Interview with Neesha Hudson, TURTLE IN A TREE
A greyhound swears there's a turtle in the tree. A bulldog says it's a squirrel. Their argument leads to a most surprising discovery....
Max's Boat Pick: Turtle in a Tree
Written and illustrated by Neesha Hudson
Publisher: Dial Books (June 8, 2021)
What inspired you to write Turtle in a Tree? NH: "The idea for Turtle in a Tree came from my son who was about two and a half at the time. We were waiting in the car and he suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a turtle in that tree!” To which I responded, “A turtle in a tree?” He then said, “I’m sure.” The conversation, and his insistence, stuck with me and it grew into the idea of two dogs arguing over what they see in a tree. The first few pages of the book are that conversation almost word for word."
You handle perception so well in Turtle in a Tree. Are there other picture books you would recommend for how they handle perception or differing viewpoints? "The one that immediately jumps to mind may be a bit obvious: They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. Each page turn shows what different humans and animals see when looking at a cat 'walking through the world.' The style and color palette are visually stunning and add a lot of depth to the repetitive phrase 'saw a cat.' I love when text and pictures work so strongly together.
I also thought of This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers. I like the character arc that takes place in this relatively short story. Wilfred thinks this moose belongs to him, only to be horrified to realize other people think the same thing! After an emotional fall (both literally and figuratively) he realizes that maybe the moose doesn’t actually BELONG to anyone. After this realization his relationship with the moose is all the stronger."
There was a certain point (I won't give it away!) when I literally laughed out loud while reading your book. What are some of your favorite laugh-out-loud picture books?
"My first favorites were The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Most of Oliver Jeffers's and Jon Klassen’s books make me laugh out loud, too. I Want My Hat Back is one of the most memorable. I still remember my first time reading it and exploding into laughter at the end. Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller is hilarious and I love the narrator perspective as well! Emma Yarlett creates really fun, bright, high quality books with plenty of silly humor. Bob Shea’s books, and Mike Boldt’s and Dev Petty’s and Ame Dyckman’s, too."
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 the one picture book that gets the most love in your house? "A long lasting favorite is The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. It hurts me a little as an illustrator that a book with no pictures is one of my kid’s favorite books but I can understand why. It always results in a theatrical read and a lot of giggles."
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."