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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Julia Sarcone-Roach, THE ICE CREAM VANISHES

Squirrel is an expert at making acorns disappear. But making some ice cream vanish?! "I put it right there! On that hot rock in the sun!" When Squirrel returns with Bear and finds the ice cream gone, they know there is only one explanation—Squirrel is a magician!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Julia Sarcone-Roach

Knopf Books for Young Readers (June 20, 2023)

From describing a city as “high cliffs” in The Bear Ate Your Sandwich to referring to ice-cream cones as “party hats” in The Ice Cream Vanishes, you excel at viewing the world through the eyes of your characters. Can you share what inspired your new book? JSR: "My brain is kind of like a glove compartment filled with acorns, pebbles, and leftover food. Things roll around in there, knock into each other and sometimes stick together. And that's how the stories are made! Usually, a story comes together by finding the connections between a few snippets of ideas. This last book came from a few places : A brainstorming session with a writer friend about the possibility of another bear adventure, with ice cream being the only thing that could beat the pinnacle of a bear cleaning out a bakery in There Are No Bears in this Bakery.

Early sketches and outtakes of The Ice Cream Vanishes by Julia Sarcone-Roach:

One day, while walking down the street in Brooklyn, I saw a squirrel bound across a fully paved front yard into a planter and began to dig furiously. Then, after looking around to be sure no one had spotted its hiding place, the squirrel buried half a bagel for spring. I wondered what the squirrel thought when it returned to retrieve it. I've wanted to do a squirrel book since a nonsense idea from a sketchbook called 'Squirrels Repark Your Car,' where a band of ambitious squirrels do just that. Also, while working on the book, I moved and discovered that a squirrel was living in the tree right outside the window. The tree and squirrel inspired one of the first pages of the book.

I do enjoy getting to pretend to be the subject of the books, whether it’s a bear, a cat or a squirrel. For the first bear book, I’d walk to work and pretend I was a bear wandering the city. So far I haven’t gone full squirrel method actor, hoarding acorns or living in a tree. However, at one point I was stuck while working on this book, so as an exercise I rewrote it from the point of view of the dropped ice cream. Which turned out to be a good way to channel the anxiety of revision."

Interior spreads from The Ice Cream Vanishes by Julia Sarcone-Roach:

Julia Sarcone-Roach's studio:

Who are some writers and illustrators that you admire "This is a tough question! I’ve worked on and off as a bookseller since I was a teenager, so this is a question I struggle to answer simply! There are so many great books out there. Some authors and illustrators who I admire and am always excited to see what they make:

Caron Levis: Ida, Always; This Way, Charlie; Feathers Together (all illustrated by Charles Santoso) She blends true life animal tales with empathetic animal perspectives into stories that help children understand feelings. Her books make me laugh and cry (in the best ways.) She is also as thoughtful and kind as her stories are too.

Cátia Chien: The Longest Letsgoboy (written by Derick Wilder); The Sea Serpent and Me (written by Dashka Slater). Her art is gorgeous, ranging from poignant to humorous.

Jillian Tamaki’s graphic novel collaborations with her cousin Mariko Tamaki are incredible. Skim; This One Summer. They are detailed, gorgeously illustrated stories about kids navigating coming of age with tenderness and insight.

Shaun Tan: Tales from Outer Suburbia; The Arrival; Tales from the Inner City. He explores the overlap of humanity and nature with surreal, thoughtful, and marvelous results.

Isabel Roxas: Holding On (written by Sophia N. Lee); the Team Pom series. She has a great sense of humor and her art is lovely.

Daniel Miyares: That Neighbor Kid; Night Walk to the Sea (written by Deborah Wiles). Also his sketches and color studies on Instagram are regularly jaw dropping!

Lauren Castillo: This is a Story (written by John Schu); City Cat (written by Kate Banks). Lauren’s art is always gently beautiful and engaging. Her books are like warm hugs.

A few more people whose work I admire and look forward to: Bob Shea, Brian Floca, Oge Mora, Anna Raff, Sydney Smith, Beatrice Alemagna, Gracey Zhang, Meghan McCarthy, Christian Robinson, Suzy Lee, David Roberts, Hannah Salyer, Dena Seiferling, Adam Rex, Alexis Deacon."

What forthcoming books are you most looking forward to getting your hands on?

"Mighty Muddy Us by the master of animal emotions, Caron Levis. It is a tender story of elephant siblings finding their own footing illustrated by the talented Charles Santoso.

Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki is a new graphic novel that follows college students exploring New York City.

Bob Shea’s next book - Bob makes the funniest books. Not an opinion, just a fact. Reading one of his books is like entering a well designed world of grumpy animals and midcentury sofas in the woods. He also does one of the hardest things in making a picture book, he makes it all look simple.

Adam Rex’s new graphic novel, A Little Like Waking. His art is out of this world. His storytelling brims with humor and emotion.

Just One Flake by Travis Jonker Iooks fun and sweet. No one can see that cover and not want to pick it up!"

What's next for you? And what's next for Bear? "A few things are percolating right now. One is a story of a dragon, a creature I’ve been doodling in my sketchbook for a few years who is finally coming to life! Another is an illustration project that will let me explore a new style of making art. Though I like working with a lot of media, most of the books I have illustrated have been done primarily with acrylic paint. A couple years ago I participated in Inktober, and posted some warm ups done in a darker, looser ink wash style on Instagram. So I’m looking forward to making a book where I get to play with and learn more about working with ink. As for the Bear, he needs a nap after all that eating. So at the moment at least, the bear is hibernating. However, I think he could return for the right food or adventure. (Although what could top ice cream?!)"


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