Start with what writer Matthew Swanson describes as ten “stories about people with really awful lives,” add the delightful, Quentin Blake-ish illustrations of Robbi Behr (Swanson’s wife), chop it all up into flippable panels, and you’ve got the recombinant narrative of Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings, published recently by Chronicle Books. We asked writer Mariam Aldhahi to take a closer look at this book of fractured fairy tales.
Flip through the first few pages of Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings and you’ll be abruptly introduced to a pretty twisted duo.
The book’s introduction, originally nothing more than the usual run-through of what you’re reading and why, is covered in red-ink redactions and rewrites courtesy of the illustrator half of this husband/wife team. We are greeted with a “Hello Sucker!!” and quickly advised that we’ve just wasted $20 on ten-thousand “god-awful” stories only saved by an accompanying ten-thousand “breathtaking” illustrations. Suddenly, you’re confused, a little uncomfortable, and yet completely taken.
The concept is simple enough—each page is divided into four turnable mini-pages that mix and match to create ten-thousand different story combinations, each topped off with its own eccentric illustration. We are handed the reigns and encouraged to “choose our own disaster” by letting the flaps fall where they may.