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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Corinna Luyken, SOMETHING GOOD

The day the "bad-something" is discovered written on a wall, the kids in the school are nervous, giggly, and curious at first, but then they're worried, confused, sad and angry. Everyone is suspicious. Who did it, and why? They miss the days before the bad-something appeared, because everything—and everyone—feels different now. It takes a lot of talking, listening, looking, and creating something good together to find a way to heal.

Max's Boat Pick:


Written by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 19, 2021)

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Something Good has such an important message. Are there any other picture books you love that explore healing? Or coming together--whether as a school, neighborhood or community? CL: "Off the top of my head, I’m not thinking of anything that is an exact fit. But a few books I’ve read or reread recently come to mind in one way or another: Andrea Wang and Jason Chin’s Watercress is an exquisite book that deals with overcoming internal emotional obstacles and coming together as a family. Rabbit and the Motorbike by Kate Hoefler

and Sarah Jacoby, The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder and Cátia Chien, Michael Rosen’s SAD BOOK by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake, and Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin and Maribel Lechuga all deal beautifully with grief and healing. And School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson is a surprising take on the topic of school community. Also, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis is a book that deals with the grief that comes from not acting, leaving room for a 'what if' in the reader’s own heart and mind. It’s an incredibly powerful book."

You have such a distinctive illustration style. Are there any other illustrators you admire for their

distinctive style? "Oh my! In this golden age of illustration, it’s impossible for me to choose just one illustrator or just one book. But there are illustrators whose new books I tend to preorder, sight unseen, because I appreciate their work/distinctive style so much. They include: Julie Flett (Birdsong), Cátia Chien (The Bear and the Moon), Carson Ellis (Du Iz Tak), Isabelle Arsenault (Virginia Wolf), Beatrice Alemagna (What is a Child?), Julie Morstad (Time Is a Flower), Jillian Tamaki (They Say Blue), Sydney Smith (Town is By The Sea), Erin Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee), Christian Robinson (Leo: A Ghost Story), Shawn Harris (Have You Ever Seen A

Flower?), Jon Klassen (This is Not My Hat), Jon

Agee (I Want a Dog), Komako Sakai (Emily’s Balloon)...

(Three of my favorite, lesser known, no longer living, illustrators with very distinct styles that I absolutely love are Adrienne Adams, Ati Forberg, and Evaline Ness.)"

What do you think the best picture books do? "The best picture books surprise us. They take us on a journey that feels simultaneously unexpected and inevitable. To do this well, the words and pictures each have to leave a little room for the other—

to surprise, to contrast, to delight. This dance between the world of image and the world of sound makes a brilliant picture book so much more than a combination of the two. It’s what turns a book into a world we want to return to— again and again and again.

A few examples: Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis; both Extra Yarn and The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klasssen; School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson; My Museum by Joanne Liu; Migrant by Isabelle Arsenault and Maxine Trottier; The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper; Jon Agee’s Nothing; Michael Rosen’s SAD BOOK by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake; Saturday by Oge Mora, Mrs. Crump’s Cat by Linda Smith and David Roberts..."

What was your favorite picture book as a child? "As a young child, I loved reading Rootabaga Stories, written by Carl Sandburg, and illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham, aloud with my mom.

I also adored Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends; The Fire Cat by Esther Averill; The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall; No More Monsters for Me by Peggy Parish and Marc Simont; Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library and Where the Wild Things Are; Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad and Lucille; Tomie de Paola’s The Clown of God; Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches and Other Stories; and Edward Gorey’s illustrated intro sequence for the PBS MASTERPIECE Mystery TV Series! Most of the books that I loved as a child were a combination of beautiful and absurd/strange. It’s a sweet spot for me.

Many years later, as a young adult, it was discovering George Saunders and Lane Smith’s book The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip as well as Lisbeth Zwerger’s illustrations and Sophie

Blackall’s book Missed Connections that started me on my path to becoming a book maker."

If you have children, do you remember what you loved reading to your kids at age three? At age five? "My daughter recently turned 12, and we have read sooo many picture books together that it’s hard to choose favorites. But the first book she memorized completely (in that 3 yr range) was Marla Frazee and Liz Garton Scanlon’s All The World—which our whole family adored. And our favorite book of poetry, without question, was and continues to be Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad’s

When Green Becomes Tomatoes. A few other favorites were/are Sergio Ruzzier’s Bear and Bee; Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu; Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson; Virginia Wolf by Kyo MacLear and Isabelle Arsenault; Emily’s Balloon and Hannah’s Night both by Komako Sakai; Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson’s Gaston; Wave by Suzy Lee; and No Fits, Nilson! by Zacharia OHora. I could go on and on..."

What contemporary picture books do you hope will become the classics of the future? "Everything I’ve mentioned above! I wish more people knew about George Saunders and Lane Smith's The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip. And I think When Green Becomes Tomatoes should be in everybody’s poetry collection (and everything else by Julie Fogliano.)"

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