Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

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.”

Read the rest of this entry �

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.

Read the rest of this entry �

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!

Read the rest of this entry �

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.”

Read the rest of this entry �

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.

Read the rest of this entry �

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.

Read the rest of this entry �

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.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #781: Featuring Rowboat Watkins

h1 Sunday, February 6th, 2022

“ONCE UPON A TIME … on the shortest street with the longest name
in the biggest palace with the HUGEST throne …”

(Click spread to enlarge)

Just look at this castle, which can only come from the singular paintbrush of Rowboat Watkins. It is the first spread of Sally Lloyd-Jones’s Tiny Cedric (Anne Schwartz Books, February 2022).

This palace is the home of the “tiniest king,” whose name is Cedric, King ME the First. It’s the biggest possible palace with the “HUGEST throne,” and it sits on “the shortest street with the longest name.” (And since it’s hard to see the name of this road, given the size of that image, it’s: Don’t Even Think of Turning Here Because You Are So Absolutely Not Invited Boulevard.)

Read the rest of this entry �

My Chapter 16 Q&A with Kathlyn J. Kirkwood

h1 Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Over at Tennessee’s Chapter 16, I talk to Kathlyn J. Kirkwood about her new middle-grade memoir in verse.

In Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round: My Story Of The Making Of Martin Luther King Day (Versify, January 2022) with illustrations by Steffi Walthall, Kirkwood shares memories of her growing civic awareness and activism as a teenager in Memphis as well as her decades-long struggle to turn Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday into a national holiday.

Our chat is here.

Photo of Dr. Kirkwood is © Padrion Scott, Sr. / P. Scott Photography.

My Chapter 16 Q&A with Alice Faye Duncan

h1 Thursday, January 6th, 2022


I’ve got a Q&A over at Chapter 16 with author Alice Faye Duncan. We discuss her two new picture books — Evicted!: The Struggle for the Right to Vote, illustrated by Charly Palmer, and Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo.

The Q&A is here.