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With “GOLD,” children’s book author David Shannon mines an ancient story with a new twist

Children’s author and illustrator David Shannon is back with his first foray into Greek mythology and rhyming narrative, “GOLD!”

A retelling of the classic tale of King Midas, the story follows Maximillian Midas, a young boy with love in his heart for one thing, and one thing only, “GOLD!” Gold statues, fountains, trinkets of all kinds and a castle to top it all off.

But no matter how high his treasure trove grows, Maxie realizes the lonelier and greedier he gets, the less the gold belongs to him and the more he belongs to it.

“I wanted to write a story of greed,” said Shannon, who grew up in Spokane. “A greedy person is not a happy person – there’re a lot of stories about how greed hurts everybody around you, but I wanted to focus on the fact that greed also isolates the greedy person.”

The story of Midas is so ubiquitous, Shannon explained, he can hardly remember the first time he heard it.

“I’m always jotting down ideas,” he said. “And one day this just popped into my head.”

The structure of the work is similar to some of Shannon’s longer form works like “A Bad Case of Stripes.” But unlike his other works, Shannon decided to write the story in verse.

“Maybe it’s because so many words rhyme with gold,” he said, but the rhymes almost seemed to write themselves.

Either way, the structure helped maintain a more lighthearted atmosphere in a story that might otherwise have felt too heavy for his intended audience.

Shannon became well known as a children’s author and illustration for books like his “David” series – the first of which, “No, David!” was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1999 – as well as “Good Boy, Fergus” and “Duck on a Bike.”

Working as a writer and illustrator brings its own set of challenges, Shannon explained. With the storyline all but finished, he set to work on the illustrations. And as much of a burden the gold proves to be for Maxie, painting it on nearly every page proved similarly challenging for Shannon.

“Gold is so shiny and reflective and since, in the book, there’s so much of it, it took a long time,” he said, explaining how he had to experiment with his oil paints along the way, creating different effects. “I didn’t want it to look cold and metallic as much as I wanted it to look kind of enticing.”

It was important, he explained, to make it look fun at first.

“He’s got a castle on a gold mountain, he’s rolling around in his gold – at that point, he’s having fun,” Shannon said. “But what he doesn’t realize is it’s taking over his soul.”

Through the story, Shannon hopes to highlight where true happiness is found.

“Genuine happiness comes from friends and family and enjoying life and being able to appreciate everything around you,” he said.

“Gold!” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore (402 W. Main Ave.) and online through Wishing Tree Books at wishingtreebookstore.com.

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