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A Rhyming Tale

In Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind, Gary Ross tells the story of an adventurous boy

December 07, 2012
COURTESY CHRONICLE BOOKS

Filmaker Gary Ross is the author of his first children's book, Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind.

Gary Ross is the writer, director and producer behind the film versions of popular books like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Desperaux, and Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. Now, Ross is creating his own source material with the release of his first original book for kids, Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind. The 92-page book, illustrated by Matthew Myers, is written entirely in rhyming verse. It tells the tale of a boy who uses his bed sheet to fly and goes on an adventure, where he encounters three very different worlds.

Ross stopped by the TFK offices, in New York City, to chat about the book. Read the Q&A below, then scroll down or click here to watch Ross read an excerpt from Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind, available now in bookstores.

TFK:

Your book, Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind, has been nearly 20 years in the making, correct?

ROSS:

Really, I probably wrote most of it over the last three years. [In the 90s], a friend of mine asked me to write a children’s story for a movie he was making that one character could read to her child when she was putting him to sleep. I said, “Sure, if it can rhyme,” because I always loved to rhyme. I just wrote a few stanzas, and he put it in the movie. In the years that followed, a lot of people wrote in about those lines and said, “Where can we buy this kid’s book? This sounds wonderful, Bartholomew Biddle.” But it didn’t exist. So I started to think that maybe I should [write the whole book].

It’s, of course, all in verse, but it’s a narrative. It’s not difficult to read like a poem would be. The rhyme just makes it more fun, and I think it’s a different way to read a book. It’s an adventure story, so it was a blast to write.

TFK:

What inspired the character himself, this very curious, adventurous boy?

ROSS:

Well I think everybody’s adventurous, right? It’s just a question of unlocking it. We all have a desire to break out of where we are and the things that hold us back. Everybody wants to take that kind of a journey, even if it’s in the mind. But Bartholomew doesn’t really follow the rules as much as he probably should. He has his own mind, he’s very independent and he has wanderlust. He wants to take a big bite out of the world.

TFK:

Bartholomew visits three different worlds: the island of pirates, the oppressive school and the canyon. What does each of these places symbolize?

ROSS:

When he goes to this world where the pirates are, they live only for pleasure, which is fun for a little while, but it’s like too much dessert. At a certain point, Bartholomew realizes that pleasure is best enjoyed when it’s a part of your life, not all of your life.

At the school that he then visits, he sees a lot of kids. It’s a very oppressive place. There is no color or life to it, and it has so many rules that the kids are just crumbling under the weight of that. I think a lot of kids relate to that. Bartholomew really embraces his freedom, so he helps another boy who is there learn to embrace his. There’s a lot of stuff we learn in school, but one of the things we also need to learn is how to be free and be our own person.

Then the last place Bartholomew goes is this canyon of the winds. Everybody who has ever been hit by a high wind was blown into this place, and so there’s a balloonist, a golfer, pioneers in a covered wagon, Amelia Earhart . . . So he meets a lot of adventurers like himself, who have taken that big leap. But Bartholomew has a desire to get out, where a lot of them lost it over time, so he keeps that alive in himself in order to go home because, let’s face it, everybody wants to go home.

TFK:

There are a lot of lessons and things that Bartholomew learns embedded into each of the places. Are these things that you taught your own kids when they were growing up?

ROSS:

Well, I taught them or they taught me. (Laughs) The big secret parents always keep is how much we learn from our kids. It’s about growing up and how much you experience and [how] it makes you a fuller, richer, deeper person, and I think that’s what happens to Bartholomew. He grows up enough to want to go home.

TFK:

Will there be more adventures for Bartholomew in the future?

ROSS:

That’s a good question. I think quite possibly. He does have that bed sheet, so there are other places he can go.


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