The Exquisite Corpse Adventure | Various

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is a collaborative effort between the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, the Library of Congress’s Centre for the Book and 20 high profile US authors and illustrators.

The story begins with a train rushing through the night as twins Joe and Nancy begin a quest to rescue their parents. What happens next is a progressive story that gets passed from author to author, illustrator to illustrator.

The game is played by M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Fredrick L McKissack, Patricia C McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket & Chris Van Dusen.

Unfortunately this makes for a very hit and miss affair. The first 10 episodes are chaotic. Too many characters are introduced; sub-plots come and go and the whole thing feels very disjointed…until episode 12 and Lemony Snicket!

Lemony Snicket manages to bring a semblance of plot, direction and coherence into the melee with his philosophical, big picture style of writing. The following authors maintain this standard for a few more chapters before it lapses back into confusion.

It falls to Snicket in episode 22 to once again pull all the threads together in a way that gives the following authors an end point in sight. Katherine Paterson wraps it all up best as she can.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is an interesting exercise with a worthy agenda. I’m sure there is a technical literary term for such a story, but I cannot think what it is. It could be useful to teachers wanting to showcase different writing & drawing styles. But as a coherent story it fails miserably.

Ever heard of an Exquisite Corpse? It’s not what you might think. An Exquisite Corpse is an old game in which people write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold it over to conceal part of it and pass it on to the next player to do the same. The game ends when someone finishes the story, which is then read aloud.

Our “Exquisite Corpse Adventure” works this way: Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has written the first episode, which is “pieced together out of so many parts that it is not possible to describe them all here, so go ahead and just start reading!” He has passed it on to a cast of celebrated writers and illustrators, who must eventually bring the story to an end.

Every two weeks, there will be a new episode and a new illustration. The story will conclude a year from now. To get bi-weekly updates with new Exquisite Corpse Adventure chapters, click on the subscribe link at the top of the page. “This story starts with a train rushing through the night….” No one knows where or how it will end!

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