Welcome back for another post from the Monday Inspirations series. Today’s post is by R.A. Kerr. You can check out previous posts here.
I’ve always been fascinated by writing that does what it feels like, not what it’s supposed to do.
Writing that blindly follows the rules feels like an obligation, like paying the utility bill or eating brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving.
I discovered this early in life when my mother gave me the quirky children’s classic, There’s an Elephant in the Bathtub. (Fact: My mother read this book to me so often, she can still quote lengthy passages by memory.)
The story begins with a delightful sentence that suggests infinite possibilities: “Timothy Wicks was a boy with a wonderful imagination.”
In my four-year-old opinion, Timothy Wicks had the best imagination of any character, ever, period.
The author, Roger Bradfield, also illustrated this book, which he drew in simple black and white drawings. However, the imaginings of our friend Timothy are done in vivid Technicolor, which makes real life lackluster by comparison.
Bradfield gleefully flouts the rules of convention in his writing. There is no Lesson in this story, no realizing of a great moral truth, no “Remember this for later, kids”.
Timothy, the main character, is a boy who accepts his imagination as The Way Life Is. He has a friend in a cheerful, but hungry giant who loves the cookies Timothy’s mother bakes. Timothy’s backyard has a tree that grows three different types of fruit – on the same branch!
None of the adults in Timothy Wicks’ life believe these strange things, but they don’t meddle. After all, these bizarre sightings have, so far, kept the kid off the streets and out of trouble.
See? This book doesn’t care what you think about this boy’s imagination. And it gets better. Timothy Wicks himself doesn’t care, not even when he finds a horse reclining on the davenport with a book and hot chocolate. Never mind that horses are not allowed in the house; this horse makes himself at home.
(As an aside, Bradfield probably savored the thought of every child asking, “What’s a davenport?”)
Now, about the elephant: On a rainy night, a green elephant with a long trunk takes a bath in the middle of Timothy’s living room. After all, what’s a living room for, if not to install a bathtub for your elephant?
But the cheeky Bradfield isn’t content to have the real world unaffected by Timothy’s imagination. As his father goes to close the window on this rainy night, he trips over the elephant’s long trunk. This collision of imagination and reality leads to a crisis…but you’ll have to read the book to find out more.
There’s an Elephant in the Bathtub taught me to have fun with writing and not take it so seriously. It also taught me to appreciate life’s absurdities. This was the first book I fell in love with, and it remains one of my favorites.