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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Toni Yuly, THE PELICAN CAN!

When a young pelican wakes up hungry, pelican parents know just what to do! Take a trip to the seaside and cheer for a marvelous bird who can fly, soar, dive, and more!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Toni Yuly

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 14, 2024)

Hello Toni! Welcome aboard! Can you tell me how The Pelican Can! came about? Toni Yuly: "I got the idea for The Pelican Can! on one of my frequent jaunts to the Washington coast. I LOVE the Washington coast and being at the ocean. It is really my very favorite place to be. I like to walk and walk and look and look...and one day I was walking and walking and looking and looking and I saw some pelicans. I have seen pelicans before but this time there were tons of them (a 'brief' of pelicans) and I soon noticed that they were... soaring down close to the shore and then... flying up high in the sky... and then...well you get the idea! I was totally enchanted and stood and watched them for most of the day and it was that encounter with brown pelicans that gave me the idea for the book. While watching them I even started saying, The Pelican Can!  The Pelican Can!"

Toni Yuly's early sketches and works in progress for The Pelican Can! (above)

What a great story! It was certainly meant to be. My favorite line is "A pelican does what a pelican can...." It's interesting that the pelican doesn't focus on what it can't do. I'm curious if there's a deeper meaning behind this sentence? "That is my favorite line, too! I haven't thought much about it but I think you are on to something...animals seem to focus on what they can do and do that. I think we can learn a lot from observing animals and all of nature."

Toni Yuly's early sketches and works in progress for The Pelican Can! (below)

Your artwork is absolutely stunning. Can you share your process? TY: "Thank you! I made the book with torn paper, tissue and other kinds of papers. I also used ink for drawing the pelicans and put it all together in Photoshop.

Toni Yuly's early sketches and works in progress for The Pelican Can!:

You can see examples of torn tissue paper in the sunset and torn paper in the rocks that the pelicans are nesting on. The pelicans are rendered in black ink."

An interior spread from Toni Yuly's The Pelican Can!:

"The SPLASH spread shows torn paper for the water and black ink for the pelican's wings and blue water splashes."

An interior spread from Toni Yuly's The Pelican Can!:

I did a rough count and got to 120 words. And I'd wager the average word count for each of your books is under 200. What are some of your favorite board books or picture books for the younger set?

"I actually don't think of the age of the reader when I make a book. I guess that my writing style and sensibility loves simplicity and getting to the essence of what I am feeling and trying to say. I always hope that all ages, from baby to grandparent can love my work.

My picture book recommendations:

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

Wave by Suzy Lee"

What's next for you?

"My next book is Go, Sloth. Go! I can not wait to share it with you in about a year!"


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