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Squirrel is an expert at making acorns disappear. But making some ice cream vanish?! "I put it right there! On that hot rock in the sun!" When Squirrel returns with Bear and finds the ice cream gone, they know there is only one explanation—Squirrel is a magician!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Julia Sarcone-Roach

Knopf Books for Young Readers (June 20, 2023)

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From describing a city as “high cliffs” in The Bear Ate Your Sandwich to referring to ice-cream cones as “party hats” in The Ice Cream Vanishes, you excel at viewing the world through the eyes of your characters. Can you share what inspired your new book? JSR: "My brain is kind of like a glove compartment filled with acorns, pebbles, and leftover food. Things roll around in there, knock into each other and sometimes stick together. And that's how the stories are made! Usually, a story comes together by finding the connections between a few snippets of ideas. This last book came from a few places : A brainstorming session with a writer friend about the possibility of another bear adventure, with ice cream being the only thing that could beat the pinnacle of a bear cleaning out a bakery in There Are No Bears in this Bakery.

Early sketches and outtakes of The Ice Cream Vanishes by Julia Sarcone-Roach:

One day, while walking down the street in Brooklyn, I saw a squirrel bound across a fully paved front yard into a planter and began to dig furiously. Then, after looking around to be sure no one had spotted its hiding place, the squirrel buried half a bagel for spring. I wondered what the squirrel thought when it returned to retrieve it. I've wanted to do a squirrel book since a nonsense idea from a sketchbook called 'Squirrels Repark Your Car,' where a band of ambitious squirrels do just that. Also, while working on the book, I moved and discovered that a squirrel was living in the tree right outside the window. The tree and squirrel inspired one of the first pages of the book.

I do enjoy getting to pretend to be the subject of the books, whether it’s a bear, a cat or a squirrel. For the first bear book, I’d walk to work and pretend I was a bear wandering the city. So far I haven’t gone full squirrel method actor, hoarding acorns or living in a tree. However, at one point I was stuck while working on this book, so as an exercise I rewrote it from the point of view of the dropped ice cream. Which turned out to be a good way to channel the anxiety of revision."

Interior spreads from The Ice Cream Vanishes by Julia Sarcone-Roach:

Julia Sarcone-Roach's studio:

Who are some writers and illustrators that you admire "This is a tough question! I’ve worked on and off as a bookseller since I was a teenager, so this is a question I struggle to answer simply! There are so many great books out there. Some authors and illustrators who I admire and am always excited to see what they make:

Caron Levis: Ida, Always; This Way, Charlie; Feathers Together (all illustrated by Charles Santoso) She blends true life animal tales with empathetic animal perspectives into stories that help children understand feelings. Her books make me laugh and cry (in the best ways.) She is also as thoughtful and kind as her stories are too.

Cátia Chien: The Longest Letsgoboy (written by Derick Wilder); The Sea Serpent and Me (written by Dashka Slater). Her art is gorgeous, ranging from poignant to humorous.

Jillian Tamaki’s graphic novel collaborations with her cousin Mariko Tamaki are incredible. Skim; This One Summer. They are detailed, gorgeously illustrated stories about kids navigating coming of age with tenderness and insight.

Shaun Tan: Tales from Outer Suburbia; The Arrival; Tales from the Inner City. He explores the overlap of humanity and nature with surreal, thoughtful, and marvelous results.

Isabel Roxas: Holding On (written by Sophia N. Lee); the Team Pom series. She has a great sense of humor and her art is lovely.

Daniel Miyares: That Neighbor Kid; Night Walk to the Sea (written by Deborah Wiles). Also his sketches and color studies on Instagram are regularly jaw dropping!

Lauren Castillo: This is a Story (written by John Schu); City Cat (written by Kate Banks). Lauren’s art is always gently beautiful and engaging. Her books are like warm hugs.

A few more people whose work I admire and look forward to: Bob Shea, Brian Floca, Oge Mora, Anna Raff, Sydney Smith, Beatrice Alemagna, Gracey Zhang, Meghan McCarthy, Christian Robinson, Suzy Lee, David Roberts, Hannah Salyer, Dena Seiferling, Adam Rex, Alexis Deacon."

What forthcoming books are you most looking forward to getting your hands on?

"Mighty Muddy Us by the master of animal emotions, Caron Levis. It is a tender story of elephant siblings finding their own footing illustrated by the talented Charles Santoso.

Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki is a new graphic novel that follows college students exploring New York City.

Bob Shea’s next book - Bob makes the funniest books. Not an opinion, just a fact. Reading one of his books is like entering a well designed world of grumpy animals and midcentury sofas in the woods. He also does one of the hardest things in making a picture book, he makes it all look simple.

Adam Rex’s new graphic novel, A Little Like Waking. His art is out of this world. His storytelling brims with humor and emotion.

Just One Flake by Travis Jonker Iooks fun and sweet. No one can see that cover and not want to pick it up!"

What's next for you? And what's next for Bear? "A few things are percolating right now. One is a story of a dragon, a creature I’ve been doodling in my sketchbook for a few years who is finally coming to life! Another is an illustration project that will let me explore a new style of making art. Though I like working with a lot of media, most of the books I have illustrated have been done primarily with acrylic paint. A couple years ago I participated in Inktober, and posted some warm ups done in a darker, looser ink wash style on Instagram. So I’m looking forward to making a book where I get to play with and learn more about working with ink. As for the Bear, he needs a nap after all that eating. So at the moment at least, the bear is hibernating. However, I think he could return for the right food or adventure. (Although what could top ice cream?!)"

A deceptively simple concept book that explores sorting, classification, and patterns as it teases the brain in unusual ways. Read it once, read it ten times—and see something new every time.

Max's Boat Pick:


By Carter Higgins

Publisher: Chronicle Books (May 2, 2023)

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Thanks for stopping by again, Carter! Some of These Are Snails really nails what kids are into, from the obsession with snails (my kids have snail races and we have multiple snail hotels in the backyard) to sorting and more. Did you already have it in mind when you were working on Circle Under Berry?

CH: "Early on with Circle Under Berry, it felt really clear that this format was a playful way to explore tricky concepts for preschoolers, both visually and in rhythm. It was such a treat to figure out what that meant exactly, and moving from naming attributes to sorting them in a different way felt perfect. I’ve had this animation in my mind since childhood, and it’s certainly a nod to that."

An interior spread from Some of These Are Snails by Carter Higgins:

I'm in awe of writers who have the courage to attempt illustrating as well. What's your medium? "I use an old library card to scrape cheap acrylic paint onto newsprint, then cut shapes from that paper. My favorite gluesticks are the ones that begin as purple and dry clear. This pile of supplies is certainly familiar to young artists everywhere! After I create all the various assets, I scan them and assemble the page layouts in Photoshop. It’s always important to me to find a good balance of precision and imperfection."

Early sketches and outtakes of Some of These Are Snails by Carter Higgins:

For those who love Some of These are Snails, what else would you recommend and why? "I love the interactivity and accessible art of Greg Pizzoli’s Mister Kitty is Lost! Rilla Alexander’s You Rule! is an enormously fun study in immeasurable things. And for dazzling read-aloud-ability, I am forever charmed by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s A Very Special House."

What forthcoming books are you most excited about?

"I’m eagerly anticipating Travis Jonker’s illustrator debut in Just One Flake. His storytelling is always tuned toward the way kids think, act, and exist in this big world. The main character in Just One Flake looks expressive and hilarious, and I can’t wait to root him on!"

What do you think the best picture books do? Is there a book that you think does this particularly well? "The best picture books are keenly aware of the child reader, whether that means speaking their language, honoring the reality of their experiences, or observing with close-up precision what matters to them. Books I love that do one (or more) of these well are Float by Daniel Miyares, I’ll Fix Anthony by Judith Viorst and Arnold Lobel, and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson. I love the way Tana Hoban’s books of photography do the same thing visually, particularly Look Again! and Shadows and Reflections."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "I can’t make a list like that without Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni, A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and Marc Simont, Fortunately by Remy Charlip, and Clocks and More Clocks by Pat Hutchins."

An Australian shepherd thinks he has the most special flower in the world. He loves the way it smells and how soft it is and how the petals tickle his nose. But one by one, more dogs show up with flowers that seem to be even more special than his!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Neesha Hudson

Publisher: Dial Books (June 13, 2023)

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Your interview for Turtle in a Tree was one of the first interviews on Max's Boat! Thanks for hopping onboard so early on, and for hopping onboard again now. Can you tell me the inspiration behind your latest book, BEST FLOWER EVER! NH: "I have an 11 year old and an 8 year old and they love each other a lot but they also love to compare (as many siblings do). One thing we hear in our house quite often is 'that’s not fair!' in reference to something the other sibling has or gets to do. The idea that 'fair does not always mean exactly the same' is a tricky one to accept. We are all wonderful, distinct people with individual needs and circumstances. So when thinking about writing a companion book to Turtle in a Tree I had this idea of flowers as the metaphor for individual circumstances. Sure, Australian Shepherd’s flower doesn’t appear as big and beautiful as Chihuahua’s, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t special to her. She just had to look past comparing herself to others to find the joy in what she has. It is a lesson both children and adults can relate to and benefit from."

Sketches from Neesha Hudson's The Best Flower Ever!:

Comparisons, competitiveness and jealousy are definitely age-old human issues, but do you think our hyperconnected world makes it worse? Not like young kids are on social media (I hope not anyway!) but do you think it exacerbates the issue somehow? For instance, it could make parents more likely to compare their kids' feats, which trickles down to what kids feel about themselves? "It’s so interesting to me that you bring up social media because that was also a big inspiration for the book! When on social media you are ofen seeing the best part of people’s lives, and it’s not always a realistic reflection. It is so easy to compare yourself to others online, which can lead to some very negative feelings. Just look at the many studies on social media and mental health. Speaking personally as an author, seeing other books getting awards or more attention then yours is really, really hard! So yes, I do think our hyperconnected world makes it worse, but that’s why books that speak on this topic are so important! None of us are alone in our feelings; everyone has felt jealousy or competitive at some point. Being able to recognize those emotions and talk about them when they come up is an important part of working through them. As well as having

support to reach out to, a parent, a friend, or your best pet pal.

An interior spread from Neesha Hudson's The Best Flower Ever!:

I definitely agree that social media amps up the comparisons and feelings of competitiveness and jealousy! Are there other picture books you love that explore this topic? "Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones is a great picture book that brilliantly touches on this topic. Jeremy feels left out when it seems that every kid at school has the shoes that he wants. His grandmother points out that 'there’s no room for want around here - just need.' Still, when Jeremy finds a used pair of the shoes in a thrift store, he uses his own money to buy them, even though they are a few sizes too small and hurt his feet. In the end Jeremy realizes there is someone else in his class who really needs the shoes… and actually fits into them! So he passes the shoes onto his new friend. I love this book because it draws on emotions we’ve all felt at one point or another but not in a heavy-handed way. Kids will connect with Jeremy and his internal struggle as he desperately tries to fit in with his peers."

For those who love The Best Flower Ever!, can you recommend a few other books that you think they might also enjoy? "For those that love dry humor, Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe definitely makes me giggle every time I read it. The illustrations are beautifully done, vibrant, and the pacing is perfect! It definitely feels like a modern classic.

I also love Wild by Emily Hughes. The illustrations are full of flora and fauna that dance around the page. Very high energy and detailed. The story is about staying true to yourself and not conforming, even if you’re a little wild!

What's the picture book that inspired you to get into picture books? "I fell in love with picture books in college. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers really helped inspire me to get on the path to getting my own book published. The illustration style was very new and different to me at the time. Coupled with a heartfelt story and a little humor… I was hooked. His books are still among my most influential."

What's your all-time favorite classic picture book?

"Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is an all-time favorite and one I go back to many times to study pacing and page layout."

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