THE WIZARD AND KING WHIFFLEGROAN
Sheila Bailey, Author, Illustrator
In a faraway kingdom, a smelly young King Whifflegroan refuses to take a bath. "The tiniest whiff of him made everyone else feel sick." He is driven to distraction from the swarms of flies that follow him everywhere. Exhausted from swatting them with his royal scepter (a rather large fly swatter), he orders the royal Wizard to banish all bugs from his kingdom. "From the swampiest cow pasture to the nastiest garbage heap, I want no more bugs!"
"Sently sire," coaxed the Wizard, "the flies are your loyal subjects, too. They are as important to your kingdom as I. If you did not smell the way you do, they would not buzz and swarm about you so."
However, his "Stinkiness" does not care if he meddles with nature. The reluctant Wizard obeys the King's orders asking for only one favor. "When you change your mind and ask me to bring back the bugs…you will take a bath that day and every day from that day forth."
The unexpected consequences for the environment drive everyone from the kingdom, not just the insects. Only the wizard's mightiest spell and the cooperation of a now wiser king restore order. The wizard brings everyone home, and the king takes a bath every day of his life and all live happily ever after.
THE WIZARD AND KING WHIFFLEGROAN is a humorous look at a serious issue: the delicate balance of ecology and our environment. It can't hurt in the reluctant bath-taker department either.
I was seven, three of us kids were sitting under the big pine trees in
Aaron Hemming’s back yard. Aaron thought it would be a good idea for us
to decide what we were going to do when we grew up. He thought if we got
things all figured out now, we’d get a good running start at what we wanted
to do as grown-ups.
After five minutes (which was an eternity for a seven-year-old) David Olsen announced that he was going to have a beautiful wife, lots of kids, and be an inventor. We all agreed that it was a good plan for David; David was the smartest of us.
Aaron went next. “I’m going to be a sports hero.” That was no surprise to David and me. Aaron was already our hero. He could run faster and jump higher than any kid we knew.
I went last. “I’m going to be an artist,” I said loud enough for all five of the pine trees to hear. Aaron and David solemnly nodded. It was a good plan for me. We relaxed back against the biggest tree. The future was set.
Maybe there was magic in those pines or perhaps the universe was paying a lot of attention to three small children that day. It’s now thirty-something years and eleven million pots of coffee later. I haven’t seen David or Aaron for twenty years but I’ve heard through the grapevine that David is married with kids. He became an engineer and invents things all the time. The last I heard of Aaron, he was teaching sports, and if he’s the same kid I knew, he’s everyone’s hero. Me, I’m a children’s book artist. I feel fortunate and grateful that I have what I want, and as I look back on that day, I realize that Aaron was wise beyond his years. Perhaps he never knew it, but I’ve learned that half of getting anything is figuring out what you want.
The other half is hard work. Becoming a children’s book illustrator was not easy for me. I’m moderately dyslexic, and my condition made high school down right awful for me. When the mother of one of my friends told me, “High School is the best time of a person’s life—the dating, the dances, the wonderful teachers—you should be having the time of your life!” I thought, “My life is in big, big trouble if this is the best part.”
Naturally, when I graduated from high school and it was time to enroll in college, I had decided not to endure another four years of school. I got my courage up and let my mom know that I was going to get a job, not go to college, and save her a lot of money. But she would have none of my plan. She insisted and insisted that I go to college. And in the end, I did, but I decided to major in the easiest area I could think of…art!
Easy? Boy, was I misinformed. Art required lots of determination and hours of daily work just to keep up with assignments. It was too late to turn back; my school life was getting bleaker and bleaker. Just at this moment life sent me to Lee Tacang, and suddenly my whole life turned around.
Lee was a life drawing teacher and an artist. Lee loved his life. And he loved his students, too. He treated us all with respect and sensitivity. I was no longer an unremarkable dim-witted student, I was Sheila, a person.
Lee often went to coffee with his students. He treated us all like individuals and cared about what we had to say. I was hooked on art. I had a mentor, a real teacher who believed in me. Suddenly I believed in me. But San Jose State did not. When I applied to the Graphic Design School I was turned down. The head of the art department thought my portfolio was not up to minimum standards. I could not declare a major in the art department.
Ha! I didn’t let it get me down. The art department chair could stop me from declaring graphic design as a major, but he couldn’t keep me from taking the art classes if they weren’t full. So, every semester I’d show up for the art classes. I wasn’t on the roster, but I’d start doing the work and wait for someone to drop the class—and someone always did. I’d be the only person who had done the class work, and I could add the class. It took me five years to get through college that way. Finally a semester or two before I graduated I was allowed to declare an art major at State. I was the most tenacious student any of my professors had ever seen.
My last fall at State was the fulfillment of all my dreams and aspirations. I was the first student hired in ten years by Hallmark Cards as an illustrator. For me, it was a dream come true. Little did I know it was just the start of a magical adventure that would lead me to illustrate, and at last write, children’s books.
Hallmark was wonderful. I grew as an illustrator, my talent and art techniques were encouraged to develop, and my co-workers were friendly and helpful. There was only one problem: Hallmark was located in the middle of the USA! I haven’t mentioned it before now, but I’ve always been an avid surfer. I dream of the ocean when I’m not near it. After two years of dreaming about the ocean two or three times a week, I realized I had to return to the West Coast. Finally, I moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon, where I now live. I got a good-paying job designing TV sets for a film company, but I was not happy.
It was here, in Lake Oswego, in part because of the effect another friend, Bruce McKean, had on me, that I became a children’s book illustrator. It was Bruce who taught me that the power in my life, or anyone’s life, is in the present. It is right now. It’s not yesterday and it’s not tomorrow. If you’re not happy with your work life, then it’s up to you to change it. And it might as well be now.
One day I decided to act on my dreams. I had saved enough money to quit my job, so I did. My colleagues were supportive of my decision, and to this day I’m friends with them.
I decided to spend my life learning to paint like my heroes—Jessie Wilcox Smith, Gennady Spirin, Lane Smith, Nicola Bayley, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham and my beloved Dr. Suess. Yes, I know, this is like shooting for the stars, but if you don't aim high you'll never get anywhere. Maybe Bruce taught me that, too.
Soon I got my first break—I was hired to illustrate We’re All Special, a picture book from Portunus Publishing Company. That was five years ago. Since then, I’ve illustrated some 26 different books, many with major publishers, and many for the education market.
I wrote The Wizard and King Whifflegroan because I’ve always wanted to do a story that got across a serious message about the environment in a humorous way. I wanted a whimsical story, illustrated in a cartoon style that I thought kids would respond to, and the only way I could do it was to be both author and illustrator. So I did! Aaron and Mom and Lee and Bruce would be proud, and I thank them more than anybody.
That’s how I became a children’s book author and illustrator. I don’t think I’d change a thing.