Interview with Anne Wynter, EVERYBODY IN THE RED BRICK BUILDING
Everybody in the red brick building was asleep. Until . . . WaaaAAH! Rraak! Wake up! Pitter patter STOMP! Pssheew! A chain reaction of noises wakes up several children (and a cat) living in an apartment building. But it’s late in the night, so despite the disturbances, one by one, the building’s inhabitants return to their beds—this time with a new set of sounds to lull them to sleep.
Max's Boat Pick:
EVERYBODY IN THE RED BRICK BUILDING
Written by Anne Wynter and illustrated by Oge Mora
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (October 19, 2021)
What inspired Everybody in the Red Brick Building? AW: "A few things inspired the book. The first was a fascination with how apartment neighbors interact. I grew up in the same house my whole childhood, so when I was an adult living in apartments, the dynamics were so interesting to me. Once I woke up to the sound of a child singing Jingle Bells on the other side of the wall - it was so clear and it just lifted my mood. Moments like that stuck with me. I tried to write a full-length play that explored those themes, but it never worked out. So when I started trying to write picture books, this was one of the first ideas that came to mind. When I wrote the manuscript, I was living in an apartment with my kids, and apartment living was all they’d ever known. We had lots of wonderful books that featured houses, but I wished we had more books featuring apartments. And because I had already been thinking about apartments so much, possibilities for interactions were right at the top of my mind when I started working on Everybody in the Red Brick Building."
I find cumulative tales so fun to read, but they're also tricky to get right. What are some of your favorite cumulative text picture books? "They are tricky! When I was younger, I had a big book of stories and poems. Usually, I’d turn straight to The House that Jack Built and read that one over and over. For contemporary cumulative stories, One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom and Brendan Wenzel is a favorite."
Everybody in the Red Brick Building is such fun to read aloud! What are some of your favorite books to read aloud? "Saturday by Oge Mora. There’s a moment when Ava and her mother don’t want to miss the bus, and the mood quickly pivots from quiet and calm to loud and intense. There are so many big emotions in that book - excitement, disappointment, frustration, joy. Reading it out loud feels like performing a really great monologue.
Speaking of performing, I can’t forget Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. It’s definitely our noisiest, most energetic read aloud. We all get really into it!"
What do you think the best picture books do? "I think the best picture books have bits of language or imagery that stay with you and work their way into your life. One example is Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis. It’s a book that teaches you another language - bug language! Sometimes my kids pick gladenboots for me. Or I’ll wish we had a taller ribble. It’s like you get access to an inside joke between everyone who loves that book.
Another book that does that is Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. I love the structure and logic of the story, as well as the beautiful connection between the two characters, and the phrase 'same, same but different' gets a lot of use in our home.
In a different sense, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis also stays with you. It has an unexpected, sad ending that feels very true to life. Sometimes when we finish reading it, one of my kids’ will sit and stare at the final page for a while. Several of Jacqueline Woodson’s books have endings that never leave me."
What did you love reading to your sons at age three? At age five? "At age 3, Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank, Blue on Blue by Dianne White and Beth Krommes, and My Red Balloon by Kazuaki Yamada were definite favorites. At age 5, Whoosh! By Chris Barton and Don Tate, Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, and I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and
Gordon C. James were all winners. Another great thing about all these books is that they’re special at such a wide range of ages. They’re all still favorites in our home."
What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future? "Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan is 10 years old, and it certainly feels like it’s achieved classic status already. The Old Boat by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey and All the World by Liz Garton Stanlon and Marla Frazee also feel like modern classics."
What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "What a question! That’s so hard! To avoid hand-wringing, brow-furrowing and page flipping, I’m going to pick one that definitely makes the list for me. A Big Moon Cake for Little Star by Grace Lin. Magical, breathtaking, satisfying, perfect. We never get tired of that book."