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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Matthew Cordell, WOLF IN THE SNOW

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?

Max's Boat Pick


By Matthew Cordell

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (January 3, 2017)

Thanks for visiting again, Matthew! This time, can you share how Wolf in the Snow came about? Matthew Cordell: "It all started with a drawing I made of a girl in a red coat standing in a snow-covered field across from an adult wolf. I often draw things that pop into my head and this was just one of those things. It wasn’t for a story I’d been working on, or for a book under contract. I posted the drawing on all of the regular social media channels, and people were very positive and curious about the drawing. I actually liked it quite a bit too, but I had no idea what—if anything—could be said about just the one picture."

The original drawing by Matthew Cordell that inspired Wolf in the Snow (below):

"So, instead of trying to write something, I decided to research wolves. Up to that point in my life, all I knew of wolves was from negative depictions in pop culture. Like old fairy and folk tales as well as more recent films and television that shows wolves as aggressive and vicious. Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, etc. With just a bit of research, I learned that these negative portrayals of wolves go back centuries. Most significantly, they are unfair and untrue. Wolves live in strongly bonded families (wolf packs) and hunt only out of necessity. They are intelligent, loving, and, yes, can be defensive if threatened. But they do not set out to kill for sport, and they either fear or have little to no interest in humans. After realizing what I thought to be true were long and twisted falsehoods, I started to see a story take shape that addressed fears and prejudice. The girl and the wolf in that drawing would be two lost souls set into a frightening, bleak, and isolated landscape to help tell that story."

Interior spreads from Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow (below):

You now have two characters that wear a red (or off-red) cape! Do you just love Little Red Riding Hood? "I think I just like the color red! I am not a person who has a definitive favorite color, but red is great for screaming off the page. I’m often asked about Little Red Riding hood, and the honest answer is I don’t really think about that story. With Wolf in the Snow, I was working on my sketch dummy in early days, sharing the story and color character studies with my illustrator friends. The first thing someone asked was if I was trying to write a sort of anti-Little Red Riding hood story. I actually wasn’t, but from that point on that’s what it became. Maybe subconsciously, I wanted to write a wolf-positive story, and my subconscious started pulling from Little Red, which is a centuries-old, world-renowned, anti-wolf story. I think most of us know it well enough, in one form or another. The one thing I do like about Little Red is the sort of quest/adventure aspect of the story."

Interior spreads from Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow (below):

What's next for you? "Gratefully, I’m keeping busy with multiple projects on the desk and on the horizon for publication. Next to be released will be the fourth book in my Cornbread and Poppy beginning reader series, Cornbread and Poppy for the Win—where our two mice heroes find themselves enlisted in a high-stakes cycle race. After that is The Ship in the Window, a picture book written by author, illustrator, librarian (triple threat!) pal, Travis Jonker—I provided illustrations for that one. I’m currently working on two picture books in different stages of completion. I’m drawing final art for my next author/illustrator picture book, To See an Owl, and I’m beginning sketches for a David Bowie picture book biography I’ve written. I’m super excited about all of these projects!"

What are your all-time favorite picture books?

Frog and Toad (all Frog and Toad books) by Arnold Lobel (technically not picture books, but let’s bend the rules for these pitch-perfect illustrated books)

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


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