Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

One Final Interview Before Breakfast:
Sophie Blackall on Farmhouse

h1 Monday, September 12th, 2022

Hey, imps. If you read my official farewell post from last week — in which I announced that I’m finally going to sit down for some breakfast (which is, delightfully, how Siân Gaetano put it on Instagram) — you may remember that I said I had one more post left. That is today’s post in which author-illustrator Sophie Blackall visits to talk about the making of Farmhouse (Little, Brown, September 2022), which I reviewed over at BookPage.

This book. It’s a thing of beauty. Thanks to Sophie for visiting and sharing so generously.

And thanks, once again, for reading all these years. I’ll be around, still reviewing for various publications. Because picture books are everything.

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The Horn Book‘s Chat with Kevin Young

h1 Thursday, June 2nd, 2022


Kevin Young’s Emile and the Field, illustrated by Chioma Ebinama, is the 2022 picture book I’ve been pushing on everyone who can stand to listen to me, because I love it so. Thanks to the Horn Book for letting me be a small part of a Q&A with Kevin. That chat is here.

(And here is a link to my March 7-Imp post with some spreads from the book along with a link to my Horn Book review of it.)

I’m Not Small: A Chat with Nina Crews

h1 Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

“I am not small! My dog is small.
See how tall I am when I stand on my toes?”

(Click spread to enlarge)

It’s a pleasure to welcome author-illustrator Nina Crews to 7-Imp today. She and I talk about her new picture book, released this month — I’m Not Small (Greenwillow) — and how she momentarily put down her camera to work in a new style. I’m Not Small is an empowering tale about a child exploring how all things in nature are relative. Stepping into the yard — “Sunshine! Daytime! Time to play outside.” — the young child experiences the thrill of doing so independently: “You’re a big kid now,” says mother. The child feels small next to the big tree but tall next to the dog, as pictured above. “I am big!” the child declares triumphantly after exploring creatures in the yard.

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The Velveteen Rabbit: A Visit with Erin Stead

h1 Thursday, May 12th, 2022

A color sketch
(Click image to enlarge)

When I was a child, I read Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real), originally published in 1922, over and over again — so often that I can still recite the book’s first paragraph by memory. I remember feeling chilled by the description of Nana, who “ruled the nursery.” I remember her “swooping about like a great wind” and being short-tempered and careless with the toys. It was my first lesson in how an author can depict so much about a character via their actions alone. I remember the Skin Horse’s words. And I was mesmerized by the fairy.

A reader can certainly have a nostalgic longing for a book they read as a child, but is the book good? I am all the time talking to my picture book grad students about this — about not letting that kind of thing get in the way of evaluating a book on its merits. For me, this book endures. This is why I was excited to see that Erin Stead has illustrated the 100th anniversary edition of the book, released in April by Doubleday. Erin put it well in this NPR piece: “The part that we all remember about talking about what’s real – that really carries with you for the rest of your life with all of the relationships you have, all the friendships that you’ll make, and all the times that people aren’t necessarily kind to you. There’s a lot of insecurities. There’s a lot of figuring out how you belong. It’s hard to shake a story that’s that honest.”

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The Great Zapfino: A Visit with Marla Frazee

h1 Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

I’ve got a review over at the Horn Book of Mac Barnett’s spectacular The Great Zapfino (Beach Lane, April 2022), illustrated by Marla Frazee.

That review is here. And Marla visits today to talk about creating the illustrations for the book. Fortunately for all of us, she shares lots of images.

Let’s get right to it, and I thank her for sharing.

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And Tango Makes Three:
Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill (and More)

h1 Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

It’s been 17 years since the publication of Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three, illustrated by Henry Cole. It tells the warmhearted true story of two male Emperor Penguins, Roy and Silo, at the Central Park Zoo. The two pair-bond, build a nest, and eventually hatch an egg (thanks to help from a zookeeper). Since its publication, this picture book has been one of the most challenged books in America. (Listing all its many challenges would find me slumped over my keyboard into my old age, so I’ll just send you here at Tango’s Wikipedia entry if you’re so inclined to read about the frequent challenges to the book.)

Justin and Peter have had well over a decade to acclimate to book challenges but have some thoughts about Florida’s House Bill 1557, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, even putting some of those thoughts into this Washington Post piece, addressed to K-3 teachers of Florida. (My favorite thing of 2022 thus far is when they write: “Probably best to give a wide berth to all books featuring gendered heavy machinery, at least until we can figure out what’s what.”)

Justin and Peter join me today to talk about Florida’s new law — and much more. I thank them for their time!

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A Sneak Peek at Yellow Dog Blues

h1 Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

Here’s an early sneak peek at a picture book coming to shelves in September of this year — Alice Faye Duncan’s Yellow Dog Blues (Eerdmans), illustrated by Chris Raschka. I got to hear all about this book during this chat I had earlier this year with the author. It’s the lyrical story of Bo Willie, who is distraught to find the doghouse empty: The boy’s “puppy love” is gone. “Sometimes life is a mystery. Love is a mountain climb. The blues grabbed me like a shaking chill.”

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Always Leaving: A Photo Essay by Zahra Marwan

h1 Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

Illustration on the dedication page of Where Butterflies Fill the Sky
(Click image to enlarge)

Zahra Marwan is a fine artist who, this month, sees the publication of her debut children’s book, Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of Immigration, Family, and Finding Home (Bloomsbury, March 2022). The book captures her family’s story of immigration from Kuwait, in which they were considered stateless, to New Mexico. The art in this deeply felt story is filled with motifs that represent her memories of home — and the city in the U.S. that she and her family made home. (In fact, a closing note about the art provides even more details about what readers see.)

Today at 7-Imp, Zahra contributes a photo essay about her immigration experience. Below that are some spreads from the book. I thank her for sharing.

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E.B. Goodale’s Also

h1 Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

E.B. Goodale’s new picture book, Also (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 2022), is a gentle, tender meditation on memory. On the first spread, a child looks at readers, saying: “Today, I am at my gramma’s house, high on the hill, amongst the blueberry bushes. And also …” On the next spread, she remembers being small, camping with her mother and wandering away from her tent.

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My Chapter 16 Q&A with Michelle Duster

h1 Thursday, February 10th, 2022

Back in January, I had the distinct pleasure of chatting via phone with activist, author, and educator Michelle Duster, the author of Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth (Henry Holt, January 2022), illustrated by Laura Freeman. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and wanted to talk to her all day.

Subtitled Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader, this picture book biography profiles the life and work of Michelle’s great-grandmother, none other than educator, journalist, and civil rights advocate Ida B. Wells.

My chat with Michelle is captured over at Tennessee’s Chapter 16 today.

That link is here.