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Chris the Bird

by andinadia 

Posted: 04 January 2015
Word Count: 1184
Summary: This started out as a response to Annie's challenge! It went through huge changes, starting out in rhyme (which rattled around my head to the tune of an old Robin Hood children's TV show theme music) and with the bird as an actual bird, before - through a random and delicious process - taking its final form. (a/w = artwork)

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Scene 1
Chris the Bird heard his mum getting into her car.
It was Saturday, but his mum was going to work. His dad called out to her, ‘Have a good meeting!’
(a/w: Dad and Chris the Bird are standing in the front doorway of their house, while Mum waves from the open window of her car. CtB – aged 5 – is wearing some kind of bird costume including a bird head. It is morning.)
Scene 2
It was Saturday, but his dad sat at his computer. He started to speak on the phone. Chris the Bird heard his dad say, 'I’ll send you some new pictures as soon as I can.'
‘When’s Mum coming back?’ asked Chris the Bird.
‘In a few hours,’ said his dad. ‘She has an important meeting.’
‘I’m going outside,’ said Chris the Bird.
'Have fun with your friends,' his dad said.
Chris the Bird took Babbit into the garden.
(a/w: Chris leaves through back door of kitchen, into the garden, holding Babbit the toy rabbit by the ears. We can see Dad’s office in the house – it’s quite a mess. There is a small fishpond in the garden. We might be able to see part of the tree house from spread 3 in this spread too.)
Scene 3
Chris the Bird saw a squirrel eating a peanut.
‘Have a good breakfast,’ Chris the Bird said to the squirrel.
‘Have a good … swim,’ he said to the fish in the pond.
Chris the Bird climbed up into his tree house.
(a/w: A tree house part way up the trunk of a tree in the garden. It’s not too high up – quite easy to get to for a 5 year old. A sign beside it, from a cardboard box, says This Way Up. Show the ‘glass symbol’ too.)
Scene 4
Chris the Bird decided to call his friends to an important meeting.
He called Shanks, the Roly Pony.
He called Purr.
Babbit was already in the tree house.
(a/w: In the tree house: Sign inside the tree house spells his name as Chris the Brid, with the ‘s’ the wrong way around. This marks his coat-hook. Shanks, Purr and Babbit have smaller coat hooks. There’s a table in the middle of the tree house, with some toy chairs around it. The spread includes a scene of CtB making a phone call on a colourful toy mobile with Babbit beside him, plus 2 vignettes of CtB on phone to each of the other two. CtB is in a different position for each phone call – maybe walking up and down, looking serious?)
Scene 5
Shanks and Purr came to the meeting.
Babbit was already there.
‘Thank you for coming to this meeting,’ said Chris the Bird. ‘It’s very important.’
(a/w: CtB carrying Shanks and Purr up to his tree house: maybe one in his arms and the other sticking out of a kind of duffel bag on CtB’s back? Shanks is a little squat toy pony. Purr is a toy cat.)
Scene 6
‘Today is Saturday,’ said Chris the Bird. ‘So we have to draw pictures. Shanks, you draw a picture of yourself. You too, Purr. And you, Babbit.’
Shanks did not reply. Nor did Purr or Babbit.
(a/w: CtB is getting coloured pencils and sheets of paper.)
Scene 7
Shanks couldn’t hold the pencils very well, so Chris the Bird helped her a bit.
Purr couldn’t draw a picture of herself. Cats are difficult to draw. Chris the Bird helped her.
Babbit did a lovely picture. Chris the Bird showed Babbit’s picture to the others.
(a/w: CtB holding up a picture of Babbit that he has drawn himself.)
Scene 8
Chris the Bird decided to hang the pictures outside the tree house.
A voice asked, ‘Who did those?’
Chris the Bird saw a face through the fence.
‘Who did those pictures?’ said the face. It was a girl’s voice.
Chris the Bird looked at Shanks the Pony. Then he looked at Purr, then at Babbit. None of them said a word. Then Chris the Bird looked at the girl.
‘They’re nice pictures,’ said the girl.
(a/w: The pictures are hanging/pinned up outside the tree house. Mira the girl next door is peering through the garden fence, and talking to Chris the Bird. She is the same age as CtB, and dressed in sarwal khameez. If we can see inside the tree house too, the three toy friends are sitting at the table.)
Scene 9
‘Do you live in that house?’ Chris the Bird asked the girl. He looked at the house next door.
‘We just moved here,’ said the girl. ‘Do you live in that tree house?’
‘Do you want to see it?’ asked Chris the Bird.
He showed the girl how to get through the hedge.
(a/w: CtB and the girl chat across the fence)
Scene 10
The girl climbed into the tree house. ‘Hello, everyone,’ she said. ‘I’m Meena. You must be Shanks. And you’re Purr, and you’re Babbit!’
They did not reply. Maybe they were a little shy.
Meena looked around the tree house.
‘Are you Chris?’ she asked Chris the Bird. ‘Where’s your picture? I can draw a picture of you!’
(a/w: Meena is looking at the name ‘Chris the Brid’. The three toy friends are still sitting at the table.)
Scene 11
Chris the Bird gave Meena a piece of paper and a pencil. She drew a picture of Chris the Bird. It was not a bad picture.
Then Chris started to draw a picture of Meena.
Chris the Bird’s dad called from the house, ‘Chris, do you want some milk and biscuits?’
(a/w: Chris is about to draw a picture of Meena. We cannot see Meena’s picture of CtB. CtB and Meena are looking up, at the sound of dad’s voice.)
Scene 12
Chris the Bird took Meena by the hand. They went down into the garden.
Chris the Bird heard his mum’s car stopping outside the house. Then he heard his mum talking to someone.
‘That’s my mum,’ said Meena.
Chris the Bird took Meena into the kitchen. The milk and biscuits were on the table.
(a/w: CtB is walking into the kitchen from the garden, leading Meena by the hand. The table has been set with milk and biscuits for CtB, as well as three extra places of milk and biscuits. Dad’s back is turned.)
Scene 13
Chris the Bird’s mum and Meena’s mum came in. Everyone said hello.
‘Aren’t your friends coming for milk and biscuits, Chris?’ asked his mum. She sat at the table. Meena’s mum sat at the table too.
'No,' said Chris. 'Just Meena and me.'
(a/w: CtB and Meena are sitting on their chairs. CtB has removed the bird head from his own head. Chris’ mum and Meena’s mum are about to sit down too. Chris’ dad is in the background, bringing a tray of three mugs of tea and biscuits.)
Scene 14 (single page)
(a/w: Meena’s picture of Chris. The name under it simply says ‘Chris’, spelled correctly.)

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Comments by other Members

Freebird at 14:15 on 06 January 2015  Report this post
Hi Andy,

it's really interesting to read about the process your mind went through to get to this point!  Chris the Bird (I kept thinking 'Chris de Burgh' in my head - shows my age!) reminds me very much of Christopher Robin, with his animal friends and the way things aren't spelled right. I could easily picture the treehouse.

I like the way you incorporated the things that Chris perceived as being 'grown-up' work (a meeting, the phone, some pictures) into his day.
I would have liked a bit more of a twist or reveal at the end, but it's a lovely, warm story about moving on from imaginary friends once the real thing comes along - and I love the picture using the cardboard box 'This Way Up' to show the way up the tree. That's a brilliant touch.

andinadia at 17:28 on 06 January 2015  Report this post
Thanks, Sarah. I still have the draft lines from the early incarnation:
a/w 1: Outrageously dressed bird, rather camp, wearing overlarge and possibly expensive headphones, strutting down suburban street which has evidence of some strange household 'improvements' and some odd street signs (not sure what yet). Signs of 'town' on skyline. 
Oh my word, it’s Chris the Bird,
Off to town again.
Chris the Bird, all feathered and furred,
Going to meet his friends.
You can see how far it travelled after that! The turning point came when I started to imagine where Chris actually lived, and realised that a low level tree house would be a great location for the main part of the story. The idea of having Meena as an Asian Muslim neighbour came after I'd done the first draft. It seemed to work - it provides even more of a contrast with the Chris character.

Thank you for your comments. As for the twist, well it's just the fact that we get to see (in the artwork) just how far the three toys had become a 'living' part of his life, and were accepted as such by his own parents. Then the final one-page artwork adds a further dimension to Meena (ie, a good drawing, with correct spelling!) - although the young reader may only 'get' this after several readings perhaps. The satisfaction in the ending is supposed to be as much in the future that it promises as in the surprise that it delivers.

(Btw, Chris de Burgh was in my mind too! But 'family readers' have wondered whether Chris is an appropriate name, given that very few 5 year olds these days would be called Chris...)

Looking fwd to other commenters ... wink

a.m.edge at 11:13 on 07 January 2015  Report this post
Hi andy - I like this too;  a gentle message revealed in a gentle way. I like the way the mum is a modern mum off to work, yet it's hard on the kids if any parent has to work on a Saturday when the kids are off school.A couple of points.
Spread 1: "Chris the Bird heard his mum getting into the car" - apart from the rhyme within the line here - which is quite nice - the description seems to contradict the a/w "Dad and Chris the Bird are standing in the front doorway of their house". Surely he sees her getting into the car. 
 I like the line in scene 5 "Thanks you for coming to this meeting," said Chris the Bird "It's very important." but I wonder if more could be made of this in the story. Maybe Meena calls Chris the Bird down but he reiterates that he can't come down because he has a "very important meeting." Maybe she asks him about the pictures and he says he can't answer because of the 'very important meeting'. He can't help her through the fence for the same reason. I'm just thinking that part of the reason Chris the Bird is  dressed as a bird is because both his mum and dad are too busy to play with him, and that's important too.
Equally, if mum is going to return to the story, the reason has to be more explicit, I think. Does she let slip that the meeting wasn't so important after all? Does she buy something for Chris on the way back? Does she call him Chris the Bird when she greets him and he says that's not his name anymore? I think that the way the mum behaves at the end helps build your theme.
It made me think, which is always a good thing. Would make the parent reader think as well as the child.

andinadia at 12:46 on 07 January 2015  Report this post
Thanks, Annie. Great comments.

In scene 1 I was suggesting a slight passage of time before the scene that's shown in the artwork. Will review!

I like your ideas about accentuating the important meeting but I think I need to keep the fact that Meena is a new neighbour and that Chris would probably not answer that he was busy in a meeting when she calls out. Again, need to rethink.

Interesting point about the mum's return.

Was the name 'Chris' Ok with you?

a.m.edge at 10:16 on 08 January 2015  Report this post
I suppose, in a way, it is a bit 1970's. Harry seems popular in kids' books these days. Sam could be a viable substitution? Or just go with your gut instinct and leave it.

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