Oh those novelists, blogged down again by those looming literary choices–point of view, psychic distance, voice. Thank Gag for picture books. Having written some, she knew she made many of the same decisions, but drew an extra arrow from her quiver: form. As a form, picture books could encompass all genres–fiction, memoir, non-fiction, mystery, fantasy, fairy or folk tales; and she considered whether and how genre in the picture book influenced point of view.
She loved John Scieszka’s hilarious re-telling of The Story of The Three Little Pigs from the wolf’s point of view in The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs! for its crafty use of the unreliable narrator device. Fairy tales are conventionally told in third person, so what happened when point of view shifted? Scieszka’s use of the first person narrator invited the reader into a a world through the perceptions of a character and not into the verisimilitude of the fairy tale world created by the original author. The reader believes A. Wolf as the long-suffering “I” in Scieszka’s tale because he is the tale-teller, the narrator of his own story, not the three little pigs’ story. Each point of view creates a verisimilitude fitting its form or intention. Told in the conventional third person, the reader is invited into the fairy world created for the story, not created by a character for the story. Scieszka broke form for his intention to make the reader laugh at his ironic tale.
Writing stories with autobiographical roots, she’d written in first person for the same reason: verisimilitude. As much as she was part of the story, the narrative “I” became a part of the story, the world created by narrator as character. Fiction and non-fiction could be told from either point of view in the picture book, but the questions she’d ask were fundamental: Who’s narrating the story and why? The truth of the story, the author’s intention, rests in that question. Who tells it truer?