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Rory’s dad, Fox, is a tailer. The BEST in the business! Animals come from all over to have their tails made by him. Rory helps his dad in the shop and one of his jobs is measuring the customers for the tails - which isn't always easy! But Rory is bored of making the same old tails. He has his own amazing ideas . . .

Max's Boat Pick:


By Paddy Donnelly

Publisher: O'Brien Press (September 2, 2022)

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Thanks for coming onboard, Paddy! Can you tell me the origin story behind Fox & Son Tailers? Love the wordplay by the way! PD: "Thank you! It actually started with the first spread from the book where you see a little street, filled with animals running about doing 'human-like' things. I really wanted to just illustrate that scene. I didn't have a story in mind. I started to then think what shops they would have in this animal-filled town. Would rhinos come into a shop to get their horns sharpened, and things like that. At some point I thought maybe the story could centre around a hat shop. And then when I had the idea to have animals come in to buy different tails instead, I knew I had a fun story on my hand. Then the creativity really started flowing, and the story very quickly wrote itself."

Interior spreads from Fox & Son Tailers:

Your illustrations are so detailed and fun. Who are some illustrators you're admiring these days? "The list is endless. I love Karl James Mountford's The Circles In The Sky and Steve McCarthy's The Wilderness would definitely be up there.

Mark Janssen's Island is a firm favourite, as are any books by Jacques & Lise - especially Oskar. The Comet by Joe Todd-Stanton is an incredibly beautiful book. And I also love Molly Mendoza's Skip."

What forthcoming books are you most looking forward to getting your hands on? "I think the book I'm most looking forward to is The Skull by Jon Klassen. I'm a huge fan of all his books, and this one looks so intriguing."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "Ooh, that's a very tough question. If I really had to choose one, maybe Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. It's incredible."

Meara's Grandad lives by the mysterious lake of Loughareema. Some days it’s full and shimmering, and some days it's completely empty! Grandad has plenty of stories about why it vanishes. Is it mermaids? Narwhals? Giants? Meara doesn't believe any of these stories, but with a little imagination she may eventually discover the ‘real’ reason . . .

Max's Boat Pick:


By Paddy Donnelly

Publisher: O'Brien Press (May 30, 2022)

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Thanks for popping by, Paddy! I'm thrilled to call Ireland home and am in awe of its wondrous landscape. In your author's note, you mention growing up near the actual Loughareema, which disappears and reappears every so often. Was this story idea bubbling inside you all this time? Were there different ways you had tried to approach the story before landing on the characters of Meara and her Granddad? PD: "I hadn't thought about Loughareema (the real Vanishing Lake) in a long time. I guess when you grow up with something like that on your doorstep then you take it for granted. But now having lived away from Ireland for many years, I get a renewed sense of wonder when I go back home to visit and see these magical things which Ireland has in abundance. I'd love to write a few more stories about interesting places and phenomena from Ireland, so maybe down the line there could be more books based in reality.

When creating this particular story I started with a lake which would mysteriously vanish and reappear, and then plopped a child character (Meara) in there. Naturally she would be curious why the lake was vanishing, and went in search of the answer. I had her grandad live at the lake, so that there was a character to bounce. Meara is very much rooted in the real world and only believes what she can see and explain, while her grandad is full of fantastical stories of mermaids and giants. This enabled me to keep creating wilder and wilder tales from grandad, which keeps those pages turning."

Interior spreads from The Vanishing Lake:

In your process, do the illustrations or the words come first? "It's different if it's for my own stories, or if I'm illustrating another author's story. If someone else has written the words, then they've been refined and refined before it gets to me. When it comes to creating my own author illustrated stories, I tend to have both the images and words appearing in my head at once. Sometimes I just start with one image of something I want to illustrate, and then I try to work out a sketchy beginning, middle and end. Once I have that, then I can start writing some words. And usually the writing process gives me ideas on things to change in the illustrations, and vice versa. It’s a messy process!"

Who are some of your favorite Irish picture book creators? "There are so many beautiful books coming out of Ireland at the moment, it's very hard to choose! I'm a huge fan of Steve McCarthy's work, but especially his recent picture book, The Wilderness. It's an adventurous tale about the The Vasylenko family, but especially litle October who prefers the warm and safe comfort of the inside world. Steve's illustrations are stunning. Be Wild, Little One by Olivia Hope and Daniel Egnéus is a beautiful picture book which highlights the beauty of nature.

I also really love Girls Who Slay Monsters by Ellen Ryan and Shona Shirley Macdonald. It explores the strong female characters of Ireland's ancient myths and legends."

My dad is the best. We love hanging out together. Recently, he got this banana. At first, we had a great time with the banana — it does cool stuff and it’s really fun. But lately he’s spending too much time with the banana. He’s distracted, and he’s not enjoying the things he used to enjoy, like hanging out with me. I don’t think this banana is good for him. It’s time to take action.

Max's Boat Pick:


By Zoey Abbott

Publisher: Tundra Books (March 7, 2023)

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Thank you for joining Max's Boat again! So I have to ask: What inspired Banana?

"A number of years ago I was walking in my neighborhood and saw Fred from across the street and half a block down. He was on his way to work at our local bakery. Fred saw me and waved. I waved back. Fred was carrying his lunch in his arms, including a loose banana. Fred started to mime with the banana (pretending it was a leash, a guitar, a phone, etc ) which made me laugh pretty hard. Later I started doodling a story about a magical banana."

Interior spreads from Banana:

For those who love Banana, can you recommend one or two other books you think they might also enjoy? "Gosh, this is such a hard question! I don’t think I can answer this yet as I’m not sure where Banana fits, category wise. Each person who reads the book seems to have their own take on what it’s about. So, I will keep you posted on where this banana lands and what books become its kindreds.

But I will say … you know how if you get a minivan (a random personal example) then you start seeing minivans everywhere? Well, the same goes for bananas. If you write a book about a banana you start seeing bananas and banana books everywhere, too.

For example, I have two friends (Kate Berube and Carrie Tillotson) here in Portland, OR who also have books featuring bananas! Their banana books are, respectively, Second Banana, written by Blair Thornburgh, and Counting to Bananas, illustrated by Estrela Lourenço.

And I’m finding cute little banana details in all sorts of picture books. Here are a few favorites I've recently come across (from left to right): A World of Your Own by Laura Carlin, Bedtime for Bo by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold and Mari Kanstad Johnsen (translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson) and Why Do We Wear Clothes? by Helen Hancocks."

What are some forthcoming books you're looking to getting your hands on? "Here are a few books I can’t wait to get my mitts on!

Sorry Snail by Tracy Subisak (imminent)

Bunny and Tree by Balint Zsako (imminent)

Pelican Can by Toni Yuli (2024)"

What do you think the best picture books do? "When my kids were very little some of our favorite reads were by Barbara Helen Berger: A Lot of Otters, Grandfather Twilight, and When the Sun Rose. They are soft and lyrical, some are allegorical and all are transporting.

Speaking of Barbara Helen Berger, can I share a quick story? One morning my son woke up at 5 am a total mess, crying and out of sorts. As I carried him downstairs, I remembered it was his birthday. He was two. I said, 'It’s’ your birthday! You were born on this day.' He said, 'Show me.' So, in my hazy fog, I took a quilt and a stuffed animal and made myself a ‘belly.’

As I told him the story he started punctuating my narration with short pithy phrases which, it dawned on me, were lines from a Barbara Helen Berger book, All the Way to Lhasa. When I got to the part of his actual birth via c-section he whispered, 'Emaho!' - one of the last lines of Berger’s book when the main character finally reaches the holy city of Lhasa after a long and treacherous journey. In Tibetan, 'Emaho' apparently is 'an exclamation of wonder or amazement.'

I think this is what the best picture books can do - give us the vocabulary to talk about things that are ineffable (especially when we are pre-verbal or very newly verbal).

Great books give us vivid metaphors for making beauty and sense of the world. They can show us things that are true about ourselves that we didn’t know how to put into words."

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