Sozi had an idea. In fact, she had hundreds.’ But as we all know it’s what you do with that idea that counts.
Her Idea charts an idea from its realisation until its completion. Rilla Alexander uses her regular alter-ego Sozi to guide us through this tale, and Sozi is helped along the way by a friendly book which she uses to capture and cement her ideas in so they don't escape. The ideas themselves are presented as quick, slim little beings who frolic and leap around the pages as nimble, mischievous and slippery as that first inkling of an idea can be. They are cheeky, joyful and hard to pin down. Rilla’s rhyming text and limited colour palette gives the book a striking energy, her line is confident and energetic, and we love how the thought process is captured in contemplative green while the ‘doing’ is optimistic sunshine yellow.
The book has a lovely cyclical aspect to it. Sozi has an idea, her friend the book helps her to capture the idea; Sozi’s idea is to make a book with herself in it, and what do we the reader physically have? We have a book about Sozi; a book that has holes cut into the cover so when it is opened out it looks exactly like the book that features as a character in our book. These holes also serve as the spaces where the idea enters and exits the book. A lot of time has been spent thinking about every aspect of the production of this book, though the real star of the show is Rilla Alexander’s idea.
What Rilla has cleverly done is to make a picture book all about the creative process. She captures the glorious thrill of a new idea; the flush of excitement that comes with it, how magnificent this idea will be! But after the thrill of that first flurry of thoughts the idea grows, many minutes and hours are spent reshaping and recalculating it, the idea grows and grows until suddenly the task becomes sprawling and immense. Rilla perfectly captures the procrastination and stagnation that these feelings can bring. She illustrates this by crumpling the ideas which then grow into a huge pile which transforms into a snapping, snarling monster that chases the last of her ideas away; we have stumbled up this particular creative block so many times. What do you do when the excitement fades and dissolves into despair? The most important thing, we learn from Sozi, is to finish, to reach the end. Our favourite moment is when Sozi works into the night and shakes her fist at this creature created from failed attempts, and when morning finally comes the wind carries it away.
Her Idea is what it feels like to make something, to make anything from nothing. What bliss it seems, what actual hard work it takes, how many trials and errors are needed. Not only is this book a great reminder of that but it also serves as a great encourager. It reminds us to keep going, that we will get over this creative hump, that our idea can be realised, that it can be great, that it can be done as long as we work until the end: as long as we finish what we start. Rilla Alexander has made a book that is sure to resonate with creatives everywhere, giving them hope.