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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Zoey Abbott, BANANA

My dad is the best. We love hanging out together. Recently, he got this banana. At first, we had a great time with the banana — it does cool stuff and it’s really fun. But lately he’s spending too much time with the banana. He’s distracted, and he’s not enjoying the things he used to enjoy, like hanging out with me. I don’t think this banana is good for him. It’s time to take action.

Max's Boat Pick:


By Zoey Abbott

Publisher: Tundra Books (March 7, 2023)

Thank you for joining Max's Boat again! So I have to ask: What inspired Banana?

"A number of years ago I was walking in my neighborhood and saw Fred from across the street and half a block down. He was on his way to work at our local bakery. Fred saw me and waved. I waved back. Fred was carrying his lunch in his arms, including a loose banana. Fred started to mime with the banana (pretending it was a leash, a guitar, a phone, etc ) which made me laugh pretty hard. Later I started doodling a story about a magical banana."

Interior spreads from Banana:

For those who love Banana, can you recommend one or two other books you think they might also enjoy? "Gosh, this is such a hard question! I don’t think I can answer this yet as I’m not sure where Banana fits, category wise. Each person who reads the book seems to have their own take on what it’s about. So, I will keep you posted on where this banana lands and what books become its kindreds.

But I will say … you know how if you get a minivan (a random personal example) then you start seeing minivans everywhere? Well, the same goes for bananas. If you write a book about a banana you start seeing bananas and banana books everywhere, too.

For example, I have two friends (Kate Berube and Carrie Tillotson) here in Portland, OR who also have books featuring bananas! Their banana books are, respectively, Second Banana, written by Blair Thornburgh, and Counting to Bananas, illustrated by Estrela Lourenço.

And I’m finding cute little banana details in all sorts of picture books. Here are a few favorites I've recently come across (from left to right): A World of Your Own by Laura Carlin, Bedtime for Bo by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold and Mari Kanstad Johnsen (translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson) and Why Do We Wear Clothes? by Helen Hancocks."

What are some forthcoming books you're looking to getting your hands on? "Here are a few books I can’t wait to get my mitts on!

Sorry Snail by Tracy Subisak (imminent)

Bunny and Tree by Balint Zsako (imminent)

Pelican Can by Toni Yuli (2024)"

What do you think the best picture books do? "When my kids were very little some of our favorite reads were by Barbara Helen Berger: A Lot of Otters, Grandfather Twilight, and When the Sun Rose. They are soft and lyrical, some are allegorical and all are transporting.

Speaking of Barbara Helen Berger, can I share a quick story? One morning my son woke up at 5 am a total mess, crying and out of sorts. As I carried him downstairs, I remembered it was his birthday. He was two. I said, 'It’s’ your birthday! You were born on this day.' He said, 'Show me.' So, in my hazy fog, I took a quilt and a stuffed animal and made myself a ‘belly.’

As I told him the story he started punctuating my narration with short pithy phrases which, it dawned on me, were lines from a Barbara Helen Berger book, All the Way to Lhasa. When I got to the part of his actual birth via c-section he whispered, 'Emaho!' - one of the last lines of Berger’s book when the main character finally reaches the holy city of Lhasa after a long and treacherous journey. In Tibetan, 'Emaho' apparently is 'an exclamation of wonder or amazement.'

I think this is what the best picture books can do - give us the vocabulary to talk about things that are ineffable (especially when we are pre-verbal or very newly verbal).

Great books give us vivid metaphors for making beauty and sense of the world. They can show us things that are true about ourselves that we didn’t know how to put into words."


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