UO psych graduates team up for children’s novella ‘Down the Manhole’
Inspired by Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll, a pair of University of Oregon students have taken their love for these tales and created an adventure of their own: Down The Manhole, a story of bunnies and psychology.
Cesare B. Bisbocci and Louis Cicalese, two UO psychology students from the graduating class of 2016, attempted to simplify dense psychological concepts for a younger audience in their one-hundred page children’s novella, written for a middle school reading level.
This coming-of-age story follows two rabbits, a mother and son named Beatrix and Enzo, who fall down a manhole and turn into humans. They embark on a journey to return home, all the while encountering strange and magical creatures, including Tenza, the beach Yeti inspired by the Dalai Lama, and stone carver Pietro Swoleman, whose character is based in Japanese mythology, said Bisbocci.
The book attempts to make many psychology theories more approachable for all ages, said Sarah Voigt, a UO psychology graduate and friend of Bisbocci and Cicalese’s.
“My parents never went to college, so I try to explain these complex theories to them, and I think a book like this would be really helpful for them to grasp some of the concepts,” Voigt said.
Bisbocci says he fell in love with children’s books when he wrote Le Lapin Des Pins, part of a creative project in his French 203 class. The assignment made him realize that writing children’s books was his life’s passion and worked harder on the book than any other college project.
After being spurred by friends and his advisor UO Psychology Professor Jeffery Measelle, Bisbocci decided to create another children’s book for his senior thesis for the Clark Honors College. He approached Cicalese, a comic studies minor, to illustrate the book in Sept. 2015. Cicalese has drawn 30 images so far and plans to have a total of 50 for the book.
“There’s a lot of the magic that the illustrations have added to this story,” Bisbocci said. “It really complements the story well, because there are subtleties that are only in the illustrations.”
Bisbocci chose bunnies as the novella’s protagonists, he said, as they were easy for him to draw, something with which Cicalese jokingly says he personally struggles.
“Actually I think I’m the worst at drawing rabbits out of everything in the book,” Cicalese said. “That’s why I’m glad they’re only on like, one page. “
The goal of the book is to teach mindfulness, Bisbocci said. In Down The Manhole, a group known as “mirror people.” This group of characters explains to the protagonists how gender exists on a spectrum using reflections and mirrors to illustrate their point.
Bisbocci and Cicalese aim to have their first draft done by the end of July. Their ultimate goal is to get the book published, but their back up plan is to put the book online for free as a downloadable PDF.
The duo has many other ideas for children’s books in the works, making Down the Manhole the first of many from this storytelling team.
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