Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to welcome author Maria Berg as a guest contributor with us today. Ms. Berg is here to explore the creative art of photographic illustration with MDBR readers as well as to share information about her children’s book series based on the adventures of “Gator McBumpypants”.
A Hybrid Genre In Children’s Picture Books?
by Maria Berg
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Gator McBumpypants and Friends series of picture books, they are fun, colorful adventure stories about trying new things, helping others and making friends. The third book in the series Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three received this very nice 5-star review:
Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers’ Favorite
“. . . As well as a nice story written in easy language appropriate for the intended age group, it is packed full of high color photographs. What makes these special, and I do admit to having more than one chuckle while looking at them, is that Ms. Berg has used stuffed toys in real settings to match the story. This lends a touch of reality to the story and kids are bound to love them.”
I wanted to share this review because the reader enjoyed my photographs and I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about photographic illustration in children’s picture books.
Gator McBumpypants’ adventures originally emerged from a photography assignment. I wanted to improve my skills as a photographer, so I took an online photography class. I needed models for an assignment and didn’t have any available, so I grabbed my stuffed animals and put them to work. As I posed them within my environment, their story came to me–their personalities, how they met, how they would speak to each other–which made me think of when I was a child and believed my stuffed animals were busy with adventures while I was out of the room. I really enjoyed the ideas, so I continued the project and worked on it for almost a year until I had a finished book.
In the first adventure Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise you meet a happy alligator named Gator McBumpypants. A noise disturbs Gator McBumpypants’ happy day, so he decides to investigate.
When I was putting the first book together, I scoured the library and the internet for similar books, but found the books with photographs were all factual books about tools, or vehicles. I couldn’t find any other books like Gator McBumpypants and I started to wonder why.
After I published Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise I read about a new book called Calamity Chick. It was photographed by a French photographer named Olivier Toppin. Unlike Gator McBumpypants, Calamity Chick lives in a world of tiny props, not the natural world. I was happy to know other people were using photographic illustration in children’s picture books, but I was still curious as to why it was so rare.
I enjoyed the process of making the first book and it was received well, so I made a second one.
In the second adventure Gator McBumpypants in Herman Learns to Fly, Gator McBumpypants’ new friend Herman learns to fly which makes Gator McBumpypants worry that they can’t be friends.
For these pictures, I used creative camera positioning and digital manipulations to make a stuffed baby pterodactyl (not much more than a bean bag) learn to fly.
Though photography is often perceived as capturing reality, it is this creative art of photography that works for fictional illustration.
In her thesis “Fact or Fiction? Photography Merging Genres in Children’s Picturebooks” (Queensland University of Technology 2008), Bridgette McKelvey asked the question: How does photography merge real and imaginary worlds in children’s picture books? She states that historically children’s picturebooks have been relegated into two genres: photography for non-fiction and drawings and paintings for fiction. However, she believes that this created a gap in the picturebook literature, a hybrid genre that merges the real world with fiction.
One of my favorite responses to reading Gator McBumpypants illustrates this idea. A little girl asked, “Are there really alligators in the lake?” It was impossible, like a baby pterodactyl making friends with that alligator was impossible, but the photographs made the impossible possible, if only for a moment.
What is your favorite photo-illustrated picture book?
If you want to learn more about Gator McBumpypants and his friends you can find him on , YouTube, and his own webpage mbercreations.com/Gator-McBumpypants.htlml. Drop by any time and leave messages for Gator McBumpypants, Herman and Dee Dee or ask me a question.
About the Guest Contributor: Maria Berg
Maria Berg always wondered what her stuffed animals were up to when she wasn’t around. Over the last two years, using her skills as a nature photographer, she patiently collected candid photographs of her favorite stuffed animals in action. Through her picture books she hopes to share what she has discovered with children everywhere. She is a member of SCBWI and PNWA. She also enjoys writing middle grade and adult novels.