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MOWMT March 2: Andrew Hacket Ups the Absurdity


Part of the magic of writing books is that there are no boundaries. It is easy to question if we have gone too far, but maybe we should ask ourselves if we have gone far enough?

Check out these five ways to up the absurdity.

#1 Who the? What the? - Unexpected Characters

We have seen bears and dogs and children taking mainstage on the page countless times. But swapping them for an unexpected character can make a common concept stand out. 

In Pepper and Me (2024) by Beatrice Alemagna, a young girl takes a tumble leading to a scraped leg. As the story progresses this abrasion becomes a scab and shockingly, this scab named Pepper talks.

#2 You Can’t Write About That! - Unexpected Topics

In picture books no topic is off-limits. What matters is the approach and for most concepts a bit of humor is all that is needed 

[insert Who Wet My Pants? here]

In Who Wet My Pants? (2019) by Bob Shea and illustrated by Zacharia OHora, our main character has had an accident and is ready to blame everyone around him for it. The sheer absurdity that someone else had wet his pants has kids hooked from the first page.

In Creepy Pair Of Underwear (2017) by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, a glow in the dark pair of underwear takes center stage as Jasper Rabbit selects a new pair of underpants. When the creepy, green glow becomes too scary for him he goes to extensive lengths to be rid of them, however, the underwear won’t leave so easily.

#3 Say What?! - Unexpected Words

Sometimes all it takes is the right combination of ridiculous words at the right moment for a book to become a child’s favorite. 

[insert Don’t Feed The Coos cover here]

In the cautionary tale of Don’t Feed The Coos (2020) by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox, a child is warned about all of the reasons why they should never feed the pigeons. This silly concept brings humor from the start but is taken to a whole different level when we get to “And to thank you for feeding them, the coos will leave poos. Coo poos everywhere. Coo poos covering everything.” This was the turning point that took a silly story into the absurd and kids love it.

#4 Will it ever Stop? - Escalating Antics

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly is the first book that comes to mind when I think of escalating into the absurd, but it certainly isn’t the last.

In One Chicken Nugget (2023) written and illustrated by Tadgh Bentley, a monster named Frank has a massive appetite for, you guessed it, chicken nuggets. But when his love for these tasty morsels gets in the way of little Celeste’s food truck, she decides to up the ante. Her 30-day Double Nugget Challenge skyrockets the absurdity exponentially until a mountain of over 500 million nuggets lay before Frank.

In Llama Destroys the World (2019) by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox, the overabundance starts from the first spread with Llama having piles of cake and eating it all which somehow leads to the creation of a black hole and the entire world being sucked into it. How’s that for escalation?

#5 Oh no, he didn’t! - Unexpected Actions

In Dragons Love Tacos (2012) by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri we start with the already absurd situation of taco-eating dragons, but what is totally unexpected is when the dragons incinerate the entire party. 

And I how can I leave out the always unexpected consumption of characters in books like We Don’t Eat Our Classmates and I Want My Hat Back

My debut picture book, Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea illustrated by Kaz Windness has benefited from all of these strategies and I believe it is this absurdity that helped it stand out from the crowd and find its way to publication. Here’s a glimpse at how the above strategies play out in Ollie.

#1 Unexpected Characters - Tree monster? Yes, please!

#2 Unexpected Topics - Themes of friendship, kindness, and bullying are not unexpected. A boy wanting to become a tree, however, a bit stranger.

#3 Unexpected Words - “You’re not scary bark breath. You’re full of termites.” and “As long as you don’t eat me again.”

#4 Escalating Antics - A simple idea of eating an acorn to become a tree escalates into shoveling down soil, chugging water, and finally biting a chunk off the sun.

#5 Unexpected Actions - What better way to deal with a bully than to eat him? At least that is what Ollie thinks at first. 

So the next time you sit down and reread your WIP be sure to ask yourself, have I gone far enough? That added absurdity might be exactly what your manuscript needs.

PRIZE: Andrew is offering a manuscript critique and a 30-minute AMA to one winner. 

BIO Andrew Hacket is a writer, second-grade teacher, and father of three. He is also the author of the upcoming Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty IdeaCurlilocks and the Three Hares, and Hope and the Sea. Andrew recognizes that being a kid is hard and he writes to create ways for kids to see themselves in stories and characters, to accept and overcome their insecurities, or to escape for just a little while through the power of their imaginations. 


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