Tales of Sydney

I’d like to show how one of my children’s stories went from a short chapter book format all the way down to a picture book. Neither is published at this point, yet, but I do like the evolution of how the story was built.

The inspiration and challenge came from the imaginary friend of my delightful offspring. This imaginary friend was very important and I heard many of his stories. Sydney was always up to something and keeping his little human companion busy. Research shows imaginary friends are in fact very important to children and their growth and development. Research in an entirely different direction indicated that perhaps imaginary friends are the spirits of the deceased which children of a young age can still perceive, but we won’t go into that now.

Sydney was my first real foray into children’s writing. After years of toiling on short stories for adults I felt a need to stretch and expand my repertoire.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the first version of Tales of Sydney
    The Great Jungle Adventure
    Chapter 1.
    Sydney moved in on a warm spring day, it was March 25th.
    It was a few months before my eight birthday and at first I thought he was an early present. But my mom couldn’t even see him for the first month and my dad is allergic to cats. Though he had not sneezed once ... yet.

    I asked him where he came from and he just grinned at me in that special cat way. Whiskers twitching and eyes sparkling. His eyes are blue, almost like those of a Siamese, but he’s nicer than a Siamese.

    At first I thought my parents couldn’t see him because he kind of blends in where ever he is. Or, maybe, it’s because of his size, he is rather small for a grown cat.

I would say that was a decent enough start, but nothing terribly exciting.

Gradually I began to think that Sydney would be much better as a picture book. Just the bare, essential words to complement pictures. Something that a young child would want to look at and have read again and again. So I came up with the following (it took considerable trimming, time, and even a few tears).
Meet Sydney

Look, up on my shoulder. That is Sydney, my cat.
He can be any size he wants.
Today, he is small, because he knocked over mom’s plant.
Usually he’s blue with grey stripes.
Sometimes he likes to be purple, just for fun.
We play together, all day, every day.
We never play checkers anymore, because we always end up in a fight.
And in Monopoly, Sydney can’t be the banker. He gives himself extra money when he thinks I am not looking, and bats the dice under the sofa.
I taught him chess myself. It was really hard.
Sydney says he would rather dance the queen across the board than play by the rules.
I know … Sydney cheats at just about every game we play.
But when there is nobody else to play with, he is there.
When we go out, Sydney slips into my denim jacket pocket.
He sticks his little head out and sniffs the air.
I have to try to keep him out of mischief.
Sydney likes to make a mess.
And then I have to clean it up.
Mom does not like mess all over the floor.
Mom says Sydney can’t take baths with me anymore.
He likes to dive off the cold-water faucet and usually water goes all over the floor.
Just last week he told me to make waves so he could go surfing with the bar of soap. He looked like a real surfer too.
Sydney helps me fall asleep at night, after I tuck him in good and tight so he can’t run off.
He keeps bad dreams away.
Mom says, “It’s okay.”
Dad just shakes his head and goes back to reading the paper.
Only I know Sydney is real.
He is my best little cat friend …
For always and ever.

Now all Sydney needs is an editor to take him in hand and someone to bring him visually to life on the page. Anyone feel inspired? I’ll happily showcase your versions of Sydney in a follow-up post.