Interviews

What do you do when you meet a ghost? If you follow the essential ghost care tips (provide favorite snacks like mud tarts and earwax truffles, for starters), you'll see how a ghost friend will lovingly grow up and grow old with you.


Pick by Kevin Cornell, New in Town:


HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH A GHOST

By Rebecca Green

Publisher: Tundra Books (September 5, 2017)

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What inspired How to Make Friends With a Ghost? RG: "This book was inspired by my love of Autumn, but the idea came about when I was working on a different project, as many ideas do. I was walking my dog and thinking of illustrations for a client project - one of those illustrations was a girl and a ghost by the fire. I was considering what the girl might offer the ghost to drink. I thought of cider but then I realized I didn't know if ghosts even liked cider. At once a flurry of ideas popped into my head about a guide to ghost care - what do they like to eat, drink, or do for fun? I sat in my kitchen that day for hours dreaming and writing, and I'm so glad I did - it was so much fun bringing that all to life." What was it like to both write and illustrate your own book? I'm curious how that process compared with illustrating someone else's words? "Illustrating someone else's words, I've come to find, is much more challenging. I actually just finished my last illustrated book for another author and am currently only working on writing and illustrating my own. I feel there is much less pressure and struggle when it's my writing - the artwork falls into place and I don't overthink it."


Let's talk ghost stories! Besides your own, of course, do you have any other favorite picture books about ghosts? "I'd definitely like to get my hands on Oliver Jeffers's new book, There's a Ghost in this House. One that I've read and loved is Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson, and one of my favorite childhood ghost books was Clifford's Halloween by Norman Bridwell."




You have such a distinctive visual style. Who are some other illustrators you admire? "Thank you! My work has changed a lot over my career so it's hard for me, even, to understand my own style. That said, I love the work of Isabelle Arsenault, Andrew Wyeth, and Roger Duvoisin. Recently I've been inspired by Jiří Trnka, Zbigniew Rychlicki, 100% Orange, and Miroco Machiko."







What was your favorite picture book as a child? "One of my favorites was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz. I can't tell you how many times I checked it out at the library. I felt like it was one of the few books where I saw a character just going through a crap day! I guess I just felt like it resonated."

What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future? "Hopefully the one I'm currently writing. I kid! I don't know, I'm actually not the most well versed in contemporary picture books. It's a world I'm part of but I mostly stick to the art side, and to honing my craft."


What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "Rumpelstiltskin, retold and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky comes to mind. I remember being in awe of the illustrations as a child, like I was holding precious artwork in my hands. It's on my bookshelf today, too, and just last week I was admiring all the painstaking details the artist did. He painted that in oil over watercolor underpaintings. Who paints picture books in oil?! It's just so stunning."

Off a small island, an old boat sets sail and a young boy finds home. Together, boy and boat ride the shifting tides, catching wants and wishes until fate calls for a sea change.

Pick by Dan Yaccarino, The Longest Storm:


THE OLD BOAT

By Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

Publisher: Norton Young Readers (March 2, 2021)

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What inspired The Old Boat? TPB: "As is the case with most our work, lots of things inspired The Old Boat, but it was mainly family. Two things in particular: the trips we used to take to Galveston, TX, with our grandma when we were kids and the old boat our grandpa kept stored in his driveway. Our grandma taught us how to fish and crab; she showed us how to appreciate the ocean for the amazing resource it is. Our grandpa stored an old bay boat under his carport, and it was always the first place we’d go whenever we visited. We spent more time in that boat than we did in the house, sailing all over the world without ever leaving the driveway." Tell me about your stamps. "We started making art with stamps for a few reasons: 1) It’s a great medium for collaboration. While one of us is designing the stamps, the other can be cutting them and making prints. 2) Stamps—the foam stamps we make, at least—have a sort of built-in limiter that helps us keep things simple; you can only get so many details in there before things start to fall apart, literally. 3) We love the timeless look of classic children’s books and we can get something close to that with stamps."


Are there any illustrators you admire for their unique style? "Yes! In no particular order (and by no means exhaustive): Christian Robinson, Shawn Harris, Oge Mora, Sydney Smith, Sophie Blackall, Elisha Cooper, Jon Klassen, Carson Ellis, Eric Rohmann, Kadir Nelson, Mo Willems, Matthew Forsythe, Dan Santat, Alice Provensen, Oliver Jeffers, Jan Balet, Edward Bawden, Chris Haughton, the Fan Brothers. You see any of their work and you know it’s theirs."



Your text is so quietly and deeply moving. What are some picture books that have deeply moved you? "Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper, A House that Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith, Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and pretty much anything Sydney Smith illustrates, including Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, and his very own Small in the City."

I love your gorgeous take on intergenerational love. What are some picture books you love for their compelling takes on family? "Family is a big deal to us. Some of the books that we think nail it are Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, Saturday by Oge Mora, Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers, Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat."

I love The Old Boat's message of environmental stewardship. Are there other picture books you love for their unique take on environmental stewardship, responsibility or change? "There are! Here are a few: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade, One Little Bag by Henry Cole, Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers."


You collaborated and published your first picture book together when you were teenagers (!) What were the picture books that inspired you then? What are the picture books that inspire you now? Have there been any constants? "That was so long ago! It’s hard to say what was inspiring us way back then, but some definite constants have been The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall."

What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future? "It’s a great time for picture books. Some contemporary books sure to be long-term favorites: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead, Crown by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe, The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "There are so many books we love for so many different reasons, so many books that are the best at what they do, that this sort of question is always a hard one to answer. Apart from all the books we’ve already mentioned, here’s a list of some we think are the best at something that we always keep close to hand:






I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and Ashleigh Corrin Freight Train by Donald Crews The Ranger by Nancy Vo Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Owl just wants some peace and quiet to read his books—alone. But when the forest youngsters ruffle his feathers, he enlists the local bookshop owner to send him handpicked books to help cope with the chaos and the mess. It’s not long before Owl discovers Squirrel and learns that just as important as solitude are companionship and community.

Pick by Bob Shea, Chez Bob:


YOURS IN BOOKS

Written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

Publisher: Cameron Kids (September 21, 2021)

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What inspired Yours in Books? JF: "The short answer is that I love letters and I love books. I think there’s something really special about sending mail to people. Yes, most of the time I send an email, but a handwritten letter is like a more real piece of me (and a postcard is like a text message!). I am obsessed with the concept of having something funny happen to you, and it makes you think of your friend, and

then you take the time to write the funny story out in a letter, which they get many days later. It’s this super tangible, very slow way of staying connected to people. I used to write letters to everyone, back when phone calls were expensive, and during the pandemic I got back in the habit of sending mail to people.


In a lot of ways, a book is a letter. It’s a piece of you, the author, and you’re sending it out into the world. In this case the friend I’m sending it to is 'all the readers.'"


I laughed out loud so many times reading Yours in Books. Who are some other writers you admire for their humor? "Oh gosh, so many. Once you hear Bob Shea read any of his books out loud, you can’t help but read them with his cadence, and hope the kid you’re reading to hasn’t also heard Bob read, or else they’re going to ask why you’re doing a cheap Bob Shea impersonation. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, illustrated by Lane Smith, is one that makes me feel like a comedic genius reading it. Laurie Keller is incredible. I remember the first time I read The Scrambled States of America, I felt such a weird kinship – here was this hilarious person who had the same sense of humor I did. There’s such a magic to making someone laugh through a book. Potato Pants is comedy genius. Anything my frequent collaborator Ruth Chan does is so, so hilarious. The way Ruth draws faces – I could look at them all day. So funny. She illustrated a book called Have You Seen Gordon? that just came out (it’s written by Adam Jay Epstein) and every illustration in that is a masterclass in comedy."


Now I have to ask: What's your favorite bookshop? "I am lucky enough to live in an area (Portland, Maine) with quite a few independent bookshops, all of which are incredible. Nonesuch, Sherman’s, Longfellow and Bull Moose are great. My favorite is Print: A Bookstore, which I love so much that I named the bookstore in Yours in Books after it."

Do you remember what you loved reading to your children at age three? At age five? "We live in Maine, so we’re contractually obligated to read and love Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, and Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar. I also remember reading Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, and illustrated by Tony Fucile, and one of my kids laughing so hard he fell out of his chair."


What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future? "Lucy Ruth Cummins makes these books that look like something from fifty years ago that every generation in your family has read and loved to bits. Her illustrations and humor have a very solid retro feel, like she’s tapped into a vein of storytelling that has been true for centuries. A Hungry Lion: Or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals, Stumpkin, and Vampenguin are all so great. Everything Carter Higgins makes is something that will clearly be enjoyed by readers for decades. It’s like she captures dreams in jars and writes them onto the page. Everything You Need for a Treehouse (illustrated by Emily Hughes), Circle Under Berry, This is Not a Valentine (illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins): they all are things you’ve wished for but didn’t know it until you pick the book up."


What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "I’ll list one, because if I list two I’ll have to list 100. Amos and Boris by William Steig is my favorite picture book of all time. It’s funny, it’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking and wondrous, and uses language in a way I will forever aspire to."