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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Laura Gehl, APPLE AND MAGNOLIA

Britta visits her two favorite trees, Apple and Magnolia, every day. Though she can't explain it, she's sure they are best friends! Then one day, Magnolia's branches start to droop. Is there anything Britta--or Apple--can do to help?

Max's Boat Pick:


Written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Patricia Metola

Publisher: Flyaway Books (February 8, 2022)

Can you tell me the origin story behind Apple & Magnolia? 

LG: "When I began learning about the ways trees communicate in real life, that became the seed for this story (sorry, couldn’t resist one tree pun!). As a forest lover and a former biology teacher, I find the concept of trees helping one another absolutely fascinating. In Apple and Magnolia, the main character, Britta, is absolutely convinced that the two trees in her yard are best friends. The reader never really knows whether the trees in the story do have a connection, or if the relationship is just in Britta’s mind and heart."

Are there other picture books you love that celebrate the natural world? "I adore Deborah Underwood and Cindy Derby’s Outside In. A very different book I love is Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian. And a third is Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez-Neal. While Swashby is not primarily about the natural world, the way ocean waves interact with sand is my favorite part of the story!"

What are some of your favorite STEM picture books? "Stacy McAnulty’s Our Universe series, illustrated by David Litchfield and Stevie Lewis, is wonderful, because the books are funny as well as informative. Another favorite is The Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom by Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang."

What contemporary picture books do you hope will become the classics of the future? "This one is already six years old, so not quite contemporary, but The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, by Michelle Cuevas and Erin E. Stead, is one book that I hope will be read and cherished for generations to come."

Do you remember what you loved reading to your kids at age three? At age five? "Because I have four kids (all two years apart), I was reading to a range of ages most of the time. One book we loved reading over and over was The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend and John Manders. I did different voices for each animal, and my kids laughed every single time."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "Possibly my

favorite picture book ever is A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban. Every time I read it, I crack up. The songs are hilarious. And Frances’ jealousy that it isn’t her birthday is so relatable. A Birthday for Frances is just a perfect gem of a picture



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