Gravitybread Presents Rebecca Dudley

Becca Dudley

I am very happy to present Rebecca Dudley, author of Hank Finds An Egg. This beautiful magical book has had quite an impact on my little ones. I loved this story because it showed without words how meaningful it is to help others in need.It also helped my own children problem solve different ways of saving the fragile and special hummingbird egg that Hank found.

Rebecca Dudley is a very unique author and illustrator. She is an architect with a passion for creating childrens books. Since 2010, Rebecca has been writing stories on her blog, Storywoods. What makes Rebecca even more unique is that the entire book was created from the use of dioramas.

Thank you Becca!

1. “Hank Finds an Egg” is a unique book full of imagination and creativity. When and how did the character Hank develop?
I was given ‘The Wild Swans’ by Kihachiro Kawamoto and Tadasu Lizawa when I was very little and I really studied the figures they made for their dioramas. All the figures’ faces were made from a fine knitted fabric. I am sure that was where I got the idea for Hank’s face.

Also, I have always loved old cartoons, like George Herriman’s ‘Krazy Kat’. Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse had the same hairline I had, with a widow’s peak, which I was self-conscious about, so I felt related to them. I am a fan of Patrick McDonnell’s ‘Mutts’ cartoon too. It’s the last great daily strip, I think. It is probably not an accident that Hank bears a resemblance to Earl-the-dog from Mutts. I love that little guy.

I started by making copies of stuffed animals I owned in 2003, just to figure out how to do it, what materials to use, how tightly to stuff them. I wanted to make my characters as expressive as possible. I have a little stuffed monkey with a deeply contoured face and I noticed that the contours made it possible to evoke more emotions from him than my animals with flatter faces, that is why Hank has such a pronounced muzzle.

hank finds an egg2. What is the significance of the hummingbird eggs?
Ha! I don’t know. As soon as I made Hank I knew I wanted to give him something small and defenseless to take care of. An egg seemed perfect.

3. How did your imagination as a child help you become who you are today?
My parents are a lot of fun. In addition to the usual age-appropriate toys (stuffed animals, yo-yos, slinkys etc.) we always had toys that were a little beyond us. I had a gyroscope before I was able to wind it properly. We had a powerful microscope. We looked at slides of food and hair and leaves. We had a bead of mercury that my dad salvaged from a thermometer and stored in a vial. I do not recommend giving children mercury, but “love” is not too strong a word for the way I felt about that magical blob.

My favorite TV show was Looney Toons. I loved the way the Looney Toons artists could create whole worlds, with their own logic. There was an episode of ‘Tweety and Sylvester’ where Sylvester pulls on a rope that is (unbeknownst to him) hung over a tree branch and attached to his own tail, so (of course!) he inadvertently hoists himself into the air. I couldn’t sleep after seeing this scene because I was so inspired: I was going to put a jump rope under my feet and pull up on the ends and FLY. I waited until morning, got my jump rope, put it under my feet, pulled up on the ends and…no flying. So I learned about equal and opposing forces. But I also learned how convincing a “pretend world” can be.

I am still curious about everything and becoming an architect made a lot of sense because we get to work with so many materials and disciplines. But the work I am doing with Storywoods is incredibly fun because it’s so fast. I can have an idea, sketch it, build it, light it and photograph it — all in a few hours.

4. Why did you choose to create a wordless book?
I like that the wordlessness slows readers down, and if you are reading the book with someone you reflexively talk about the story. It’s almost impossible NOT to say “Look at that. What’s he doing there?”.

And, I like the idea that pre-readers know that they are not missing anything. They can read it on their own—nothing is beyond their understanding and their interpretations are as valid as anyone else’s.

I remember when I was in grade school, noticing the way words were systematically replacing pictures in “age appropriate” books as I got older. And I remember I was shocked and a little confused by that. I wondered why words were suddenly considered more important than pictures. So, perhaps unconsciously, making a book with no words at all is a way of indulging my long-held belief that a story told in pictures is not inferior to a story told in words.

5. What was your favorite book as a child?
My Grandmother let us read her edition of ‘The Golden Age’ by Kenneth Grahame that had beautiful color plates by Maxfield Parrish. We had a series of pop-up books that are as good as any I have ever seen. They are still at my parent’s house and should be in a museum.

So many! Here is a list of my favorites as a very small child:

‘Muggins Mouse’ by Marjorie Barrows and Keith Ward
‘The Wild Swans’ by Kihachiro Kawamoto and Tadasu Lizawa
‘Rip Van Winkle’ by Washington Irving, Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
‘Mother Earth’s Children’ by Elizabeth Gordon
‘A Zoo for Mr. Muster’ by Arnold Lobel
‘Swimmy’ by Leo Leonni
‘Benjamin Dilley’s Thirsty Camel’ by Roger Bradfield
‘Dandelion’ by Don Freeman
‘Katy and the Big Snow’ by Virginia Lee Burton
‘Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel’ by Virginia Lee Burton
‘The Snowy Day’, by Ezra Jack Keats
‘The Whispering Rabbit and Other Stories’ by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams
‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak
Several ‘Peanuts’ anthologies — I loved them all.


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