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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Neesha Hudson, THE BEST FLOWER EVER!

An Australian shepherd thinks he has the most special flower in the world. He loves the way it smells and how soft it is and how the petals tickle his nose. But one by one, more dogs show up with flowers that seem to be even more special than his!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Neesha Hudson

Publisher: Dial Books (June 13, 2023)

Your interview for Turtle in a Tree was one of the first interviews on Max's Boat! Thanks for hopping onboard so early on, and for hopping onboard again now. Can you tell me the inspiration behind your latest book, BEST FLOWER EVER! NH: "I have an 11 year old and an 8 year old and they love each other a lot but they also love to compare (as many siblings do). One thing we hear in our house quite often is 'that’s not fair!' in reference to something the other sibling has or gets to do. The idea that 'fair does not always mean exactly the same' is a tricky one to accept. We are all wonderful, distinct people with individual needs and circumstances. So when thinking about writing a companion book to Turtle in a Tree I had this idea of flowers as the metaphor for individual circumstances. Sure, Australian Shepherd’s flower doesn’t appear as big and beautiful as Chihuahua’s, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t special to her. She just had to look past comparing herself to others to find the joy in what she has. It is a lesson both children and adults can relate to and benefit from."

Sketches from Neesha Hudson's The Best Flower Ever!:

Comparisons, competitiveness and jealousy are definitely age-old human issues, but do you think our hyperconnected world makes it worse? Not like young kids are on social media (I hope not anyway!) but do you think it exacerbates the issue somehow? For instance, it could make parents more likely to compare their kids' feats, which trickles down to what kids feel about themselves? "It’s so interesting to me that you bring up social media because that was also a big inspiration for the book! When on social media you are ofen seeing the best part of people’s lives, and it’s not always a realistic reflection. It is so easy to compare yourself to others online, which can lead to some very negative feelings. Just look at the many studies on social media and mental health. Speaking personally as an author, seeing other books getting awards or more attention then yours is really, really hard! So yes, I do think our hyperconnected world makes it worse, but that’s why books that speak on this topic are so important! None of us are alone in our feelings; everyone has felt jealousy or competitive at some point. Being able to recognize those emotions and talk about them when they come up is an important part of working through them. As well as having

support to reach out to, a parent, a friend, or your best pet pal.

An interior spread from Neesha Hudson's The Best Flower Ever!:

I definitely agree that social media amps up the comparisons and feelings of competitiveness and jealousy! Are there other picture books you love that explore this topic? "Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones is a great picture book that brilliantly touches on this topic. Jeremy feels left out when it seems that every kid at school has the shoes that he wants. His grandmother points out that 'there’s no room for want around here - just need.' Still, when Jeremy finds a used pair of the shoes in a thrift store, he uses his own money to buy them, even though they are a few sizes too small and hurt his feet. In the end Jeremy realizes there is someone else in his class who really needs the shoes… and actually fits into them! So he passes the shoes onto his new friend. I love this book because it draws on emotions we’ve all felt at one point or another but not in a heavy-handed way. Kids will connect with Jeremy and his internal struggle as he desperately tries to fit in with his peers."

For those who love The Best Flower Ever!, can you recommend a few other books that you think they might also enjoy? "For those that love dry humor, Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe definitely makes me giggle every time I read it. The illustrations are beautifully done, vibrant, and the pacing is perfect! It definitely feels like a modern classic.

I also love Wild by Emily Hughes. The illustrations are full of flora and fauna that dance around the page. Very high energy and detailed. The story is about staying true to yourself and not conforming, even if you’re a little wild!

What's the picture book that inspired you to get into picture books? "I fell in love with picture books in college. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers really helped inspire me to get on the path to getting my own book published. The illustration style was very new and different to me at the time. Coupled with a heartfelt story and a little humor… I was hooked. His books are still among my most influential."

What's your all-time favorite classic picture book?

"Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is an all-time favorite and one I go back to many times to study pacing and page layout."


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