Interview with Elisha Cooper, YES & NO
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)
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."