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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Sophie Gilmore, TERRIFIC!

Five friends want to do something terrific together. However, what was terrific for one was not terrific for them all. Then Snake slithers along and whispers, “It’s terrific to swallow an animal whole.”

Max's Boat Pick: Terrific!

Written and illustrated by Sophie Gilmore

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (July 6, 2021)

What inspired you to write Terrific? SG: "For my third book I struggled with writing another fable-like tale, despite feeling full of story-telling threads. I'd shelved the bones of Terrific a few years earlier, and revisited the draft because it felt like a refreshing, animal-romp of a palette cleanser. Once it started coming together as an idea, it actually felt like a good fit. A few years ago I did a series of illustrations just for fun about an oddball bunch of animals, the Good Friends, doing things like swimming, where one of them was doing it wrong and the rest were just there, awkwardly looking on. So I suppose they were the seed."

What was it like creating a villain? "I enjoyed creating a villain, so I hope readers enjoy the increasing slimyness of Snake's character. I also wanted to ensure that Snake came across as a nasty piece of work--otherwise it might look as though he was being punished just for being a snake, when snakes are terrific."

There seems to be quite the mini-genre going of picture books that have characters devoured. What are some titles you love? "The thing is, I've always loved a book in which someone is devoured, preferably in one gulp, with a smacking of lips. There are no rules for what can or cannot happen next: the stubborn boy in Maurice Sendak's Pierre is shaken back out of the lion. Duckworth, of the wonderful Duckworth, the Difficult Child by Michael Sussman and Júlia Sardà, attends supper with his terrible parents while in the belly of a great snake. Then there is A Hungry Lion, Or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals, in which the action remains unwitnessed, with room for doubt. Similarly in Terrific, the devouring happens off-page, and is hinted at with a newly rotund belly and a little fourth-wall eye contact: it could be flat-out denied, if the bed-time reader would prefer to gloss over it."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "A few books that you'd find in my 100 best-picture-books-of-all-time would be The Minpins by Roald Dahl and Patrick Benson because I still pore over each spread, losing myself in the silent, cathedral-like forest; What is a River by Monika Vaicenavičienė, because with each word, illustration, page-turn you are bewitched further; When Molly Drew Dogs by Deborah Kerbel and Lis Xu for its sensitive handling of anxiety and tender illustrations; and You Matter by Christian Robinson for his joyful artwork and, because when it all comes down to it, is there a more important message to give every last kid? In fact, I'd like to include everything Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson have worked on together, because they are just wonderful: Last Stop on Market Street, Milo Imagines the World, and Carmela Full of Wishes.


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