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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Dashka Slater, THE ANTLERED SHIP

Marco the fox has a lot of questions, but none of the other foxes share his curiosity. So when a magnificent ship adorned with antlers and with a deer for a captain arrives at the dock looking for a crew, Marco volunteers. Will he find his answers at last?


Written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Publisher: Beach Lane Books (September 12, 2017)

What inspired you to write The Antlered Ship? DS: "One morning, I woke with an image hovering just behind my eyes, like the afterimage of a bright light. A ship with antlers at its prow, sailing into a harbor. I had no memory of the dream it had come from, if it had indeed come from a dream. All I had were questions: Why did that ship have antlers? Where was it going? Who was on board and what were they

looking for? The only way to find the answer was to sit down and write the story.

As I wrote, I encountered Marco the fox, who boarded the Antlered Ship to find answers to his questions about the world. His quest mirrored my own. The more I wrote, the more I recognized in Marco the curiosity that made me both a reader and a writer.

I didn’t know that The Antlered Ship was a book about curiosity when I started it. But if I hadn’t been curious, I never would have found out. I hope that when children read the book, they’ll be inspired to be lifelong questioners, asking questions not just of parents, teachers, and librarians, but of themselves and of each other. As Marco discovers in the course of the story, the quest to find answers is often more important than the answers themselves, and the best answers inevitably lead to more questions."

Are there other picture books you love about sea adventures? "Two of my favorite sea adventure picture books are Mabel: A Mermaid Fable by Rowboat Watkins and The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard. Not coincidentally, both are somewhat philosophical as well. Plus two more gorgeous sea-themed books: Swashby and The Sea by Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez-Neal and There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and Laurel Molk."

What was your favorite picture book as a child?

"I absolutely loved A Little House of Your Own by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers and Irene Haas. It's a small, strange book about the need for privacy and solitude that voiced something I had always understood about myself but had never known how to name."

Do you remember what you loved reading to your child at age three? At age five? "My son and I were big fans of King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood, which allows for a lot of fun voices, and The Slow Train to Oxmox by Kurt Cyrus, a wonderfully surreal story about a verrrrry slow train that is sadly now out of print. We were also both obsessed by Olga Dugina and Andrej Dugin’s version of The Brave Little Tailor, with their breathtakingly bizarre illustrations."

What are your favorite classic picture books? "So many! One less well-known one is I Want To Paint My Bathroom Blue by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak which captures a child’s voice so perfectly and has such sweet Chagall-like illustrations. I’m a huge fan of all things Sendak, whose visions furnished the inside of my head when I was small. The books he wrote are my favorites – particularly Where The Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Nutshell Library, but I also love books like Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow and A Hole Is To Dig by Ruth Krauss, both of which were illustrated by Sendak and are written by two of children’s literature’s greatest writers."

What are some recent picture books that you hope will be the new classics? "Again, there are so many! I love She Wanted To Be Haunted by Marcus Ewert and Susie Ghahremani, Hungry Jim by Laurel Snyder and Chuck Groenink, In the Half Room by Carson Ellis, The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson, My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano and Jillian Tamaki, and I am super excited about the soon-to-be-released What Will My Story Be? by Nidhi Chanani."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "One I haven’t yet mentioned is If You Want To See A Whale by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead."


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