Books: Lessons in Literacy, Graphics and Graffiti

'There's an Octopus Under My Bed' is a children's book for all ages

Mar 28, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Graham Lienhart

There's an Octopus Under My Bed co-author Dean Blase with daughter Francine

If you don't have a kid, chances are you're not hanging out in the children's section of the bookstore very often — unless you're creepy or picking up the new Harry Potter. Chances are then likely that you might miss out on graffiti artist/illustrator Scribe's first children's book, There's an Octopus Under My Bed.

Published by local Shake It, Ink., the people who brought you the graffiti book DF: Idiots on Parade, Scribe's story follows the adventures of a little green bunny named Elijah as he learns life lessons about adaptation and bravery from his new friend, Manos, the octopus.

When Elijah, based on Scribe's first son, loses his stuffed red rhino Rumpus, Mommy gives him a new friend, Manos. Hesitant at first, Elijah eventually follows Manos on an adventure out of his bedroom and into the Galapagos Islands via his imagination and a heavy dose of colorful "alternative" graphics.

"The rhino for me has always been a self-portrait," Scribe says. "I won't always be there for every moment with Elijah. Manos the octopus is there to lend a helping hand with that."

The Galapagos, seat of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, plays the backdrop.

"I don't like to get into the political stuff around evolution/creation, but either way we can all see that we all adapt to new things on this planet," he says.

As Elijah encounters new creatures and ventures out alone to find his lost beloved blanket "Boo Boo," he does just that. And while most kids' books give children lessons in growth, Scribe extends this opportunity to adults. The first page of the book pays tribute to his graffiti roots by making a game out of different graffiti artists' lettering. Will you be able to figure out how these distorted images spell "octopus"? Throughout the illustrations you'll find hidden images from other artists like DF members Jason Brunson and East.

"The graffiti references in the book are woven through the book like they have been in my life," says Scribe.

Scribe knew that his artwork would always involve kids, but his interest in art school was eventually overcome by his interest in graffiti.

"I never picked up graffiti with intent to be destructive," he says. "For me it was making the choice between one day I'm going to do colored pencils and then spraypaint the next."

Eventually his art came full circle, and now he uses his graffiti as artist-in-residence at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

"A publisher once gave me this advice: You need to draw the book as if it doesn't have any words ... because a kid may open this without his parents around," Scribe says.

Before co-author Dean Blase got involved, that's all it was: pictures. When Blase came in, "All her suggestions were great and it's only because of her that I felt like the text was raised up to the level I was trying to put forward in the visuals," says Scribe. It was then that this conceptualized picture book became a children's story.

"They (children) all have a wide-eyed amazement or surprise in their eyes that I think only kids have and that we as adults want to have again," says Shake It publisher (and, yes, Dean's husband) Darren Blase in reference to children's reactions to the illustrations. "His (Scribe's) drawings are filled images where everything is new and exciting."

Whether you're using it as a bedtime story or as an exciting coffee table book, There's an Octopus Under My Bed is a beginner's guide: kids learn about adventure and adaptation; adults learn about an art form they might not have previously understood. And if they don't learn, at least they'll be able to try and figure out the spray-painted images on the side of train cars. Does that say "octopus?"

Scribe and Dean Blase read from and sign copies of There's an Octopus Under My Bed at a pajama party at Shake It Records at 7 p.m. Friday. The duo also appears 12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturday at Blue Manatee.