We are so pleased to share this fantastic blog post sharing some insight into the amazing book, The Spots and the Dots by author Helen Baugh!
I haven’t written many books, but The Spots and the Dots means the most to me by far.
The book is unusual, in that it has two covers and tells the same story twice. From one way up, we hear the story from the perspective of the red Spots, who live on one side of a big hill. But they never venture over to the other side, thanks to a warning that’s been passed down through the generations.
The Spots are convinced that the Dots are child-snatching monsters, but nobody knows what they’ve done to deserve this reputation. Perhaps there really was a rogue Dot, way back when. Or maybe somebody spread a vicious rumour because they were jealous of the Dots’ superior bouncing abilities. Who knows?! Certainly not today’s Spots!
From the other way up – the other side of the story – we hear things from the Dots’ perspective. But their story is exactly the same.
When I had the idea for this book, I was working as a copywriter on a range of charity accounts. The suffering I heard about and saw as a result, often involving children, was extreme. Some of it was the result of disease or natural disasters, but some of it was man-made and avoidable.
The Spots and the Dots came about in response to needless, man-made suffering like this. In the book, ignorance and prejudice and fear don’t ruin children’s lives, or end them. Instead, empathy and acceptance and friendship win the day.
By featuring identical twin stories, I hoped to demonstrate the importance of trying to see things from another perspective. I also used the device to try and emphasise the dangers and absurdities of prejudice and to suggest that we all have much in common at heart, regardless of differentiating factors such as race, religion and class.
In the book, the Spots’ and Dots’ stories are equally valid and equally flawed, because they’re literally the same. In the real world, of course, things aren’t as perfectly balanced as they are here. But within these pages, I hope that the repetition serves to expose the Spots’ and Dots’ prejudices, or ‘pre-judgements’, as the senseless nonsense that they are.
Despite the various horrors that made me to put pen to paper, The Spots and the Dots is a very simple and playful picture book. The stories bounce along in rhyme. Marion’s illustrations are beautiful, bold and expressive. And the double-cover, topsy-turvy format adds a new dimension to those ‘read it again!’ moments.
I really hope that this book is a fun read, as well as being a useful starting point for some big conversations with little ones. Is it fair to stereotype and pre-judge others who are different from us? Should we always try and understand somebody else’s point of view? Is it better to talk or to fight? Should we believe everything we hear? Is it okay to change our minds about something if new information comes to light? Can children change things for the better, or do you have to be a grown up?
At the end of The Spots and the Dots, the Spot and Dot babies discover the truth for themselves and everything changes. Generations of ignorance, distrust, prejudice and fear are overturned, and the Spots and the Dots are finally free to be friends and play and laugh together all over the hill.
Hopefully, by encouraging empathy, books like this can help to bring about much-needed changes in the real world, too.
The Spots and the Dots is published by Andersen Press and is available now!