If you as an adult can come up with a good answer to that question in a second, you definitely deserve a prize. Try asking that question to any child and you will be amazed by how much they can come up in seconds.
My work at MerryGoBooks gives me the pleasure of asking that question, especially when I get a chance to meet the child for whom, the book is to be made. It is an absolute joy to see that sparkle in their eyes, when they understand that they are going to be the hero in a story specially written for them. That’s when we set off on a fabulous trip to their land of imagination where practical constraints of the adult world fail to apply. The feeling that they can be anything they want in a book appears to be a very fascinating thought. I have received very interesting requests such as eye surgeon, a painter painting a fresco of a peacock, an airplane pilot who saves lives, a super hero like Flash and so on. One even wanted to know if I can magically produce her book as soon as we finished discussing!
Some, given a chance go into a lot of detail. One child made the effort to draw his character in his preferred costume and coloured it in his favourite colour. He followed it up, ensured I had his specifications and illustrated his character in similar lines. Another wanted to wear glasses as he felt it made him look “brainy”.
Reactions on seeing themselves in the finished product
Many a time, I am unable to meet the child either because they don’t live in the same city or the book is meant to be a surprise. In such times, I work with the information given to me by the client and try to incorporate things that the child likes as well as people whose company the child enjoys.
One client wanted to give a book as a surprise to a child whom she knows. The child, she told me is averse to reading and does not really enjoy books that much. In other words the expectation from the book was to trigger some interest in books. When the book reached her, I was told that she gave it an indifferent look. When someone insisted on reading it out to her, she reluctantly agreed to sit. When she realised that it was herself in a story book, she was so thrilled that she went running around the house, telling anyone she could find, that she and her best friend were actually in the book!
Allowing several levels of customisation allows me to create books for book lovers as well as those who hate books. That gives me a variety of experiences, one among which deserves special mention here. The other day I received a call. The voice on the other side sounded really young and I for a minute thought it was some kid playing with the phone. Thankfully, I did not keep the phone down as it turned out that the kid loved the book that I created for him and wanted a second one in which he overcomes a completely new challenge. I must sign off now and attend to his order. I could receive a call anytime soon.