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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Jashar Awan, I'M GOING TO BUILD A SNOWMAN

When a little boy wakes up to see a blanket of snow covering the world outside, there’s only one thing to do: make a snowman, and not just any snowman—he wants the best snowman ever.

Max's Boat Pick:


By Jashar Awan

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (September 19, 2023)

Thanks for stopping by again, Jashar! I'm always in awe of your books. You strike that perfect balance between super simple and super smart. Can I ask what inspired I'm Going to Build a Snowman?

JA: "I'm Going to Build a Snowman was inspired by the first snowfall after we moved into our new house. We got quite a bit of snow—school was cancelled. It was my son's first snow day. When he woke up and peeked through the curtains, he yelled, 'MOM! It snowed!' (a moment I had to include in the book). That afternoon, we built a snowman together. In my head, I imagined that we would end up with this picture perfect snowman but what we built was lop-sided and filled with bits of grass, leaves, and acorns. The snowman was such a character I could see there was story potential there but it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say with a snowman that did not live up to expectations. 

An early sketch from I'm Going to Build a Snowman by Jashar Awan (above)

I eventually realized that it provided a way to discuss perfectionism and developing a growth mindset. The main character might not have made the best snowman ever, but he's made his best snowman yet. It's better to try and fail, than not try at all. Find joy in the process, in the efforts, rather than be solely focused on the end result. I've always struggled with perfectionism—these are lessons I'm still working on myself."

An early sketch and interior spreads from I'm Going to Build a Snowman by Jashar Awan (below)

You're a big fan of Ezra Jack Keats, and The Snowy Day is very much the paragon of the snow day book. How did The Snowy Day influence (or not influence) I'm Going to Build a Snowman"Because it is such a paragon of the snowy day book, I tried not to look at The Snowy Day while working on I'm Going to Build a Snowman. Instead, I drew inspiration from other sources. For instance, I looked at Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I love the movement in that book—how Harold moves across each page, each spread, creating as he goes. I had Harold in mind, especially during the step-by-step planning scene. Of course, I end that scene with a reference to The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. That book is the best case scenario as far as building a snowman goes!"

What are some other favorite picture books about winter (or snow)?

"Here's a handful of favorites—

Brave Irene by William Steig

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Little Boy Brown by Isobel Harris and André François

So Much Snow by Hyunmin Park

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson

Just One Flake by Travis Jonker"

What are some of your favorite holiday books?

"It almost goes without saying The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a favorite holiday book of mine. Its imagery is so memorable and I love the bittersweet note at the end about how the sound of the sleigh bell gets fainter every year. It’s a book with nostalgia built into it.

My family's favorite nostalgic Christmas read is Clement Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas. We have an old paperback copy illustrated by the great Golden Age illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith. My wife and I read and reread this our son so many times, he could recite large portions of it by the age of 2! (I included a nod to the opening line of Moore’s text in Strum & Drum—a sleepy mouse can be seen marching in Strum and Drum’s merry band!)

The Sweet Smell of Christmas is another favorite in my household. It’s written by Patricia Scarry and illustrated by J.P. Miller. It’s a scratch-and-sniff book so you really get to experience the smells of the holiday along with Little Bear and his family as they prepare for and celebrate Christmas.

My studio mate Lala Watkins just released an adorable board book called Little Santa’s Workshop! It’s a rhyming behind-the-scenes look at the North Pole as preparations are made for Christmas Eve. Lala’s art always makes me smile—it is so joyful and bold!"

What forthcoming picture books are you most excited about?

 "I'm looking forward to Breanna Carzoo's next book—it is called The Squish and it features a sandcastle as the main character. It's all about deciding to rebuild after being squished. The initial idea came to her during the pandemic. I'm interested in seeing how storytellers use metaphor to process that period of time. Heavy stuff, for sure, but Breanna handles big ideas with a light, humorous touch.

Looking for Peppermint by Maxwell Eaton III looks like a lot of fun! It is about a girl searching the woods for her lost dog and she teaches the reader all about the forest while she's at it. Maxwell has a knack for making informative books very entertaining.

I also can't wait for The Book That Can Read Your Mind by Marianna Coppo! The art looks adorable. I might be wrong, but I believe this is the first book where she's drawing (rather than painting) her illustrations. It's always exciting to see an artist try new things!



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