This is the story of a much beloved child, probably just like you are, or once were.
She’s interested in everything and everyone. She likes dancing and shopping and ice-creams and making lots and lots of noise. But mainly she’s interested in drawing.
Etta wants to be an artist. She may only be a child but she’s already a good artist… very good. See, take a look at this. Its a bird. Obviously! And she drew this little bird on her second birthday. Do you know any other children who can draw birds at that age?
Etta’s life was pretty similar to everyone else’s and Etta grew a little, then a little more. And before anyone was really aware that the time had passed, there she was – eight years old! Eight – can you believe it? She was tall and strong and was still mad about drawing. You’d think her friends and family would be pleased. You’d think she’d be praised for not spending her days in front of the television or computer games. But she wasn’t, because, by the age of eight, lovely creative Etta had retreated completely into the world of her drawings.
‘Put that pen down and come and eat your Sunday lunch,’ demanded her grandad.
‘Etta, stop staring at that pad, you need to get ready for school,’ shouted her mum.
‘Ettie, why will you never play with me? Why are you always drawing, drawing, drawing?’ moaned her little brother, Bobby.
And Ettie couldn’t answer. Wouldn’t answer. She just knew that she adored to draw.
If you’d asked her what she cared about most in the whole wide world, your would always get the same answer. Silence. Her love didn’t need discussion.
Even her school teachers were concerned. Etta didn’t play with other children, but instead she drew them and drew the worlds they inhabited. She was well liked at nursery, but by age eight her friends were beginning to lose patience with her. There wasn’t much fun to be had with a silent friend who never looked up from her sketchpad.
But one Saturday morning in the middle of the school summer holidays, when Etta was eight years old, things changed. They changed quite a lot.
Etta was snuggled in bed writing a story to accompany and explain a few of her more complex drawings – of angels and large dogs in cloaks… of a small dragon and a fashion designer who only wore high heeled shoes… and of a growing girl (herself) who seemed to get into more than a few imaginary scrapes.
‘I wonder,’ thought Etta, ‘if things would be more fun in a world where angels and small dragons and dogs in cloaks really did exist’. She didn’t think a wish could ever come true, and she didn’t think a wonder would come true either. Nevertheless, she willed herself to fall asleep and wake up in the strange place of her drawings, inhabited by sketched characters and fantasy inventions.
Etta wondered, and stayed in bed, she drew pictures, she ignored conversation requests, she ate meals, and she thought about getting dressed.
But she didn’t get dressed. Instead, she settled back on her pillow and fell into the most soft and warm drowning-in-marshmallows kind of sleep.
The first thing she noticed when she entered her dreamworld was that it was obviously a dreamworld. But it wasn’t the world she might have expected. The world was odd and for a while Etta just couldn’t work out what the problem was. But once she realised it, she was surprised she hadn’t noticed it earlier. She wasn’t in the world of her drawing, she was in the world behind her drawing. Her dog in a cloak that she’d drawn with so much care was there around her, but it was in front of her and she, Etta, was sandwiched between the back of her dog, and the front of the paper itself. It was as if her drawing a shape had brought it to life on another cut-out piece of paper and she was behind it. How strange. For, when you cut out a shape from a piece of paper, you’re usually left with a hole, not a flat piece of paper.
Another thing that was strange was the way Etta felt. She felt kind of squashed. Flat, in fact. She reached out to touch her face and found it was made of something like paper, only she couldn’t really feel it because she didn’t really seem to have those receptors in her hand. It was more like she heard it was paper rubbing against paper, rather than her fleshy hand feeling how crispy her face was. She was entirely made out of paper, that much was obvious, but she wasn’t afraid. Etta knew this was a dream and know that waking up from dreams brought you back to exactly where you were when you fell asleep. In fact, it was kind of fun to reach out and touch the green tree with brown trunk that she’d drawn at the side of her picture, and then to get more confident and decide to try and walk towards the unicorn who was protecting the kindly dragon. Everything was white of background, and Etta vowed she would always colour in her backgrounds from now on. The brightness of the background was blinding, and Etta immediately felt sorry for the unicorn, who could barely be seen against the background. She should have coloured the unicorn pale blue, she thought. But, as she walked towards it, she began to get afraid.
Unicorns were supposed to be gentle and magical and mystical. But this one (perhaps it was because it was flat) looked a little odd. With a face a cross between a donkey and a cow, and a body the shape of a guinea pig’s, Etta knew there were some problems with her sketch. She’d been just about to reach for her eraser to rub it out when she’d felt tired and fallen back to sleep.
The unicorn looked odd, and so did the dragon. In fact, the dragon’s huge nostrils peeping out from behind the unicorn’s tail, gave its face more of a horse like look than the unicorns. Etta was finding this disturbing. She wished she was a better artist, and also wished she had a friend to share it with. It was lonely in such a flat and peculiarly drawn world.
She woke, to her relief, and went down to the living room where everyone else was watching television. ‘Have you lost your drawing pad?’ asked mum. ‘I’m having a break from it,’ said Ettie.