The 2016 picture book A Squiggly Story, by Toronto author Andrew Larsen and Atlanta, Georgia, illustrator Mike Lowery, was a charming and surprisingly in-depth exploration of how creativity interacts with the mechanics of storytelling. In it, a young boy wants to emulate his older sister, who enjoys reading and writing. He is not quite old enough to do either, so his sister shows him how to take the letters and shapes he can write and convert them into a highly imaginative narrative.
In Another Squiggly Story, the equally charming sequel, the boy is a few years older but finds himself just as flummoxed when tasked by his teacher with writing a story about himself. “What am I going to write about?” he wonders, panicked.
Once again, his big sister helps out, telling him that what he has been asked to write is an autobiography, but he doesn’t need to call it that: “It’s your story. You’re the boss,” she says. (Many editors might disagree, but okay.) The boy decides on a title – The Story of Me by Me – yet still has trouble figuring out what to include, even after making numerous lists of things he likes. Looking at the stars while on a walk with his sister helps him connect some of the disparate items on his lists, and talking to a friend leads him to decide he wants more characters in his story.
That we don’t see the boy’s finished book speaks to the focus on process in Larsen’s tale, which makes it very useful for the young writer-in-waiting in need of creative inspiration and the courage to keep going. But those hoping for a satisfying final reveal will be left a bit frustrated. In addition, Lowery’s cartoonish images and the age of Larsen’s protagonist (not to mention the title) pitch the story to a very young age, but a four-year-old might get a little restless as the tale delves into the weeds of book-writing. Older readers, however – especially those with an artistic bent – will find a lot to chew on.