Dan Santat is a master storyteller. I know. I’ve witnessed it first hand…well, through skype. You see, I’ve had the privilege to work (and learn) along side Dan over the past 6 or so years since we first met. And what an incredible privilege that is. I’ve seen him sculpt his stories from ideas and inklings into NYT Best sellers and a Caldecott winner. While we skype away on our “podcast”, we talk and often discuss the craft of story telling – “What makes ______ a good book?”. I can tell you that Dan is not someone who feels he can rest on his past successes. He asks this question because of how much he wants to tell the best stories possible, and in a sense, he demands it of his own work.
I believe After the Fall is Dan’s best work yet because of this.
After the Fall is special for many reasons. Dan’s use of color, his dramatic layouts, the design of the book-package as a whole, but one thing I think stands out even above those in After the Fall. His use of pacing.
Dan is extremely skilled at intentionally matching the pacing of his text and the page turn with the artwork. I think his relentless observation of story, in all forms that we consume, lend to this result. His use of pacing only emphasizes the colors, the moods and emotions, the dramatic layouts and his design.
After the Fall starts before we ever read a word. We’re into this story from the end papers, probably not even realizing it as we read the title page, and then finally on the first spread, we’re there. The familiar scene was set and we’ve just witnessed the accident that we all know about. Now we want to know what happens next.
The next couple pages we’re seeing the result of how Humpty’s fall affected him. The sentences are clear. The scenes are laid out and the text is split. We’re pausing to pass to the next sentence while our eyes are literally being carried across the details that Dan is wanting us to notice. Again. Intentional – but also very natural. If there was a lot of text, we’d likely miss some of the details. But it’s also not so short that we’re just skipping over things either.
There are times in this book where we’re able to take in a key moments that he wants us to slow down or speed up for. It will incorporate a mood shift. An emotional connection that he’s intentionally is wanting us to pick up as we carry on in the story and turn the page.
Through facing pages, multiple spot illustrations, but mostly beautiful scenic spreads, After the Fall is matching the pace it feels it should be read at. Meaning, by the end, it’s a story that feels absolutely completed. A book that doesn’t need to go back and be read again immediately because it doesn’t feel like we missed anything – it can wait until the next sitting. A trait that I think is shared with few other books.
Next time you’re reading a book (or writing one), consider the pacing. Does it feel like it’s connecting with you in the right way? Did the timing or mood of it feel a bit off, pausing or turning the page before you had processed it all? What about the anticipation of what was coming next? How well was the artwork aiding in these causes? These are things that I observe Dan doing and am learning to do so myself.
Extra special bonus note: Check this clipping from one of the spreads, eh. Notice it? (thanks, Dan!)
*Housekeeping from September 15th’s THERE’S NOTHING TO DO Post!
Now I also have to do the signed giveaway. Firstly, huge thank you to everyone who participated and commented last month.
To find the winner, I went to RANDOM.org and generated that the winner would be the 77th comment! (see->).
Congratulations to Traci Bold! I’ll be in touch and get that signed copy out to you asap!
Until next time!