M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Saturday, June 07, 2008  

M. Small vs. the Volcano

M. Small has the same bedtime routine: change into PJs, brush teeth, pee, get into bed for books, stories, and lullabies. "Books" and "stories" are separate items, because the books are what get read to him while the lamp is still on. "Stories" are what get told to him off the tops of our heads after the lamp gets turned off.

If you're a parent, I’m sure you're familiar with the kind of stories I'm talking about. He's always the main character, and they're always stream-of-consciousness and fairly surreal, to facilitate the transition to dreaming, and they tend to reflect whatever he's interested in at the time and they all live happily ever after the end.

Trash has been trying to get me to pitch as a children's book one of the most enduring stories in her repertoire, which involves a surprise hot-air balloon journey. And I always meant to get around to it. But he's grown a bit weary of that one, and asked for the hot-air balloon in the story to be upgraded to a rocket. Which was fine, except that part of the story involves boarding the balloon in midair from his second-floor window, a stunt that, if attempted with a rocket instead of a hovering gondola, strikes me as potentially ouchy.

Sometimes we just come up with something, and sometimes he makes requests, which is how the volcano stories came about.

"Tell me a story about a volcano," he asked me one night last week, and I spun a short yarn about how there was a boy named M. Small who lived next door to a volcano and one day the volcano was about to erupt and M. Small went out on his roof and said, "Don't you erupt on my house, volcano!" and the volcano burped and said "sorry" and they lived happily ever after.

But then he wanted another story in which the volcano did erupt, so I came up with a story (complete with sound effects) in which hot lava was flowing down the side of the mountain until it hit M. Small's kiddy pool and the water turned the lava to rock, and the rock formed a new pool that held rainwater and was always warm because of the heat from below. He liked that one, except the part about his pool being destroyed. So we experimented with other endings, like M. Small's pool being in the garage all along, or M. Small using the garden hose to stop the lava, or the volcano going to the store to get M. Small a new pool.

The advantage this has over the balloon story is what's obvious to anyone who's spent any time at all in the kids' section of a Barnes & Noble: the real money is in series. It's all well and good to have one hit book, but to be really successful you need to hog a whole section of shelf. Hence my vision for the volcano stories. I'm pretty sure nobody else has put out anything quite like them, plus they're just about infinitely variable.

"Volcanoes can't go into stores," M. Small reminded me seconds before he fell asleep that night.

Okay, not infinitely variable.

But there's the story where M. Small and the volcano go on vacation together, and have to take a ship because that's all the volcano can fit on, and M. Small gets tired of sailing and wants to be there now, so the volcano jumps overboard and starts erupting so there can be a new island for them right there. Or the one where they go into space (volcanoes can't fit into the Space Shuttle, but they don't need space suits either so they can ride outside) and volcano saves them from an asteroid collision by erupting at the inbound meteor and swallowing it up, along with all of its exciting stories about its travels around the solar system that Vocano then shares with M. Small.

I've already got an idea for the cover illustration: the two best friends, side by side, smiling happily at the viewer. Check it out:

Does this magma flow make my ass look big?

M. Small's the one on the left. What do you think?

posted by M. Giant 8:10 PM 9 comments


If you can work in a Venus Flytrap, I think you've really got something.

By Blogger Unknown, at June 7, 2008 at 9:43 PM  

But wouldn't the main character have to be orphaned? All the series books seem to feature orphans.

By Blogger Bunny, at June 8, 2008 at 7:01 AM  

The volcano would need a good name, and all I can think of right now is "Volva." Please, PLEASE say you've got a better one.

(My son tells the same story every time. "Let me tell you a story, Mommy! One day Mater and McQueen went tractor tippin'..." It gets VERY old. Perhaps I should pick up the volcano meme and run with it. "... and then the volcano erupted all over them and they melted, the end. Forever.")

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 8, 2008 at 8:55 PM  

Sara, your volcano story will only be effective if the volcano takes out the entire town of Radiator Springs. And the whole crowd at the Los Angeles Raceway, specifically Daryl Cartrip and Chick Hicks. AND the twins.

(Go ahead, ask me how many times I had to watch Cars this weekend because His Majesty had no interest in anything else.)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 9, 2008 at 6:59 AM  

Why can't a volcano go into a store? I can think of several Wal-Marts and SuperTargets big enough for a small volcano. Maybe the volcano has a cold and needs to pick up some charcoal.....

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 9, 2008 at 8:24 AM  

There's a book called "The Finches' Fabulous Furnace" that I think might be right up M.Small's alley. It's a chapter book, but they're short chapters, and I think it has pictures. It's about a family of plucky 60's-style children who discover a volcano growing in their basement. Adventure obviously ensues.
I just checked, and Amazon has it for 17 cents.

By Blogger Unknown, at June 9, 2008 at 9:17 AM  

"So we experimented with other endings, like M. Small's pool being in the garage all along, or M. Small using the garden hose to stop the lava, or the volcano going to the store to get M. Small a new pool."

I love this whole post, and you and Trash already know I adore M. Small quite devotedly.

This subset of plot twists is my favorite part, however. I can actually see M. Volcano, accompanied by M. Small, heading into Target looking at new kiddy pools, debating the merits of each.

He's a cool kid. But then, you know thiat.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 10, 2008 at 6:32 PM  

The Finches' Fabulous Furnace sounds fantastic!

By Blogger Teslagrl, at June 16, 2008 at 8:20 AM  

Oh my goodness, reading this post is like I'm looking into my son's room at bedtime! Although, Lucas is very into Transformers right now, and the stories usually involve him and the "good" transformers saving the town from destruction by the "bad" transformers.

It can be exhausting trying to think up new stories every night! I may steal the volcano idea.

Kat from NJ

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 20, 2008 at 12:58 PM  

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