Interview with Megan Litwin, TWINKLE, TWINKLE, WINTER NIGHT
Shimmer, glimmer, glowing light – twinkle, twinkle, winter night. Celebrate winter with this magical twist on a beloved nursery rhyme that brings the shimmering season of lights to life.
Max's Boat Pick:
TWINKLE, TWINKLE, WINTER NIGHT
Written by Megan Litwin and illustrated by Nneka Myers
Publisher: Clarion Books (September 20, 2022)
Thanks for coming onboard, Megan! Can you tell me the origin story behind Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night? ML: "This book began with a distinct initial spark on a dark December drive…eleven years ago. My then-toddler son was newly mesmerized by all the different kinds of light we passed – from lights on houses, trees and lampposts, to the starlight and moonlight and glittering snow. He started using the phrase 'twinkle lights' to call out everything he saw. That car ride was full of joy and excitement and wonder at the world. A simple drive had turned simply magical! I’ll never forget it. And it got me thinking about how in this darkest time of year, our world is truly filled with light. Light that we can ALL share. I knew I wanted to make a book that celebrated that in some way."
For those who love Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night, can you recommend a few other titles that you think they might also enjoy? "I’d recommend they cozy up with these winter titles that are filled with a sense of wonder, joy, and optimism, and where children are finding all kinds of magic in the season:
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Snow by Uri Shulevitz
Before Morning by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes
Snowy Race by April Jones Prince and Christine Davenier
Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night has the honor of being one of the very few rhyming books on Max's Boat! I'm in awe of your rhymes, though I'm sure you've heard the same advice I have, which is that books in rhyme are an extremely hard sell. I'm curious why you decided to go in rhyme for your debut book? "I’m thrilled to have that honor – I am a huge fan of Max’s Boat! But oh yes, I have certainly heard that same caution on rhyme. And yet – we are who we are, right? I write in rhyme because that’s the way my brain works. When I do school visits and talk about writing I often say that I 'play with words' for a living. I feel like I work on word puzzles all day. Once I have an idea and a story shape in my head, I let it all pour out (and that is usually, but not always, in rhyme or some sort of lyrical fashion) – and then I get to work. Swapping a word here, shortening a beat there…changing the sound and shape and flow of the text. I think some of it may stem from my background in education, where I worked for many years helping children learn to read, often through poetry and song and rhyme. I’ve always been a little enamored with language and wordplay. And for Twinkle, Twinkle, Winter Night, it certainly seemed like the right fit, given the nod to 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' in the title and the fact that I had a repeated refrain I wanted readers to feel in their heart."
What are some of your favorite books in rhyme?
"Andrea Beaty, Julia Donaldson, Chris Van Dusen, and Josh Funk are masters at what I would call 'rollicking rhyme.' Books like Ada Twist, Scientist; Room on the Broom; The Circus Ship; and Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have this wonderful rhythm that pulls you along to the climax in an 'I-just-can’t-stop-reading' kind of way! Those are all read-aloud GOLD and so much fun to share.
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin and Blanca Gómez is another read-aloud gem with that same clever, fast-paced rhyme, but done in a way just right for the youngest of young readers.
And then there is the more thoughtful, quiet rhyme. The kind where you might sit with a line for a beat or two before turning the page, and where the connection and emotion that is happening for the reader is more internal. That is very different than the kind I just spoke about – but equally satisfying. A perfect example of this would be All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee, one of my
favorite picture books of all time and a real mentor text for me. I remember thinking 'THIS. I want to
make picture books like THIS one day.'
Similarly, Wondering Around by Meg Fleming and Richard Jones is another poetic text I love that allows
for this kind of pondering and pausing."
What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "Picture books are my favorite books in all the world, so my list could stretch on forever and ever! In the spirit of brevity, I’ll name just one. My favorite holiday book: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. I actually wrote my application essay for the Children’s Literature graduate program at Simmons University on the magical realism in that book way back in the year 2000. I’ll love it forever."
What forthcoming books are you most looking to get your hands on? "There are two upcoming titles I’m really looking forward to that fit quite nicely into this conversation, and they are from creators whose whole body of work I admire. I’ll be first in line for the December release of Dark on Light by Dianne White and Felicita Sala, and 2023’s In the Dark by Kate Hoefler and Corinna Luyken."