I recently had the chance to read and enjoy LITTLE SID: The Tiny Prince Who Became Buddha, a picture book from Ian Lendler with illustrations by Xanthe Bouma.
The publisher's description reads like this:
A charming and accessible picture-book account of the childhood of the Buddha—when he was still known as Siddhartha.
A spoiled young prince, Siddhartha gets everything he ever asked for, until he asks for what can't be given—happiness.
Join Little Sid as he sets off on a journey of discovery and encounters mysterious wise-folk, terrifying tigers, and one very annoying mouse.
With Lendler’s playful prose and Bouma’s lyrical artwork, Little Sid thoughtfully weaves traditional Buddhist fables into a kid-friendly new tale of mindfulness, the meaning of life, and an awakening that is as profound today as it was 2,500 years ago.
Two things immediately caught my attention about this book. First, it's subject matter. I don't know of many picture books introducing children to the Buddha aside from Demi's beautiful book from 1996, but to approach the content focusing on young Siddhartha, I thought, was exactly what this story needed.
Children familiar or not with the faith leader can find in young Sid a child they can relate to, flawed and learning, and yet an individual whose seeds of virtue are planted early and grow throughout the course of his life through time and experience.
Lendler's text meets readers where they are and invites them to question what happiness means to them while we learn about what happiness meant to Sid. All the while Bouma's art welcomes readers in warm, pastel and earth tones that take us from decadence to something a little more pure and centered.
The illustrations have a great sense of motion which, by contrast draws attention to Sid's body language when he is still on the throne or in bed.
The overall affect when text meets illustration is a story that is not trying to yell or preach, to take a stand on civility and contentment, but rather to exist for the reader to incite and wonder and connect. And the time spent remembering and considering the story after it's conclusion is just as valuable as those minutes spent in the pages.
I'm grateful to be joined by Ian Lendler, the author of LITTLE SID: The Tiny Prince Who Became Buddha, who answers my questions and also talks a little about ONE DAY, A DOT, Ian's next picture book which releases in April with First Second.
Hi, Ian! Thanks for coming by to share!
What was your journey like from picture book reader to picture book maker?
I read picture books as a kid, but I moved into comic books in my tweens. Then I became a film-guy and went to film school. So I’d been thinking visually my whole life. But in the pre-iPhone days, you couldn’t make a movie without thousands of dollars worth of equipment. My pencil, on the other hand, only cost me ten cents. So I concentrated on writing. I soon realized that I agreed with the Dr. Seuss quote, “Adults are just kids past their expiration date.” Picture books are the best because they combine everything that I love into one package– books, visuals, children, and fun. As soon as I started writing picture books, that’s all I wanted to do.
You write comics and you also write picture books. Is there a format you were drawn to first as a writer??
Well, I started in picture books, but I didn’t feel like the move to graphic novels was any different. They’re both visual storytelling with page-turns as the rhythmic and dramatic beats. Also, I feel like both picture books and comics are going through a real revolution now. Both formats are producing really amazing, ambitious, adventurous stuff that wouldn’t have seemed possible even 10 years ago.
You recently celebrated the release of a new picture book about the child who would become the Buddha. What drew you to telling this story in LITTLE SID??
True Story: I was on the beach with my son when he found a stick. He was playing with it and having the sort of good time that only a 2-year-old can have with a stick when he decided to throw it at a wave. The wave washed his stick away. He freaked out. Completely. Freaked. Out. I tried to explain to him the Buddhist concept that this is the way of all things. The things we love come and go. He continued to Completely. Freak. Out. I thought it might be nice to try and get some basic Buddhist ideas into a picture book so I started reading more about Siddhartha, and I read that he was a prince. This meant that, at one point, he was a little prince. That’s when the picture book writer inside my head started shouting, “Hey! That’s a picture book!” So I wrote it.
In your upcoming picture book you break down the Big Bang into bite-sized and accessible details in an approach I find quite stunning and effective. How or when did ONE DAY A DOT become an idea for a picture book?
I was sitting at my desk, and I closed my eyes. I saw a dot in my vision, as you sometimes do. Then through whatever trick of the optical nerve, that dot seemed to explode into a bunch of dots in my vision. I wrote that down and right away I realized I was writing about the history of the universe. I’m a HUGE evolution geek. I love reading about the history of science, and so the whole thing poured out of me. That was the fastest I’ve ever written a book. The whole thing (minor tweaks aside) took me about an hour. I think that’s why the writing has a flow to it that none of my other books do. It was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever had while I was writing.
What do you hope readers will see or take away from your work?
Life is bigger and more beautiful and more fascinating than you can possibly imagine. So imagine.
What are you working on next?
My next book is coming out in September. It’s called THE ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NO PRINCESSES BOOK. I’m excited because the reason I became a children’s book writer is to make kids laugh. But it’s been a while since I’ve done a book that’s pure funny. This one is. I promise.
What recent book or artist are you sharing with friends most often?
For grown-ups: Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Halfway through it I thought it was one of the greatest graphic novels I’d ever read. By the end, I though it was one of the greatest books (all books) I’d ever read. It left me dazed. No description can do it justice. Just read it.
For kids: The Catawampus Cat by Jason Eaton and Gus Gordon. Gus is one of my favorite illustrators right now, and Jason’s books are always funnier than anything else on the market. But this book had a much deeper layer to it. It was the perfect example of how picture books can be charming and poetic all at the same time.
Thanks for coming by and sharing LITTLE SID and ONE DAY, A DOT with us, Ian!
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