I am delighted to welcome Tracey Corderoy to the blog today for a special guest post to celebrate the release of the latest Shifty McGifty instalment ‘The Diamond Chase’ wonderfully written by Tracey Corderoy with divine illustrations from Steven Lenton.
‘From Sneaking and Swag Bags to Top Secret Buns!’ The Development of Shifty and Sam…’
Throughout the three Shifty and Sam picture books, the boys go on a journey. They begin as robbers, then become bakers, and finally they turn their (chef-y) paddy-paws to solving crime.
But right from the start I needed my audience to really feel connected to the dogs. In short, I needed the boys to be instantly lovable.
How as a writer, though, do you pave the way for this instant affection, even love? Especially when your main characters are – well – BAD!
Writing about baddies certainly has its challenges. On the one hand showing your characters’ flaws to the world, whilst trying to make them likeable is risky. But likable they have to be for children to root for them, and love them.
The key to this fine juggling act, I feel, is helping readers see character traits in the dogs that they also recognise in themselves. They need to identify with them in some way.
So how can children identify with my robbers when they, themselves, are (thankfully!) not crooks?!
Well, it’s the personalities behind the crime that we can, perhaps, see some part of ourselves in. We can identify with some of Shifty and Sam’s flaws, for we too may well share certain character traits the dogs have.
What are these character traits then? In the first book, ‘Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam’ the dogs feel a range of sad/conflicting emotions and they feel them very deeply. We can identify with some of their issues and concerns.
Firstly, they are bad at something. Ok, so the thing they are bad at is robbing. And if you are going to be bad at something, being bad at robbing, I guess, is probably good. But not for Shifty and Sam it isn’t. And we all know how we feel when, try as we might, a distinct lack of skill leaves us feeling gloomy and despondent.
Shifty and Sam are never short of ideas to put things right, though. They might sometimes be misled, but they never give up. When thwarted, they formulate new plans. And even when their life of crime is behind them, they are never short of ideas to help solve crimes now.
In book one, the dogs come up with a way forward twice. Once to rob…
…and once when their neighbours suggest ‘alternative employment’. Then they are brave enough to change track completely and try something totally new – BAKING!…
Sam peered from the window
and fluffed up his hat.
“No more robbing!” he nodded.
“We’re done with all that!”
Also, Shifty and Sam are far from boring or passive. On the contrary, they are full of a sense of adventure. And children, I think, will identify with their spirit.
In the second and third books, the baking buddies use the knowledge they have of crime to trap baddies now. So they quickly roll up their chef-y sleeves and get involved in dynamic captures…
And they formulate clever courses of action by cunningly working out challenging clues…
I think that children love it when there’s a problem to be solved, and they very much admire those who get on and solve it!
It was brilliant to test their resolve in book two, (‘The Cat Burglar’) when scheming Kitty-Le-Claw comes to town. And wonderful to give them, in book three, (‘The Diamond Chase!’) a case to solve which is not black and white. (Although of course it is as the robber, Sidney Scarper, is a penguin!).
Here they have a really tricky case to get to grips with…
…but our dynamic duo certainly don’t disappoint!
Finally, through thick and thin, Shifty and Sam are a TEAM. They share their worries, their successes, and their failures. In short, they have the kind of friendship that hopefully children (and adults alike) are drawn to and want to be a part of.
When life is good – or bad – Shifty and Sam are always
there for each other.
As well as colleagues, they are best friends too.
A huge thank you to Tracey for her fantastic guest post today I’m really looking forward to finding out more about Shifty McGifty later on in the tour. If you have missed any of the blog tour you can still join in and read more fantastic guest posts from Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton.
Thank you to Dom Kingston and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this gorgeous book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.