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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Jessixa Bagley, WHEN I WAKE UP

When an imaginative young child wakes up before their parents, they know that they’re supposed to stay in bed until the clock says 7:00. But that’s no fun—so what should they do instead?

Max's Boat Pick:


Written by Seth Fishman and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (December 14, 2021)

The different-colored vignettes in When I Wake Up are just brilliant! How did that idea come about?

JB: "When I got the manuscript, the various storylines were broken up as A, B, C, D. I knew right away it needed something that would make it clear there were different versions of the kid’s day happening, so pretty much from the start I envisioned that part of the story broken up into four colors. I really wanted the book to be as visually interesting as possible, so I then paired the color-story concept with different ways I could break up the page into four parts. It was so much fun!"

Do you remember what you loved reading to your son at age three? At age five? "What a sweet question! It was a joy reading him some of my childhood favorites, like all the Beatrix Potter books and Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Collection. I remember reading him Chicken Soup with Rice but singing it, like Carol King does, and I totally started crying because it was so special to get to share it with him. I feel like I’ve always read Baxter a mix of picture books and chapter books. He really loves it all. I really wanted him to have a tolerance for listening to longer text even at a young age, so I’d read him everything from simple classics like I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry to Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House to James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. His most favorite book I’ve read to him is probably El Deafo by Cece Bell. I think I first read him that at four. I’ve read it to him at least seven or eight times."

What have been your favorite picture books that came out in 2021? "After such a hard year of 2020 and so many authors' books getting overshadowed by the challenges of the world, it was nice to still see so many wonderful books come out in 2021. (I feel like I’m still catching up with books from 2020!) Books are one of my ways I heal, and I needed A LOT of healing coming into this year. I think LeUyen Pham’s Outside, Inside was so important to the world as it captured the global pandemic we all went through in such a heartfelt way. I also deeply love Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd and Christian Robinson. It is a gorgeous biography about Nina Simone and how she used her music to speak out about equal rights for blacks."

What contemporary picture books do you hope will become the classics of the future? "I think we’ve been in a true golden age of picture books for a while and there are SO many amazing books that I wished were around when I was a kid and that I hope will be around for generations. There is an astounding number of talented writers and illustrators making books right now who are attuned with the form. While my list could be QUITE long, I’ll give some of my top selections that make it into that classic realm for me: The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi, Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano and Jillian Tamaki, Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, The Old Truck by the Pumphrey Brothers. And you know, it’s the ultimate dream for your own books to be classics one day so here’s wishing one of mine would make it there."

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