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When a young pelican wakes up hungry, pelican parents know just what to do! Take a trip to the seaside and cheer for a marvelous bird who can fly, soar, dive, and more!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Toni Yuly

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 14, 2024)

Hello Toni! Welcome aboard! Can you tell me how The Pelican Can! came about? Toni Yuly: "I got the idea for The Pelican Can! on one of my frequent jaunts to the Washington coast. I LOVE the Washington coast and being at the ocean. It is really my very favorite place to be. I like to walk and walk and look and look...and one day I was walking and walking and looking and looking and I saw some pelicans. I have seen pelicans before but this time there were tons of them (a 'brief' of pelicans) and I soon noticed that they were... soaring down close to the shore and then... flying up high in the sky... and then...well you get the idea! I was totally enchanted and stood and watched them for most of the day and it was that encounter with brown pelicans that gave me the idea for the book. While watching them I even started saying, The Pelican Can!  The Pelican Can!"

Toni Yuly's early sketches and works in progress for The Pelican Can! (above)

What a great story! It was certainly meant to be. My favorite line is "A pelican does what a pelican can...." It's interesting that the pelican doesn't focus on what it can't do. I'm curious if there's a deeper meaning behind this sentence? "That is my favorite line, too! I haven't thought much about it but I think you are on to something...animals seem to focus on what they can do and do that. I think we can learn a lot from observing animals and all of nature."

Toni Yuly's early sketches and works in progress for The Pelican Can! (below)

Your artwork is absolutely stunning. Can you share your process? TY: "Thank you! I made the book with torn paper, tissue and other kinds of papers. I also used ink for drawing the pelicans and put it all together in Photoshop.

Toni Yuly's early sketches and works in progress for The Pelican Can!:

You can see examples of torn tissue paper in the sunset and torn paper in the rocks that the pelicans are nesting on. The pelicans are rendered in black ink."

An interior spread from Toni Yuly's The Pelican Can!:

"The SPLASH spread shows torn paper for the water and black ink for the pelican's wings and blue water splashes."

An interior spread from Toni Yuly's The Pelican Can!:

I did a rough count and got to 120 words. And I'd wager the average word count for each of your books is under 200. What are some of your favorite board books or picture books for the younger set?

"I actually don't think of the age of the reader when I make a book. I guess that my writing style and sensibility loves simplicity and getting to the essence of what I am feeling and trying to say. I always hope that all ages, from baby to grandparent can love my work.

My picture book recommendations:

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

Wave by Suzy Lee"

What's next for you?

"My next book is Go, Sloth. Go! I can not wait to share it with you in about a year!"

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?

Max's Boat Pick


By Matthew Cordell

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (January 3, 2017)

Thanks for visiting again, Matthew! This time, can you share how Wolf in the Snow came about? Matthew Cordell: "It all started with a drawing I made of a girl in a red coat standing in a snow-covered field across from an adult wolf. I often draw things that pop into my head and this was just one of those things. It wasn’t for a story I’d been working on, or for a book under contract. I posted the drawing on all of the regular social media channels, and people were very positive and curious about the drawing. I actually liked it quite a bit too, but I had no idea what—if anything—could be said about just the one picture."

The original drawing by Matthew Cordell that inspired Wolf in the Snow (below):

"So, instead of trying to write something, I decided to research wolves. Up to that point in my life, all I knew of wolves was from negative depictions in pop culture. Like old fairy and folk tales as well as more recent films and television that shows wolves as aggressive and vicious. Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, etc. With just a bit of research, I learned that these negative portrayals of wolves go back centuries. Most significantly, they are unfair and untrue. Wolves live in strongly bonded families (wolf packs) and hunt only out of necessity. They are intelligent, loving, and, yes, can be defensive if threatened. But they do not set out to kill for sport, and they either fear or have little to no interest in humans. After realizing what I thought to be true were long and twisted falsehoods, I started to see a story take shape that addressed fears and prejudice. The girl and the wolf in that drawing would be two lost souls set into a frightening, bleak, and isolated landscape to help tell that story."

Interior spreads from Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow (below):

You now have two characters that wear a red (or off-red) cape! Do you just love Little Red Riding Hood? "I think I just like the color red! I am not a person who has a definitive favorite color, but red is great for screaming off the page. I’m often asked about Little Red Riding hood, and the honest answer is I don’t really think about that story. With Wolf in the Snow, I was working on my sketch dummy in early days, sharing the story and color character studies with my illustrator friends. The first thing someone asked was if I was trying to write a sort of anti-Little Red Riding hood story. I actually wasn’t, but from that point on that’s what it became. Maybe subconsciously, I wanted to write a wolf-positive story, and my subconscious started pulling from Little Red, which is a centuries-old, world-renowned, anti-wolf story. I think most of us know it well enough, in one form or another. The one thing I do like about Little Red is the sort of quest/adventure aspect of the story."

Interior spreads from Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow (below):

What's next for you? "Gratefully, I’m keeping busy with multiple projects on the desk and on the horizon for publication. Next to be released will be the fourth book in my Cornbread and Poppy beginning reader series, Cornbread and Poppy for the Win—where our two mice heroes find themselves enlisted in a high-stakes cycle race. After that is The Ship in the Window, a picture book written by author, illustrator, librarian (triple threat!) pal, Travis Jonker—I provided illustrations for that one. I’m currently working on two picture books in different stages of completion. I’m drawing final art for my next author/illustrator picture book, To See an Owl, and I’m beginning sketches for a David Bowie picture book biography I’ve written. I’m super excited about all of these projects!"

What are your all-time favorite picture books?

Frog and Toad (all Frog and Toad books) by Arnold Lobel (technically not picture books, but let’s bend the rules for these pitch-perfect illustrated books)

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Updated: Apr 26

Evergreen the squirrel is afraid of many things: thunder, hawks, and the dark paths of Buckthorn Forest. But when her mother tasks Evergreen with delivering soup to her sick Granny Oak, the little squirrel must face her fears and make the journey.


By Matthew Cordell

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (February 7, 2023)

Hello Matthew! It's an honor to have you visit Max's Boat. You are so amazingly prolific, with books that range from contemplative and serious to light-hearted and funny, nearly wordless to early reader, and with a visual style that can switch on a dime—sometimes in the same book!

Can you share how Evergreen came about?

Matthew Cordell: "I started writing Evergreen during the pandemic. I wanted to tell a story about a community overcome with sickness with one central character and hero who was somehow immune and able to help the others. That was the first outline. I was telling my wife about it and she very astutely said, 'who is going to want to read a book about THAT when all this is over?? Maybe just have one sick person and a main character who comes to the rescue.' It was good advice! Without the overwhelming problem of everyone being sick, though, it wasn’t high stakes enough. So, I made Evergreen a very timid squirrel who is, at first, not up to the task. And soon after, I wove in another layer of complexity by having each new character, met on Evergreen’s quest, defy our expectations and prejudices. A fluffy bunny who is a rotten thief, a fierce squirrel-eating hawk who befriends Evergreen, etc. But overall, I just wanted to write a fun adventure story, with many surprises and twists and turns. In years previous, I had been writing picture books that were much more serious in tone. Books about prejudice, alienation, and even death. I wanted to write a story that was fun to read (and fun for me to read aloud), but still had some emotion and surprise. So, I made Evergreen a very timid squirrel who is, at first, not up to the task. And soon after, I wove in another layer of complexity by having each new character, met on Evergreen’s quest, defy our expectations and prejudices."

Matthew Cordell's early sketches of Evergreen (below):

Matthew Cordell's early sketches and a final spread of Evergreen's mama from Evergreen:

Matthew Cordell's early sketches and a final spread of Briar from Evergreen:

Matthew Cordell's early sketches and a final spread of Ember from Evergreen:

Matthew Cordell's early sketches and a final spread of Grandpa Sprig from Evergreen:

Matthew Cordell's early sketches and a final spread of the Bear from Evergreen:

"There are many great quest picture books I used as inspiration for Evergreen, where a central character goes from one obstacle to the next, until finally arriving at a climactic ending. Some of my favorites are Brave Irene by William Steig, Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present by John Burningham, Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas. Before Evergreen, I illustrated another one of my favorites, Special Delivery, by my pal, Philip Stead."

Which picture book creators do you most admire? "In terms of legacy picture book makers, my personal favorites tend to be messy, unkempt, scribbly, yet very stylish. I think my top three would be Quentin Blake, Arnold Lobel, and John Burningham. I love art that takes risks, and is uncharacteristically beautiful. Ugly beautiful, I call it. Something that you aren’t quite sure about, at first glance. When we see things that are out of the ordinary and new to us, we aren’t always sure if we like it or not. We have to think about it. This is the art and these are the artists that move me.

In terms of contemporary favorites, I have many talented friends whose work I love and inspires me daily. But for fear of leaving someone out and alienating someone else, I will mention, instead, a few names of creators I’ve discovered over the past year or so, who are new to me, doing something new and inventive (to my eyes) and I’m excited to see what they’ll do next—Eliza Kinkz, Gracey Zhang, Zoe Si, Hannah Bess Ross, and Julián Nariño."

Papá's Magical Water-Jug Clock by Jesús Trejo and Eliza Kinkz

When Rubin Plays by Gracey Zhang

Kaboom! A Volcano Erupts by Jessica Kulekjian and Zoe Si

Lore of the Stars: Folklore and Wisdom from the Skies Above by Claire Cock-Starkey and Hannah Bess Ross

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