Schlunke & Polyp explain the inspiration behind 'Little Worm's Big Question'.
Little Worm appeared out of the blue one day, during a casual natter about where people’s sense of self-worth comes from. We were discussing how different personalities resemble different animal characteristics. Some people announce their importance by being loud (roosters), some people show off their beauty by preening and grooming (peacocks), others pride themselves on their status, (alpha male gorilla), and so on...
Far too often it’s the noisy, competitive attributes that people notice, while quieter qualities like honesty, determination, curiosity and perseverance are overlooked or unappreciated.
Then we thought about worms!
On the surface, worms have no obvious strengths or talents, and are more likely noted for their vulnerability and helplessness.
But below the ground the true value of worms is evident - and phenomenal. Little Worm is the embodiment of all these overlooked qualities, yet far too modest to see them for himself.
As artists, we’d often expressed frustration at the patronizingly low standard of artwork in childrens’ books. Why is it assumed that children don’t appreciate complex, vivid, images?
Who says that children relate to over-simplified, two-dimensional, scribbly drawings?
We wanted to create a book for all ages that is entertaining and funny, investigative, challenging and inspiring. We want the readers to become lost in the images, and to return to them again and again to spot new details - like the threats to each animal lurking in the backgrounds... some more obviously than others.
It’s a book which celebrates nature’s beauty - its mystery, diversity and fragility, whilst trying to be as biologically accurate as possible with the animals’ claims. Why use lazy animal stereotypes when the real life qualities are far more intriguing?
We also wanted it to be visually hilarious with the determined absurdity of Little Worm's efforts to 'dress appropriately' for each environment!
We tried to keep the language simple without sacrificing expression. The rhythmic, repetitive phrases will keep toddlers engaged and able to anticipate familiar sounding patterns, while older kids will enjoy some new, snazzy-sounding words, which they can ask about, experiment with, and add to their vocabulary.
And since Little Worm is such an ‘ask-questions’ book, we’ve even included a fact page at the end to assist parents and teachers, or to satisfy/stimulate the interest of curious young ‘read-alone’ readers.
But possibly it’ll be Little Worm’s tenderness that wins the hearts of readers. It’s a story that stirs empathy, and questions what we value about ourselves and others. More importantly, it reassures with a simple, yet profound message:
It’s your unique contribution to the world which makes you special. Status is sometimes about being part of something bigger than you are, and you’ll never find it by constantly comparing yourself to others.
But perhaps Little Worm’s greatest discovery is love. He finds the one who makes him feel special just for being himself.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="168"] Schlunke & Polyp are an artist/cartoonist prop-building duo who work and live together in Manchester UK.
Little Worm's Big Question is available from New Internationalist from 18 February 2016. Find out more: http://newint.org/books/little-worm-big-question/