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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Julie Falatko, YOURS IN BOOKS

Owl just wants some peace and quiet to read his books—alone. But when the forest youngsters ruffle his feathers, he enlists the local bookshop owner to send him handpicked books to help cope with the chaos and the mess. It’s not long before Owl discovers Squirrel and learns that just as important as solitude are companionship and community.


Written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

Publisher: Cameron Kids (September 21, 2021)

What inspired Yours in Books? JF: "The short answer is that I love letters and I love books. I think there’s something really special about sending mail to people. Yes, most of the time I send an email, but a handwritten letter is like a more real piece of me (and a postcard is like a text message!). I am obsessed with the concept of having something funny happen to you, and it makes you think of your friend, and

then you take the time to write the funny story out in a letter, which they get many days later. It’s this super tangible, very slow way of staying connected to people. I used to write letters to everyone, back when phone calls were expensive, and during the pandemic I got back in the habit of sending mail to people.

In a lot of ways, a book is a letter. It’s a piece of you, the author, and you’re sending it out into the world. In this case the friend I’m sending it to is 'all the readers.'"

I laughed out loud so many times reading Yours in Books. Who are some other writers you admire for their humor? "Oh gosh, so many. Once you hear Bob Shea read any of his books out loud, you can’t help but read them with his cadence, and hope the kid you’re reading to hasn’t also heard Bob read, or else they’re going to ask why you’re doing a cheap Bob Shea impersonation. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, illustrated by Lane Smith, is one that makes me feel like a comedic genius reading it. Laurie Keller is incredible. I remember the first time I read The Scrambled States of America, I felt such a weird kinship – here was this hilarious person who had the same sense of humor I did. There’s such a magic to making someone laugh through a book. Potato Pants is comedy genius. Anything my frequent collaborator Ruth Chan does is so, so hilarious. The way Ruth draws faces – I could look at them all day. So funny. She illustrated a book called Have You Seen Gordon? that just came out (it’s written by Adam Jay Epstein) and every illustration in that is a masterclass in comedy."

Now I have to ask: What's your favorite bookshop? "I am lucky enough to live in an area (Portland, Maine) with quite a few independent bookshops, all of which are incredible. Nonesuch, Sherman’s, Longfellow and Bull Moose are great. My favorite is Print: A Bookstore, which I love so much that I named the bookstore in Yours in Books after it."

Do you remember what you loved reading to your children at age three? At age five? "We live in Maine, so we’re contractually obligated to read and love Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, and Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar. I also remember reading Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, and illustrated by Tony Fucile, and one of my kids laughing so hard he fell out of his chair."

What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future? "Lucy Ruth Cummins makes these books that look like something from fifty years ago that every generation in your family has read and loved to bits. Her illustrations and humor have a very solid retro feel, like she’s tapped into a vein of storytelling that has been true for centuries. A Hungry Lion: Or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals, Stumpkin, and Vampenguin are all so great. Everything Carter Higgins makes is something that will clearly be enjoyed by readers for decades. It’s like she captures dreams in jars and writes them onto the page. Everything You Need for a Treehouse (illustrated by Emily Hughes), Circle Under Berry, This is Not a Valentine (illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins): they all are things you’ve wished for but didn’t know it until you pick the book up."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "I’ll list one, because if I list two I’ll have to list 100. Amos and Boris by William Steig is my favorite picture book of all time. It’s funny, it’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking and wondrous, and uses language in a way I will forever aspire to."


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