As part of working through reduction of my story choice, Voyage of the Dawntreader, by CS Lewis, I’ve produced a moderately detailed synopsis:
Eustace, a mean, pompous bully, is arguing over a painting with his two visiting cousins, Edmund and Lucy. Suddenly, the painting, showing a wooden ship on a sea, comes to life, and the three fall through the painting into the water.
Rescued from the water and onboard the ship, they discover it is led by the King of a land Edmund and Lucy had been to before, in another, more magical, world. A land where they were once King and Queen themselves, along with their elder brother and sister, and where animals could talk and many strange creatures lived together in a beautifully wild country – Narnia.
Joining the King, Caspian, on his quest to find seven Lords who went missing on a sea journey some years before, Edmund, Lucy and the crew, suffer their cousin’s inability to understand this new world. He acts with rude petulance and demanding abrasiveness, often leading to childish tantrums.
They visit many islands in search of the lords, encountering slavery, storms and even a book of magic spells that they use to help make an invisible people visible once again.
On one such island, Eustace wanders off by himself, and discovers a dragon’s hoard. His greed takes over his mind, and after stuffing his pockets with gold and placing a gold bracelet around his arm, he falls asleep imagining how jealous everyone will be.
On waking in the dark, he can see a dragon’s paw beside him, and at first suffers a huge fright, eventually realising the paw is his. He has turned into a dragon himself.
Guiltily returning to the ship next morning, he struggles with his shipmate’s fear of his new form, but eventually manages to help them understand he is Eustace, made into a dragon.
No remedy can be found, and he feels shame and embarrassment, but also appreciates deeply his shipmates and cousin’s attempts to help him – bringing reflection on his own poor behaviour to them previously.
Late one night, he is approached by a large lion, who takes him to a distant hill and helps him shed his skin in layers. The lion eventually uses its claws to help strip away all of the layers to reveal the boy inside the dragon, at great pain and cost to Eustace. The lion is a magical figure in that world, an allegory for Jesus that in the guise of the king of the animals. After helping Eustace become himself again, the Lion, Aslan, slips away, leaving him to reflect on his lesson.
A chastened Eustace returns to the ship, and is joyously greeted by his friends. He is much changed, and has learned to appreciate the others and be kind and helpful.
Further journey eastward helps them find the last of the Lords they were searching for, and eventually the ‘end of the world’, where Aslan appears and sends them home to Earth – reminding them that he is on earth as well, known by another name.
There are a couple of ways to treat this. Option 1 would be a diary form:
Throughout the start of the story, Eustace uses a diary to record his mean thoughts. The form of the story book could be that of a diary of sorts, small but chunky and cloth bound, as would be the case in the time that the book is set – during World War 2. The story would be broken down into the initial transfer to Narnia, the first day on board the ship, individual islands they visit, then a broader focus on the dragon conversion, leading to the final islands and the return home. The physical diary could feature a cover with deep claw furrows on it, from his time as a dragon.
The only challenge is how to explain the events during his time as the dragon, as obviously he wouldn’t be able to write. Perhaps retrospectively?
Reframe the focus on the events of a boy on an adventure with cousins, show some of his negative behaviour, then lead almost directly to his wandering off and greedily discovering the dragon hoard and being changed. This part of the story would then become the primary focus. Discover treasure, fall asleep in greed, wake up in fright, realise change, etc, through to being freed by Aslan and going back to his friends as a new person. Final frame showing his warm appreciation and new attitude.
For this approach, stylistically, I very much like the idea of exploring shape, texture and cutouts, rather than direct illustration. In particular, I think the cutting of shapes through pages, and dividing of pages into panels, help with creating intrigue, and in the case of panels, splitting the story into multiple reveals within a single spread. There are lots of directions to take this.