Writer: Trudie Trewin
Illustrator: Cheryl Orsini
Published by: Scholastic Press, 2010
Karen’s Plot Summary: There’s one wobbly street in Squareton and Mayor Angle decides it must be straightened, but even a street-straightener is no match for the wibbles and wobbles of Wibbly Wobbly Street.
Character: This is an interesting book as it could be argued that the main character is a street. It’s a great example of personification in an era where children are the main characters in most picture books. Wibbly Wobbly Street has a life force all its own and the illustrations capture the fun and carnival-like atmosphere of the street, in stark contrast to the rest of the drab, boring town.
The other main character is Mayor Angle, a straight-laced politician who wants his town to be perfect and in his eyes, that means straight and square.
The problem for the main characters is clearly defined early on: the mayor wants to straighten Wibbly Wobbly Street and he will employ as much force as necessary to achieve his goal. Wibbly Wobbly Street gallantly resists the street-straightener’s attempts and ends up wobblier than before.
There is a wonderful sequence of layouts with the street-straightener where the reader fears that he has indeed straightened Wibbly Wobbly Street for good, but the climax brings sweet relief when we realise that Wibbly Wobbly Street has triumphed against the odds.
The Mayor has his own journey through the story and in the end, has a change of heart and relishes in the joy of having Wibbly Wobbly Street in his town.
Story arc & pacing: This is a story of contrasts (wobbly/straight; serious/fun) and that contrast creates a magnificent tension that builds throughout the middle of the book to a horrifying climax, then resolves in a lovely, fun, warm way. What a relief!
The structure of the story can be broken down as follows:
BEGINNING: Spreads 1-3 (Characters and the problem are introduced/developed.)
Mayor Angle decides he doesn’t like Wibbly Wobbly Street and it needs to be straightened, even though the residents of the street think it’s great.
TURNING POINT: Spread 3 (Problem is clearly identified; working on a solution)
Someone suggests the Mayor employ the street-straightener for the job.
MIDDLE: Spreads 4-9 (Various attempts are made to solve the problem)
The street-straightener attempts to straighten Wibbly Wobbly Street.
CLIMAX: Spread 10-11 (Trouble at its worst)
Wibbly Wobbly Street is straightened then moves underfoot… (includes a wordless, double-page spread)
END: Spread 12-13 (A resolution to the problem.)
Wibbly Wobbly Street goes back to being a little bit wobblier than before, much to its residents’ delight.
CODA: Spread 14 & 15 (A lovely final image or reversal)
The Mayor decides to join in the party and this time, everyone loves Wibbly Wobbly Street. This final sentence mirrors a sentence at the beginning of the story.
Language: The language in this book is simply divine. It is playful, imaginative and poetic, with splashes of rhyming (wiggle/squiggle) and alliteration. The sheer joy of words such as ‘hotchpotch’ and ‘askew’ jump off the page and are a delight to read aloud. There’s also a few made up words for good measure, such as ‘rectangle-fied’ and ‘wibbliest’ that fit perfectly within a zany story like this one.
Trudie has also used repetition to great effect. I especially like the circular nature of the text where the very last line is almost identical to a line we read earlier. WIBBLY WOBBLY STREET finishes on the perfect note.
Illustrations: I think I’m in love. The illustrations by Cheryl Orsini are just amazing. The contrast in the text is magnified a thousand fold through the contrast in the illustrations. Mayor Angle and all his cronies are drab and angular with a limited colour palette of browns, greens and yellows. The residents of Wibbly Wobbly Street are curved, colourful and filled with movement. I could – and have – studied the illustrations closely, gazing at the page and each time picking up something delightful, like the blue-haired grandmother from Wibbly Wobbly Street who always has a plate of food to feed the birds, and the stilt-walking, book-reading girl wandering around town. There is a lot going on in the illos but it doesn’t feel busy or overdone.
Interplay between text and illustrations: Trudie’s word choice when describing the mayor and his counterparts is reflected in the illustrations. Where the text is concise and proper, the illustrations are square and angular – even the trees! Where the text flows and is playful, the illustrations are playful. The illustrations, at times, draw a line almost down the middle of the page where the two contrasts meet and add to the tension of the text. There are moments when the illustrations show the two worlds colliding, like the image of a girl driving a bathtub full of water past the street-straightener and his set square. The image is so preposterous that it is divine. And in the end, when there is peace between the square and the curved, the straight and the wobbly, the illustrations are a collage of angles and free flowing lines. Each angular person retains their angles and each curvy person retains their curves as they form a celebratory conga line. It’s a beautiful image with an equally beautiful message about tolerance and individuality.
Design and layout: The font variations in the book is an interesting element. I’m not normally a fan of too many changes font-wise, but in this case, it works. Every time Wibbly Wobbly Street it mentioned, the letters get wobbly. When the street-straightener has to rev his machines up to their maximum, the letters get larger within the word. It’s yet another way the story is reflected in every element of the book and one of the reasons it works so seamlessly.
I also loved the wordless double-page spread at the climax of the book when Wibbly Wobbly Street is snapping back to its wobbly self, as we’re not totally sure what is going to happen next. You just have to turn the page and find out!
There is a lovely variety of spreads within the book with some very busy pages with lots happening and some pages with lots of white space. There are close ups and panoramic views, and clever tricks such as a trapeze artist flying in the side of one page to held guide you to the focal point on the page.
Lessons for my writing:
– contrasts can be a great tool to set up a story and imbue tension into a story
– be playful with word choice and don’t be afraid to make up words
– whimsical ideas can translate into beautiful books so don’t be afraid to go with something a bit unusual
– inanimate objects can become characters in their own right
– not all stories have to have a child as the main character but make sure the characters are appealing to my target audience
– leave plenty of room for the illustrator to work his/her magic
Karen’s final thought: This is an amazing picture book and one of my favourites. The extreme contrasts in the text and illustrations mean there is inherent tension which drives the story forward. Add to that the beautiful language, and it really is a picture book worth deconstructing.