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Ten-Word Tiny Tales

Authored by Joseph Coelho and Friends
Illustrated by 21 Illustrators
Published by Walker Books Ltd

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Using the idea of very short stories, Joseph Coelho collaborates with twenty-one illustrators to create an enticing and fascinating series of possibilities for storytelling.

Ten-Word Tiny Tales begins with Coelho speaking directly to the reader about how the book came about: stories which came to him as fragments found on a bus, written on a leaf and in the clouds. This sets the tone for the imaginative feast in store, with a warning that the short stories created in the book ‘are not cutesy tales – these are tales of teeth and claws!’  What might happen when ‘We watch the teacher lead the children through the portal.’ or when ‘The Venus flytrap keeps edging closer to Grandma’s favourite chair.’?   What is behind ‘We buried her on Wednesday, again on Thursday’ or ‘Archaeologists slowly brush away ancient earth from the skyscraper’s roof’?  With intriguing ten-word stories reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, each story is vibrantly expanded by a visual narrative, showcasing the talents of the many illustrators collaborating with Coelho.

There is so much to enjoy in this book. Not only is every double page spread a visual and imaginative feast, but the final section explains how writers might lengthen a ten-word tiny tale and ends with ‘Take Your Pen on a Journey’ – a writing workshop directly addressed to the reader.  And before even beginning to share the book, the end papers themselves offer imaginative possibilities: the front papers show lined white space, like an exercise book, with a boy walking along sprinkling fragments of letters from a bag. Keen code breakers might want to try to fill in the gaps between the letters or storytellers might want to explain how he came to have the letters in his bag and who wrote them. The final end papers show the same pages of the exercise book but now they are covered with colourful, complex and detailed extracts of illustrations from each of the stories in the book, gathered together in a glorious expanse which the boy is gazing at on tiptoe.

These end papers are an example both of what the book is about and an invitation to creativity; children from 8 years upwards will relish the chance to unravel and illustrate for themselves these sometimes spooky, sometimes gruesome and sometimes just wonderfully mysterious stories. How would you illustrate: ‘The audience dances in rapture, but we haven’t started playing’?