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Showing posts with label Barry Dunlap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barry Dunlap. Show all posts


A Conversation with Barry Dunlap

Barry Dunlap
Barry Dunlap lives near Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife and four children. He earned a Master's of Arts in English at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he studied under Tim Gautreaux. Barry's poetry, stories and reviews have been published in a number of literary journals.

Most recently, he has ventured into the world of picture books with Mr. Mosquito, illustrated by Ellen Howell.

Why picture books?

About seven years ago, I participated in a training on The Six Traits of Writing. I’d been working as a consultant with the Louisiana Department of Education. It was a "Train the trainer" model. I was trained in order to provide training for teachers in 15 school districts.

The 6 Traits are for all genres of writing. The trainer - Bev Flaten - used different picture books to illustrate different strengths. She used several Cynthia Rylant books, some Margaret Wise Brown… many more. As a result, I developed an appreciation for the medium.

And so where did this particular picture book come from?

It just came to me one morning as I sat at the computer with a cup of coffee. I'm guessing I had probably swatted at a mosquito during the night. My wife and I had discussed in conversation weeks earlier the tidbit about female mosquitoes being the "biters," so I just thought about the humor of a poor, misunderstood male mosquito.

The beauty of the picture book is that big ideas can be communicated through just a few images. Mr. Mosquito conveys the concept of something being threatened because of ignorance. That idea is present, but really, I intended it to be a short, fun way to communicate a fact that many people don't know... that male mosquitoes do not bite.

Mr. Mosquito

It seemed to me that the illustrator really imbued the character with a lot of personality beyond what your words suggested.

Ellen Howell and I have been friends for over ten years. I knew she did fabulous work and had illustrated at least one other children's picture book, so I contacted her to see if she was interested. She told me to send the draft to her and she would see if it inspired her.  It's obvious that it did.

I shared a few descriptions concerning how I envisioned Mr. Mosquito, and her wonderful illustrations made the character come to life.

Why French?

There's a ton of French influence here in south Louisiana, and I thought it would be appropriate to have the mosquito-- what we jokingly call the state bird-- speak with a French accent. Then, I thought, subtitles would be a great way to introduce young readers to the French language. Finally, in hindsight, I think the Henri Le Chat Noir videos had some subliminal influence on the character's accent.

Mr. Mosquito

What would be your dream come true for Mr. Mosquito?

I would love for the book to be used by educators and parents to introduce the French language to their English-speaking children. A friend who has three young children told me recently that when the kids see a mosquito that doesn't try to bite them, they say, "There goes Mr. Mosquito!" Hearing something like that is a real treat to me!

Part of the Conversations with Storytellers series.


Mr. Mosquito (2015)

Mr. Mosquito
Written by Barry Dunlap

Illustrated by Ellen Howell

Or, as the French say, Monsieur Moustique. This is a bi-lingual picture book, so in case you find yourself in Marseille and in need of addressing the buzzing insect circling your head, should you happen to have a copy of this book close by, you'd be in luck.

It also contains other helpful phrases like Je suis agile et mal compris and Ils aiment m'ecraser et m'ecrabouiller. "I am agile and misunderstood," and "They love to swat me and squish me," respectively.

This is the story of a French mosquito... a French male mosquito... a fact which becomes highly significant at the conclusion. Mr. Mosquito is a misunderstood gentleman, who cannot help who he is. He does not apologize.

The illustrations by Ellen Howell are full of personality. I can just hear the tone and inflection of his voice, a noble Pepé Le Pew in hot pursuit, fearful for his life. I feel his injustice.

Mr. Mosquito

Mr. Mosquito

Mr. Mosquito

The punchline comes at the very end, when we are finally informed that male mosquitoes do not bite. That honor is only for the female of the species. Monsieur Moustique must live his life on the run because of our prejudices. Such is his fate. But at least his dignity is intact!

This has been a sponsored review.

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