“Ollie’s Odyssey” is the new book by Shreveport children’s author and illustrator William Joyce. It joins a shelf of more than 50 books he’s written and illustrated over his career. This one is almost 300 pages with dozens of full-page illustrations (the most he’s put in a novel, he thinks). It’s a chapter book geared to the grade-school set.
Joyce says the story simmered on the back burner since he co-founded Moonbot Studios in Shreveport six years ago with a handful of employees. It’s about a young boy named Billy and his most treasured stuffed animal Ollie who is “toynapped” by a stuffed animal of much lesser stature in the hierarchy of toys. Joyce says there are themes of being lost, found and never forgotten.
“It’s this grand adventure that takes place in one night and over 10 city blocks, but if you’re a 6-year-old on a stormy night, and you’ve run out of the house to try to find your favorite toy, and your favorite toy is being held by this army of kind of scary, evil toys -- that’s a big adventure,” Joyce said.
True: the book is a nod to the “Toy Story” films in a sense. But Joyce, who was on the ground floor of Pixar designing characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear many moons ago, insists it was never on his mind.
This book has more in common with Winnie-the-Pooh, he says, in that moment when Christopher Robin has to tell Pooh he’s growing up and leaving the Hundred Acre Wood.
“Christopher Robin knows he’s moving on and Pooh does not, and Pooh maybe never really will. And that’s some of what I was tapping into here, except the toy has more maturity and wisdom than the boy,” Joyce said.
Joyce has put a call out to all people who will share their story of a beloved stuffed animal they never parted with. He’s sharing those photos on his Instagram. (A select few he intends to illustrate and send his drawing back to the owner.)
Joyce will have a signing at Barnes & Noble in Shreveport on Saturday, April 23, at 2 p.m. He heads to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend on his book tour.
“Ollie’s Odyssey” is published through Moonbot Studio’s imprint with Simon and Schuster, which includes “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” “The Michievians” and “The Numberlys.”