Interviews

A mouse comes upon a tiny crown in the grass. The mouse puts the crown on his head, and when a bear subsequently comes upon him and asks if he's king, the mouse responds "Yes."

Pick by The Fan Brothers, It Fell From the Sky and Daniel Miyares, Midnight & Moon:


KING MOUSE

Written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling

Publisher: Tundra Books (September 24, 2019)

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The illustrations for King Mouse are so lushly breathtaking. What was your starting point or inspirations? DS: "Thank you! The main inspiration for the environments was the landscape that surrounds the city I live in (Treaty 7 - Calgary, Alberta). At the time King Mouse was illustrated, my kids were both very little and we would spend a lot of time exploring these areas which are a great mix of forested hills, grasslands and river valleys. It’s a place to ponder, imagine and lose yourself in - life is everywhere! I felt like it was the perfect spot to draw inspiration from and having spent so much time in this environment helped me imagine and develop the characters in a wholistic way - also lots of reference because I love taking photos out there."


For those who love KING MOUSE, can you recommend another title that you think they might also enjoy, and why? "I would recommend Bear Wants to Sing because it’s the follow up/companion book to King Mouse!"


King Mouse reads like a modern fable. Are there any other modern fables you love? "I really love Mac Barnett and John Klassen’s The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse. I personally appreciate a juxtaposition of dry humour and sweetness which I feel this book has. I think this story introduces children to the idea of symbiotic relationships and interconnectivity in a fun and lighthearted way and reminds us of the importance of collaboration. I like fables that don’t take themselves too seriously." "Some books that I have on my shelf that I consider classics are King Mouse by Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling," said Daniel Miyares. What contemporary picture books do you hope will become the classics of the future? "That’s very flattering to hear. I admire Daniel Miyares's work. Midnight & Moon looks fantastic!

I was able to see some lovely media exploration and process for that book on his Tundra IG feature recently.


Hmm.. one book I have on my shelves that I think of as a future classic is The Night Gardener, by The Fan Brothers. This book, about a town who experiences something mysterious and magical, is adorable and full of heart. Their books feel timeless and this one is especially beautiful to look at. I’ll always have a copy in my library :)"

Updated: Apr 11

Mae is a girl. Bear is a bear. But over the course of one life-changing, slightly nerve-racking train ride, they find out that this might be the only thing they don't have in common.


Pick by Daniel Miyares, Hope at Sea:


COURAGE HATS

Written by Kate Hoefler and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley

Publisher: Chronicle Books (March 22, 2022)

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Can you tell me the origin story behind Courage Hats?

KH: "I started writing Courage Hats when I needed courage myself. It was during a focus fellowship at AIR SFI – a wonderful surprise allowing me time to get away from everyday life to go into a small wooded community in Georgia to write. I had never just picked up and gone somewhere (for an extended period of time) on my own, and especially not to a place where I didn’t know a soul.

So really, the story came out of a place in my own chest where both fear and courage were doing their dance. And while I didn’t wonder if I would be eaten by bears in a 'bear place' or people in a 'people place' (like Mae and Bear in the story), I DID wonder other things – like if I was good enough, if I could even drive 11 hours on my own, if I could settle in, if I would be lonely, if I would…I don’t know, 'disappoint.'

So Courage Hats became a story about the unknown while I was also sitting in an unknown. And I began to see how, at least in my own experience, I never have all the courage I think I need up front to do anything I’m afraid to do. I have only a little courage – almost like something I’m temporarily trying on (like a hat). But it grows. It grows while I’m already doing the thing I’m afraid of. And that really opened my world – once I understood that. Sometimes courage doesn’t lead; it follows.

I didn’t want the story to be about whether a fear is valid. Fear is quite often irrational. But fear just IS. We live with it. I wanted Courage Hats to be a story without judgement about fear. Just a story about the little ways we get through it – and all the beauty on the other side of it.

(Beauty that kept coming through during that fellowship, too)."

For those who love Courage Hats, can you recommend a few other titles you think they might also enjoy? "There are so many lovely books about courage that I adore. And there are different kinds of courage. Here are some off the top of my head:

Books about warming up to courage (and 'trying on' courage): Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead, Wolf Girl by Jo Loring-Fisher, Mole in a Black & White Hole by Tereza Sediva, and A Song in the Mist by Corrinne Averiss and Fiona Woodcock.

Books about the courage to be who we are: Keith Among the Pigeons by Katie Brosnan, Jerome By Heart by Thomas Scotto and Olivier Tallec, Zero Local by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow, Bird Boy by Matthew Burgess and Shahrzad Maydani.

Books where it’s lovely to ask a reader, ‘what kind of (beautiful) courage is this?’: Something Good by Marcy Campbell and Corinna Luyken, Everyone Walks Away by Eva Lindström, Over the Shop by JonArno Lawsom and Qin Leng, and I Dream of a Journey by Akiko Miyakoshi."







I imagine language is something you pay particular attention to in picture books given your background in poetry. What are some picture books you turn to over and over for their rhythm, or for the beauty of their words? "So many! These days, I’m very much drawn to economy – books doing a lot with no waste, no excess – each word holding a lot of muscle. That’s what I keep finding stunning. Here’s a list off the top of my head (in no particular order) that serve as lanterns to me, and guiding lights for that kind of beautiful economy: Small in the City by Sydney Smith, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead, I Am A Bird by Hope Lim and Hyewon Yum, The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc, The Dreamer by Il Sung Na, The Invisible Bear by Cécile Metzger,


The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyahkoshi, The Bear and the Moon by Matthew Burgess and Cátia Chien, The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken, Once I Was a Bear by Irene Luxbacher, The Old Truck (and The Old Boat) by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey, and The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and Erin E. Stead. Two 'older' books that continue to swim in my chest for their rhythm are I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay and The Stars Will Still Shine by Cynthia Rylant and Tiphanie Beeke."

Join a cat and puppy pair through their day―the ups of being fed and romping through grass, and the downs of days that are too short and things that don't go as planned―as they realize that sometimes the very best thing that can happen is just being together.

Max's Boat Pick:


YES & NO

By Elisha Cooper

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (April 13, 2021)

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What inspired Yes & No? It feels like a companion book or sequel to Big Cat, Little Cat. Did you envision it as such? EC: "Yes, it’s similar in that I used a painted black ink line. No, in that I added watercolor (and all of the animals in the book live!). When I was researching Yes & No I was fascinated by some paintings up at the Met, first some French Impressionist paintings and then Chinese mountain paintings. I tried to put this artistic exploration into my illustrations. I suppose the inspiration of the book – if we can ever know that moment of inspiration – was the feeling of being told as a boy to come inside, that the day was done. I hated that. I still hate that. So the puppy is me, and all of us, I think."

You've written books for adults, and books for children. Which do you find more difficult? More enjoyable? "The writer William Maxwell once said that he was trying to write for an intelligent twelve-year-old. I’ve always loved that line. A good book should leap across divisions. I’m thinking of a book like Charlotte’s Web. So I’m just trying to write good books for humans. Sure, there are differences (my essays might be a little hard for a four-year-old!), but sometimes I wonder if age distinctions are dreamed up by marketers. We are less different than we think."


You're known for your simple, perfect line (with words and with paint). Which do you agonize over more--the words or the pictures? "I don’t agonize. Not much, at least. And when I do, I get another coffee or go for a run along the river. I try not to overthink. I’ve spent my life painting and writing and now it just pours out. That doesn’t mean I’m not often wrong, or don’t make mistakes or struggle to find the right word.

Maybe I’m hung up on the word 'agonize'? Because making art is a joy and I’m lucky to do it. Again, I don’t mean to say it’s never difficult. But agony? No."


What did you love reading to your daughters when they were 3 and 5? "Tolstoy."


What's your favorite bookstore and/or library?

"Okay, what I really read to my daughters were picture books (but my Tolstoy joke wouldn’t land

if I didn’t leave it there!). There was a whole range of books we shared, from Asterix to Sendak to Munro Leaf. I got them books at Three Lives & Co., the most beautiful bookstore in New

York (corner of West 10th Street and Waverly in the Village). Or we went to our local library,

Jefferson Market Library. We went so often I painted huge painting murals on the walls. And I

painted their wood signage. Also, an NYPL bag."