So explains Karla Strambini, author and illustrator of “The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty”. One glance at Mr Qwerty, however, would indicate that he is anything but normal. For example, six fingers on each hand (well five fingers and a thumb to be anatomically correct), and in what appears to be a numerical obsession with the number six, there is six toothbrushes, six teacups, six boiled eggs for breakfast and his morning alarm clock is set for 6 o’clock.
And then there is Mr Qwerty’s name, Norman Qwerty, both first and last names have six letters. Qwerty is of course the name given to the keyboard design used for typewriters and computers, so-named after the first six letters on the top left row of the keyboard Q-W-E-R-T-Y.
In the first spread of “The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty” (below), we are introduced to Mr Qwerty waking up in his room surrounded by a combobulation of robotic contraptions, doohickeys and doodads, seemingly invented by Mr Qwerty to automate his everyday tasks. When I first set eyes on this book it made me think of “What Miscellaneous Abnormality is That?” by Shaun Tan. Mr Qwerty’s black and white line drawings of organic gadgetry are reminiscent of some of Shaun Tan’s creature concept drawings.
Norman Qwerty is what could best be described as an ideas man and inventor of all things weird and wonderful, however, he worries that people think him odd and his ideas too bizarre for public consumption, so he keeps them to himself and hidden firmly under his hat. He feels completely alone.
One day, his ideas escaped from under his hat and grew so big that he just has to do something about them. So he went to work building a magical, dream machine that could actualise his ideas. Brainchild goes in one end and out the other a fully materialised idea is hatched. But this invention wasn’t just for Mr Qwerty’s ideas alone; he made it available to all so everybody’s schemes, dreams and imaginings could come to fruition. “The world from that moment forth, was never quite the same…and Mr Qwerty was never alone.” Reminds me of a quote from Zig Ziglar…
You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.Zig Ziglar
“The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty” is the debut creation of Australian author and illustrator Karla Strambini. Her interest and passion were always in illustration, but because she couldn’t study art locally, she ended up with a degree in English Literature. Much like her character Mr Qwerty, Karla never gave up on her passion and desire to write and illustrate picture books. When her two children were almost grown up, she decided to embark on a new journey of studies and graduated with a Diploma of Visual Arts, which is when she wrote the first version of Mr Qwerty’s story.
The words are sparse in this picture book, distilled to one or two deceptively simple but tailor-made lines per page. Much of the story is told through its quaint illustrations. Karla’s illustrations are especially engaging with her detailed cross-hatching style of black and white drawings on taupe background. The monochromatic colour palette of these drawings is vivified by some judiciously placed coloured accents – red tie, blue curtains, blue scarf, red “Q” signature imprinted on Mr Qwerty’s creations. Abstract ideas are brilliantly conveyed through visual symbols emblematic of various ideas ‘growing’ on or inside people’s hats. There are so many delightful details to discover which may at first be overlooked by a cursory perusal.
For those young (and not so young) aspiring inventors or anyone who has kept an idea or two tucked under their hat, this picture book may provide the motivational nudge to get those ideas out of your head and into the world. It may even inspire a future Richard Branson or two to think outside the confines of the conventional and the ordinary. With flights to Mars no longer science fiction, who knows where the inspired minds of the future like “The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty” will take us to?
Title: “The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty”
Author and illustrator: Karla Strambini
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Published: 1st August 2013