“My Dear Little Cordon Bleu”

 

Today’s post comes from some trial illustration work I was doing this week on my day off. I’m hoping this villain is “just right” on the scary character scale.

“You are looking particularly tender and delicious this evening, My Dear,” said The Sewer Rat as he nervously chewed on his tail.

He had tried every trick he knew, and none had worked. This time, he was trying his best to seem kind and complimentary.

Gracie stared at him as she had always done while the others huddled together in a far corner.

“Why don’t you come out of that box he’s got you in. It is so much better out here. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“Stop it,” said Gracie.

“Ah, so you can do something other than stare at me. That’s delightful. Almost as delightful as all of the wonderful things I can show you out here.”

“Go away,” said Gracie.

“Only if you will go away with me,” replied The Sewer Rat sweetly. “You can be My Dear Little Cordon Bleu.”

“I don’t know what that is,” said Gracie. “But it sounds French. Do you know more French words?”

Gracie knew immediately she had said too much, but it was too late. The Sewer Rat grinned with delight. He was sure he had snagged her with his trickery.

“It is French, just like all of the best ballet étoiles.”

“What does that word mean?”

“You dance ballet and don’t know what an étoile is?”

“How do you know I dance ballet?”

“Oh, I’ve been watching you, My Dear. I’ve been watching you for quite some time now.

“A ballet étoile like you could be transformed into the best cordon bleu. Ah, yes, My Little Cordon Bleu. Of course you could also be My Little Kiev if you like Russian ballet or My Little Moo Goo Gai Pan if you like Chinese ballet.

“The choice is yours, My Dear. Why don’t you find a way to come outside? I have beautiful plans for you. Beautiful plans indeed. We can talk about everything without the others poking their beaks into our personal business.”

“You and I, we have no personal business,” she said and turned and walked away without looking back.

There was no way for The Sewer Rat to get through the wire of their chicken run. Even though he protested about being ignored and pretended to gnaw through the metal mesh, Gracie would not show any fear. She kept thinking about how much she was loved. A heart filled with love has no place for fear.

“Have pity on me. I am not beautiful and talented like you,” he called to her.

He pretended to be terribly hurt, but Gracie knew better than to trust him.

Adieu, Mon Cherie. Adieu,” he said, and blew her a kiss. “Délicieuse.”

He sulked away across the street and slinked down into his storm drain. The chickens all breathed a sigh of relief, but they knew he was not out of plans and schemes.

That evening when I was tucking everyone in for the night, Gracie asked me, “How would you feel if I became a ballet étoile?”

Everyone leaned forward to hear what I would say.

“I would be very proud of you. That is a great honor in France. It is actually the highest honor at The Paris Opera Ballet. It would mean you are a ballet star.”

“How would you feel if I became a cordon bleu?”

Everyone leaned forward even more. The answer to this question was much more important.

“I would be sad, more sad than I’ve ever been in my life. That is not a good thing for a chicken to be. It would mean you would never dance again. It would mean that you would not be with us any more. That would break my heart.”

“I thought so!” said Bessie. “I knew being a cordon bleu was not a good thing. And I will bet neither is being a kiev or a moo goo gai pan.”

“Where did you learn all of those words? It wasn’t from me.”

“From The Sewer Rat,” they all said together.

“And he smells funny too,” added Pearl.

Everyone nodded vigorously.

“What he was saying is that he wanted to have you for dinner, but not in a good way.”

“You mean he wants to…” they all said together but were too afraid to say anything more.

“Eat you,” I said. “But that will never happen. I will never let that happen.”

“I am going to find a way to put an end to this,” said Gracie. “One of these days, he may be tricky enough to convince one of us to go outside.”

And that night while everyone slept, Gracie stayed awake and thought and thought until she had the most excellent plan ever. It would prove that chickens are brave and it would get rid of The Biggest Scary Thing in her life and the lives of her friends once and for all.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! 

“Peep. Cheep?”

 

Today’s post comes from some trial work I was doing this week on my day off. It is a simple illustration using my new wild pen and some text from a possible story.  

I was reminiscing about some of the books I read many years ago as a child. There were large, full-page illustrations in chapter books. Each usually had a snippet of text from the story underneath. They gave a hint of what the story was about and created interest without giving away the plot of the whole book.

In the more expensive books, these would be found on full-color pages printed on special paper and inserted into the book. You could easily spot them because the paper was smoother and stood out against the rougher text pages. And if you wanted to, which I did, you could look at each of those pictures and read each piece of text to get an idea of what the book might be about.

And if those pages convinced me to check a book out of the library, they became “reading goal markers” for me. I would eagerly read to get to the next beautifully illustrated special page. 

Somewhere in my garage, I have a box of books with some reprints of children’s classics illustrated by N.C. Wyeth which I purchased as an adult. “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson was perhaps my favorite. The illustration of “One more step, Mr. Hands, said I, and I’ll blow your brains out” was one of my favorites then and now. Who could resist discovering more about those words or the illustration that went with them?

It is doubtful that my work will every be as good as the classic illustrators I admire so much, but hopefully this little illustration will capture your imagination and cause you to wonder what “Peep. Cheep?” might mean. Of course, if you are a regular reader, you have probably already guessed from the pose and the innocently hopeful expression.

You know, I really do need to build those bookcases I’ve been saying I’m going to build!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! 

A Map Of My Heart

This is the last of a “to be continued next time” story and illustration I’ve been working on for several weeks…Both have gone as far as they can go for now. I have been trying to work out the deeper motivation for Amelia’s desire to fly to the moon. Still to be answered is “Does she know this is not possible?…Or is it?”

…She gazed off into the sunset as its colors began to tint everything in our garden. She looked so beautiful in the golden autumn light. It seemed so perfect for her, this garden home of ours.

My Amelia. Would she still be that if she went away and never returned? Yes, nothing could change my heart.

I wanted to tell her, “This is where you belong. This is where you can be safe and warm and where you can feel like you’re home.” But I knew if that was true beyond the hopes in my own heart, she would need to discover it for herself.

And so instead I said, “I wish I could fly with you, Amelia. But I can’t.”

She looked at me quizzically, unsure if I was being silly or serious.

“You are needed here,” she said with her most practical tone. “Who will watch over Emily? She likes it here. This home is good for her, and she loves the garden flowers. She may even learn to trust herself here and become what she was meant to become without depending on me.”

“Emily doesn’t trust herself?”

“Not the way she should. She only trusts others, not herself. And I am the opposite. I only trust myself.” She stopped, realizing that she may have shared too much of her heart with me. “But we were talking about flying. You may not be able to fly, but you and I are still very much alike.”

“What do you mean?”

“We are both bound by the beauty of the light upon this earth,” she said, looking again at the sunset colors washing over everything. “And we both still have so much left to do while we wait for the sweetness of the leaving.”

“There is the poetic side of you at last, Amelia,” I said and smiled.

So we went back to our things still left to do. Amelia returned to her mapmaking, and I returned to my sketching.

As I filled in the last drawing details, I thought over what Amelia had said about trust. I wondered if she had made these plans to fly off into the dangerous unknown more for Emily sake than for her own. Maybe this was to somehow help Emily learn to trust herself. It was the only way I could reconciling her desire to fly to the moon with her promise to Emily. “If we are ever separated, I will find some way to get to you, no matter what. I will get to you.” And here she was planning to separate herself from Emily.

Whatever the reasons, both my littlest Emily and my dearest Amelia had engraved indelible marks on the map of my heart.

Our latest paperback book, “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens,” is finally now available through Amazon around the world! I truly appreciate all of the warm wishes and positive comments from you, our readers. Your encouragement throughout the process made this a much better book than I would have been able to make on my own!