both funny and full of heart, arrives on Tuesday, September 6. Four days later, Shannon, who lives in Burbank, will read it and sign copies at the Once Upon A Time bookstore in Montrose on Saturday, September 6. ten.

Shannon, whose books besides the “David” series include such titles as “A Bad Case of the Stripes” and “Duck On A Bike,” says he’s always been drawn to child characters who are little troublemakers.

“It must be something autobiographical,” says the 62-year-old author. “I’ve always been drawn to this kind of character, this kind of story.

“And in this one, he starts out really rotten,” Shannon laughs. “When you start with a character like that, if you can redeem it at the end, then that’s a big turnaround, and I think that makes for a good story.”

“Gold!” is the first of his thirty books to be written in verse. Shannon says that as a child he always loved Dr. Seuss’ books.

“There’s a lot of rhyme,” he says of Seuss’ work. “And with a character like the cat in the hat, he’s kind of an anti-hero.”

What he didn’t like to read as a boy, or write as an author, were books that slid too far into softness and light.

“Even when I was little, I was really put off by these sugary books that were what adults thought kids would like,” Shannon says. “Fortunately, I have quite a good memory of my childhood, and I always wanted to make books that I would have liked when I was a child. And part of that is making a book that I love now.

Shannon says his process for writing and illustrating a children’s book is different each time he does one of his own projects. (When he illustrates another author’s words, he says it’s a much more defined journey.)

“It almost always starts with my sketchbooks,” he says. “I write down any idea I have and see if it generates more ideas.

“Something like ‘Too Many Toys’ started with the title,” Shannon says. “Because I stepped on one of my daughter’s toys and yelled, ‘Emma! You have too many toys! There was a little ‘ding!’

“For the ‘David’ books, the way I worked, I was making lists of sayings that moms or teachers use,” he says of a series that includes titles like “Oh, David!” and “David Smells”. “Then I kind of mixed and matched those and arranged them into a loose narrative.”

When it comes to his illustrations, Shannon begins with hundreds of thumbnail sketches to understand the story’s pacing and the placement of text and images until he reaches the 32 pages of most of his books. pictures. (“Gold!” is 40 pages, he notes.)

Shannon’s books are often identifiable by style of art, although he says it’s easier for him to tell what’s different from book to book than what’s similar in his art. .

“I try to make the illustrations match the character in the story and kind of accentuate the story,” Shannon explains. “With ‘David’, it was based on a book that I had done when I was 5 and that my mother kept.

“At first I started drawing (‘No, David!’) like ‘A Bad Case of the Stripes’,” he says. “And he just lost all his energy and charm.

“I said, you know, ‘What was in that little children’s book?’ And I went back and tried to draw like a 5-year-old, and that’s when it really came to life.

For the book event, Once Upon A Time invites young readers to show up to eat “golden donuts — golden dough, that is” — and wear their slippers to the store to hear Shannon read “Gold!”

“I just ordered bunny slippers,” he laughs. “I hope they will be there in time.”

It will be his first in-person event since the pandemic turned the world upside down, and for that he is thrilled.

“I really missed that because even with Zoom you can’t really interact with the kids, and that’s my favorite part,” Shannon says. “Because, you know, they’re all excited and they’re pretty loud, especially with the book list I have. They go crazy for ‘David’.

“So we’ll load them with sugar and we’ll get to it. It’s going to be awesome.

David Shannon Book Event

When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10

Where: Once Upon A Time Bookstore, 2207 Honolulu Ave., Montrose

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