Montreal author Matt Forsythe’s latest picture book, Pokko and the Drum, tells the story of a young frog who ventures out from her quiet, comfortable existence when her parents give her a precious gift. A delightful tale about art, persistence, and expressing one’s self, the book also has just enough of an edge to make it a treat for parents as well as children.
Pokko lives with her parents in a mushroom in the forest. Without fully thinking through the repercussions, her parents give her a drum, which she takes to right away. Unable to cope with the incessant noise, Pokko’s father convinces her to take her drum out into the forest. “But just don’t make too much noise,” he says.
What follows is a wonderful adventure for Pokko and the forest creatures. In addition to sharp, witty writing, Forsythe’s illustrations are absolutely stunning with lush, saturated images. Aimed at children ages 4–8, Pokko offers a gentle lesson about individuality and community as well as art and self-expression. It’s about literally marching to the beat of your own drum… and bringing others along for the ride.
Forsythe, an award-winning author/illustrator, got his start as a comic book artist, a medium he finds very close to the work he does now. “In terms of visual storytelling, I don’t really see a difference between the two. They’re just paced differently, one with page turns and the other with panels,” Forsythe says.
Before setting off to write his own stories, Forsythe illustrated several children’s books, including The Gold Leaf, written by Kirsten Hall, which won the Bull-Bransom Award for wildlife art. He also spent a few years as lead character designer on the popular animated series, Adventure Time.
Pokko, however, was completely his own creation. “There were several times while making this book where I thought, Ugh, I wish I could remove this text or add this bit,” he said. “Then I realized I could do whatever I wanted. I’m the writer. It was a good feeling.”
The book was released at the beginning of October. Forsythe will be at Drawn & Quarterly bookstore on Bernard St. on Nov. 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. signing copies of his book.