I Want to Be a Vase by Julio Torres, Illustrated by Julian Glander

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I Want to Be a Vase
Author: Julio Torres
Illustrator: Julian Glander
Published June 7, 2022 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

Summary: Former SNL writer and comedic rising star Julio Torres takes readers on a journey through the lives and intimate dramas of some of the unsung shapes of our time in this picture book inspired by his HBO special My Favorite Shapes.

Shapes. You’ve heard of them. You might have even interacted with a few. But do you really know them? From plucky Plunger, who wishes to defy his shape and become a beautiful vase, to other household objects with dreams of a life beyond their predestined roles, I Want to Be a Vase takes readers on an essential and visually stunning journey through the lives and intimate dramas of often-overlooked household appliances.

Press Release: Julio Torres is a comedic genius that pairs a dry, absurd humor with earnestness. I WANT TO BE A VASE is out there, wacky, bonkers, but ultimately grounded in the honesty of sense of self and the dream of defying expectations. The book explores the intricate, complicated emotions of childhood (belonging, jealousy, fear of change, excitement) through humor and metaphor, appealing to a crossover audience while being primarily directed towards a young readership. Kids will see their emotions reflected in plucky Plunger, nervous Vacuum, sassy Sink, and helpful Hair Dryer. It’s perfect for fans of the irreverent playfulness of B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures or Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s The Day the Crayons Quit, which take seemingly basic childhood concepts and subvert tropes with wit, insight, and parallels to the human condition.

While this picture book is a hilarious, quirky tale first and foremost, it’s also a story about being your truest self no matter your publicly-ascribed role—in that sense, there’s a gentle pro-trans message to be found here. Julio is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and many of his works have been heralded as subtly queer and progressive. This book is no exception to that standard!

Julio’s voice is unique and authentic, and, despite the absurdist spark to his work, he connects with his audience on a deeply human level. As a self-proclaimed Aquarius with synesthesia, Julio is also quite the aesthete, and his involvement with the visual component of his book guarantees that it will be like anything you’ve ever seen (while maintaining his dazzlingly fun, bright style which is certain to appeal to young eyes!). 3D artist Julian Glander is the perfect, offbeat other half of this whimsical picture book pairing. A darling of the design world, Julian is a welcome new voice in children’s publishing, though he has experience working in children’s animation. His bright color palette and toylike models perfectly complement Julio’s surreal style.

Julio told The Hollywood Reporter: “Had I followed convention, I would probably have a reasonable job and be married with kids in El Salvador, where I’m from. That sounds nice, except I wanted to be an experimental comedian, prolific writer, and so-so actor in New York. At first, I was on a path to be one sort of person, when I really wanted to be another. I wanted to pursue things I wasn’t supposed to, and had the courage to do it, thanks to my parents never saying, ‘That can’t be,’ but instead asking, ‘Well, why not?’ So this book is about a plunger who wants to be a vase. Because, well, why not?”

Praise: 

★“A toilet plunger yearns to be a vase in Torres’s moving object lesson of identity and purpose … A thoughtful and broadly applicable fable with saturated, 3-D-style art by Glander.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review“

The premise is odd but comical and certainly original; children will giggle contemplating different uses for everyday gadgets. Kids are great at pretending and playing imaginative games, so they won’t have trouble buying into the whimsy on offer. They’ll appreciate the reassuring, empowering message to be who you are if that makes you happy, and the collaboration and acceptance themes will resonate. The colorful digital illustrations, featuring dollhouse like miniatures representing common household goods, are very appealing… Hilarious … Great for stimulating creative thinking and art activities: What else can ordinary objects be?” –Kirkus Reviews

About the Creators: 

JULIO TORRES (he/him) is a comedian, a former writer on Saturday Night Live, and one of the masterminds behind Los Espookys, HBO’s Spanish-language comedy about a group of horror enthusiasts, produced by Fred Armisen. Julio is also the creator of the HBO special My Favorite Shapes. Released In 2019, this Lorne Michaels-produced special immediately garnered a cult following. In it, Torres conducts an elaborate show-and-tell that offers a backstory to a wide array of “shapes.” With its unusual, absurdist humor and decidedly human narratives explored within the framework of a universal concept, Torres’ performance is the perfect inspiration for a picture book that completely upends expectations about the everyday shapes and objects in our own lives. While I WANT TO BE A VASE is not a direct interpretation of that special, the connection between that piece of work and this story of household objects will be evident to his many fans. Visit him on Instagram @SpacePrinceJulio.

JULIAN GLANDER(he/him) is a 3D animator, designer, and illustrator. Mostly self-taught, he has created work for Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, and The New York Times. He is also the creator of the video game Art Sqooland the squishy comics collection3D Sweeties. Visit him at Glander.co.

Review: There is so much to figuring out who you are, what your identity is, what you enjoy, etc. Plunger is all for trying new things and being a bit different than what is expected of them. However, vacuum cannot handle the lack of order, questioning of ideals, and change. So what will take vacuum to see that it doesn’t matter who everyone is as long as everyone is happy?

I do think Torres was trying to have an extending metaphor about identity specifically, but there is a moment where the characters also mention jobs and liking what they do, so I think that this book will comfort anyone that feels like they don’t fit exactly where everyone expects them to be, either in their identity, how they act, how they dress, what they like to do, etc. And it is pretty silly and fun in so many ways!

And I loved the illustrations by Glander! The 3D art that is clay animantion-esque just brings the characters and setting to life! A perfect combination.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Like the Kirkus reviewer mentioned above, I’d love to see what creative thinking this will bring out with students. The discussions and writing that could come from these questions would be fantastic!

  • Pick an every day object–what else could it be?
  • If you were an every day object, what would you pick?
  • Other than what that every day object does, what else could you do if you were that every day object?
  • What is something about you that doesn’t fit your “definition”?
  • Is there ever a time where you feel like you are a different shape than others expect you to be?

I think conversations about author’s purpose, comparison/contrast, and symbolism could also be started based on this book.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: My Shadow is Purple by Scott Stuart, I’d Like to be a Window for a Wise Old Dog by Philip C. Stead, Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima, Picture books by The Fan Brothers

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division for providing a copy for review!**

Have You Seen Gordon? by Adam Jay Epstein and Ruth Chan

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Have You Seen Gordon?
Author and Illustrator: Adam Jay Epstein and Ruth Chan
Published: September 28, 2021 by Simon & Schuster

Summary: Packed with vibrant and dizzying artwork, this hilarious story cleverly riffs on classic seek-and-find books and will have young ones laughing out loud as the narrator struggles to get the characters to play along.

Have you seen Gordon? Oh. There he is. Gordon isn’t very good at hiding, is he?

The narrator wants to play hide and seek with Gordon and the reader, but Gordon just wants to stand out. This madcap, fourth wall–breaking picture book is packed with humor and full, zany spreads with details kids will return to again and again.

Review: This book is very funny, and my kids loved it. It is a more humorous, more accessible Where’s Waldo? but for younger children. That said, all of my children (ages 2-8) loved it. Readers are finding Gordon (and others) across the pages, and they are also listening to a very clever tale about him. As an underling theme, Gordon doesn’t want to hide anymore. I adored this charming book and will enjoy reading it again and again.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students could be inspired to reimagine their own favorite picture books, and they need not be hide-and-seek texts!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why doesn’t Gordon want to cooperate in the text?
  • What did you learn about him?
  • How is this text creatively imagined?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Funny stories, Hide-and-seek stories, Where’s Waldo? books, I Spy books

Recommended For:

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**Thank you to Chantal at Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!**

Mr. Watson’s Chickens by Jarrett Dapier, Illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

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Mr. Watson’s Chickens
Author: Jarrett Dapier
Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
Published: October 5, 2021 by Chronicle Books

GoodReads Summary: Interrupting Chicken meets Click, Clack, Moo in this zany classic-in-the-making!

With rollicking rhythms, nonsensical refrains, and too many chickens to count, this modern classic will inspire unstoppable giggles and endless rereads. Bawka-bawka!

Mr. Watson has 456 chickens in the sink, on the bed, in the bread box. When his partner, Mr. Nelson, threatens to leave, Mr. Watson takes his chickens to town to sell only for them to escape! Young readers will follow Mr. Watson all around town as he gathers up his chickens. But, when they’re all rounded up, does he have the heart to sell them? Does a different fate await these chickens?

This quirky, irresistible book is full of read-aloud fun with its onomatopoeia, rollicking rhythm, and familiar refrains and ends with a touch of sweetness. It has all the makings of a classic, with a farm theme, hilarious refrains, and a familiar narrative structure that unfolds in threes. Librarians, teachers, and parents looking for a new book that feels traditional will love sharing this book with children.

A JOY TO REREAD: This is a very classic-feeling storybook. Paired with its funny farm setting and hilarious refrains, this book is sure to inspire countless rereads and endless giggles.

PERFECT READ-ALOUD: This book is full of nonsensical sounds and repetition that make it fun to read out loud and invite audience participation. It’s a perfect choice for classroom events and laptime reads.

LIKE CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM, WITH CHICKENS!: With its bouncy refrains and rollicking rhythms, this book will remind readers of classic bestsellers like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

REALISTIC RELATIONSHIP UNUSUAL IN PICTURE BOOKS: This book features a gay couple at its center, but doesn’t call specific attention to it. It simply portrays a healthy relationship between two men (and their chickens!).

WRITTEN BY A NEW TALENT WHO REALLY UNDERSTANDS KIDS: This is Jarret Dapier’s first book! He’s a popular, award-winning teen librarian who works with kids, knows what they like, and is well-versed in the rhythms of the classic children’s book—and he has many more stories up his sleeves.

DELIGHTFUL, DETAILED DRAWINGS OF OVER 400 CHICKENS!: With hundreds of chickens to find and scenes crammed with action and detail, the pages of this book are chock-full of things to look at. Young readers will spend hours poring over each spread.

Perfect for: parents, families looking for LGBTQIA+ stories, fans of funny books.

Ricki’s Review: This book is hysterical. The chickens cracked me up. Teachers will love reading this book aloud. Mr. Watson’s partner Mr. Nelson is threatening to leave because they have TOO MANY CHICKENS (456, actually). So they take their chickens into town to give them away to chicken homes, but all does not go as planned. There is so much care and thought in this book–from the writing to the illustrations of all of the chickens. Kids will love it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book takes a twist on typical counting books and adds a delightful story. Kids might consider the numbers used in this book and how this may be intentional and create their own counting books.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some of the reasons that Mr. Nelson got frustrated with the chickens? Do you think he had a valid reason to be frustrated? How does Mr. Watson respond?
  • Where was Aunt Agnes? How does this enhance your reading of the story?
  • How does the story end? What do you think a sequel might look like?

Read This If You Love: Funny stories; counting stories; animal stories

Recommended For:

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**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing copies for review!**

Puzzles from Sandra Boynton!

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I need to pause everything in my life to tell you about these amazing, new puzzles by Sandra Boynton! If we didn’t already know that she was witty, funny, and creative, this will seal the deal for us. Her three new puzzles range from 300, 500, and 1,000 pieces, and my family enjoyed all of them. My two-year-old was delighted by the bright images. Any time we put together an animal, he’d shriek, “COW!” My four-year-old took this opportunity to learn how to put together puzzles. My seven-year-old helped the most and was able to do a significant amount on the 1,000 piece puzzle! These are fun for the whole family. The first has a great play on words. The second has “puzzle complaints” which made my kids feel like they knew a lot about puzzles. And the third had hidden cows. Who doesn’t love hidden cows?! Whether you are a puzzle family or not, you will love these. They offer an added layer of fun to family/friend puzzle night that is even charming and fun for the adults! I am so glad these exist in the world.

Teachers, these would make great group activities for rainy days, before- and after-school care, and study periods. I’d place a puzzle on a back table and leave it open for fast-finishers to work on while they wait for peers!

More information on each puzzle with images of the puzzles in completed form!:

Hippo Birdie Two Ewe 300-Piece Birthday Puzzle (On-sale: July 6, 2021; $19.95), the famed Boynton birthday card (with over 10 million copies sold, so far!) is now in puzzle form. Start a new family tradition by presenting it on every birthday, and when all the pieces are in place, everyone can heartily sing: Hippo Birdie Two Ewe, Hippo Birdie Two Ewe! It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Filled with the signature humor of Sandra Boynton, Puzzle Complaints 500-Piece Puzzle (On-sale: July 6, 2021; $19.95) is a puzzle like no other. Containing all the typical (and not so typical) puzzle flaws: upside down lettering, suddenly changing fonts, a seemingly misplaced piece from another puzzle, inexplicably shouting chickens—the works—Puzzle Complaints is sure to inspire frustration and bursts of laughter!

Hidden Cows 1,000-Piece Puzzle (On-sale July 6, 2021; $19.95) is the ultimate game of hide-and-seek. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary evening at home, in the simple and tasteful living room of an ordinary pig family—mother, father, daughter, toddler, twin chickens. But look closely. As you carefully assemble the 1,000 pieces, you may begin to notice some surprising visitors: HIDDEN COWS. There are at least three of them. It’s definitely subtle, though.

About Sandra Boynton:

Sandra Boynton is a beloved American cartoonist, children’s author, songwriter, and highly sporadic short film director. Starting with the 1977 publication of Hippos Go Berserk!, Boynton has written and illustrated over sixty children’s books and eight general audience books, including five New York Times bestsellers. Her renowned books include Barnyard Dance!, Snuggle Puppy!, Belly Button Book!, EEK! Halloween!, But Not the Hippopotamus, and The Going to Bed Book. More than 70 million of her books have been sold—“mostly to friends and family,” she says. Boynton has also written and produced six albums of unconventional children’s music, which include performances by Brian Wilson, Brad Paisley, Kevin Kline, Kacey Musgraves, Blues Traveler, Alison Krauss, Meryl Streep, Spin Doctors, Davy Jones, Dwight Yoakam, Patti LuPone, Neil Sedaka, and “Weird Al” Yankovic in a duet with Kate Winslet. Three of Boynton’s albums have been certified Gold (over 500,000 copies sold), and Philadelphia Chickens, nominated for a Grammy, has gone Platinum (over one million copies sold). Boynton has also written and directed eleven short musical films, including “One Shoe Blues,” starring B. B. King; and two animated shorts: “When Pigs Fly,” sung by Ryan Adams, and “Tyrannosaurus Funk,” sung by Samuel L. Jackson, which won the 2018 Grand Prize for Best Children’s Animation Short from the Rhode Island International Film Festival. In 2008, Boynton received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cartoonists Society.

Boynton has four perfect children, and an equally perfect granddaughter and grandson. She and her husband Jamie McEwan, a writer and whitewater expeditionist, raised their family on a very old New England farm (it’s now a non-working farm, except for the hyperactive cartoon chickens and disaffected imaginary cows and such). Her studio there is in a converted barn that has perhaps the only hippopotamus weathervane in America.

Connect with Sandra Boynton:

Website:  sandraboynton.com

Twitter: @sandyboynton

Instagram: @sandra_boynton

Facebook: @sandraboynton

**Thank you to Claire from Workman for providing puzzles for review!**

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

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Sofia is a 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Introducing the best book ever: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart! This is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it! This is a very adventurous and funny book. The writer has a wonderful writing style but some of the words are difficult to understand, and you need an advanced vocabulary to follow this book. I had to look up a few words in my dictionary while reading this. This book is recommended for ages 9-12.

Reynie is an orphan. He gets a tutor for school because he has already finished all of the orphanage’s high school curriculum. Reynie likes to read the newspaper. One day an ad in the newspaper calls for gifted children searching for special opportunities. It is a weird ad because it sounds like it is being written directly to children. Reynie thinks this is odd because almost no children read newspapers. To get the special opportunities Reynie has to take a test. There are many time slots available on the weekend so Reynie and his tutor, Miss Perumal, sign him up for the first session of the test. After Reynie arrives the next morning he only has to wait a few minutes. Just after he finishes the first test the test administrator tells him the test is over. When the test administrator calls the names of the people who passed the test Reynie is startled that he is the only one in that room who did. On his way to the second test he sees a girl who drops her pencil into a sewer grate. He thinks it is weird and when he helps her she offers him the answer key. Reynie declines and passes the test without her help. Much to his surprise the girl with the answer key does NOT pass! On his way to the third test he meets another kid named Sticky. He is a super fast reader and everything that he reads sticks in his head. They talk while they wait for the test and Sticky says someone in his test ALSO dropped her pencil! They are very surprised and become even more scared when a third kid enters the room and also had a kid drop her pencil and offer her the answer key. The girl who just entered is called Kate. She is very tall and always carries a bucket with her.

When they finally pass the third and fourth test they eat. They meet a new girl whose name is Constance, she is really small. Then they meet a mysterious man called Mr. Benedict. He tells them about mysterious messages that are being sent to confuse people’s minds. Mr. Benedict tells them that a man named Ledroptha Curtain is behind the messages. He also tells them that Mr. Curtain runs an institute and that he will send them there to go undercover so they can stop the messages. Follow Reynie on the rest of his exciting journey and help him save the world! Also, figure out if Mr. Benedict is to be trusted!

The many laughs this book gave me was only one of the amazing things about this book. This book was very fun to read and as more awkward characters joined the story it became even more hilarious! I do not know if I would consider this book realistic fiction even though I am pretty sure this could happen in real life. The characters are very clever, they even used Morse code to save the day! This is one of the best books I have ever read for sure, and I highly recommend it!

 

 

Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine by Dusti Bowling, Illustrated by Gina Perry

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Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine
Author: Dusti Bowling
Illustrator: Gina Perry
Published April 13th, 2021 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Third-grader Aven Green has been solving mysteries for a whole month—cracking such cases as The Mystery of the Cranky Mom. But can this perceptive detective solve two cases at the same time? First her teacher’s lunch bag disappears. Then Aven’s great-grandma’s dog goes missing. Fortunately, since Aven was born without arms, all the “arm” cells went to her super-powered brain instead. (That’s her theory.) This hilarious chapter book showcases a new side to Dusti Bowling’s unforgettable protagonist.

About the Creators:

DUSTI BOWLING is the award-winning, bestselling author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a CactusMomentous Events in the Life of a Cactus24 Hours in NowhereThe Canyon’s Edge, and the forthcoming Across the Desert and Aven Green chapter book series. Dusti currently lives in New River, Arizona with her husband, three daughters, a dozen tarantulas, a gopher snake named Burrito, a king snake name Death Noodle, and a cockatiel named Gandalf the Grey.

Gina Perry graduated from Syracuse University, worked as a compositor in animation, then an art director for a stationery manufacturer, before discovering her true passion—writing and illustrating children’s books. She lives with her family in NH.

Praise:

“[Bowling] infuses her writing with humor and empathy.” —School Library Journal (starred) 

“A fun series opener with a feisty protagonist who’ll keep readers on their toes.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Unapologetically smart and refreshingly confident in her abilities, this super-sleuth extraordinaire is a joy to tag along with.” —Booklist

“Aven’s candid voice ensures that this chapter book series starter will draw a young audience.” —Publishers Weekly

Review: I am so happy that Aven is now starring in chapter books. Her voice is one of my favorites in middle grade literature because it is full of truth and humor. Her voice is just as strong in this chapter book as it was in Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, just a bit younger.

In addition to Aven’s voice, the story is a compelling one! I’m a fan of mysteries, and this is a fun kid lit mystery. Also, the cast of characters are wonderful! I am a huge fan of Aven’s friends.

And I cannot wait until August when Aven Green, Baking Machine comes out!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to see Aven Green read in classrooms! It would be such a fun book to read together as a class! The class could even keep track of all of the clues and see if they can figure out the mystery!

There are also opportunities in the book to talk about acronyms and word play!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Aven keep track of her clues?
  • What type of materials does Aven need to be a good detective?
  • How did Aven help Sujata with acclimating with the new school?
  • What are your slumber party traditions?
  • What is a time you have heard a word incorrectly like Emily heard hen droids?
  • Have you ever lost something? How did you work to find it?
  • If you were going to do a report on a country

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Magnificent Makers series by Theanne Griffith; King and Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler; The Misadventures of Toni Macaroni in The Mad Scientists by Cetonia Weston-Roy; The Misadventures of Salem Hyde series by Frank Cammuso; Meena series by Karla Manternach; Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty; Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi; A Boy Called Bat series by Elana K. Arnold

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Sterling for providing a copy for review!**

Review and Author/Illustrator Interview: Follow That Frog! by Philip C. Stead, Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

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Follow That Frog!
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Published: February 2, 2021 by Holiday House

GoodReads Summary: When a curiously croaking stranger comes knocking at the door, Aunt Josephine launches into a rambling tale about her lifelong pursuit of a rare giant frog.

Eccentric Aunt Josephine poignantly ignores a stranger knocking at her door as she tells her niece Sadie the story of her time in the jungles of Peru, cataloguing amphibians for the scientific team of Admiral Rodriguez. When the admiral’s son was suddenly swallowed by a giant frog, Aunt Josephine gave chase in a journey which took her around the world.

In the tradition of Philip Stead and Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell’s previous collaborations Special Delivery and The Only Fish in the Sea, this is a story full of rambunctious fun and sensationally appealing artwork.

Ricki’s Review: I could not stop laughing as I read this book. This, in turn, made my kids laugh. It was a joyous affair–ha ha! I have not read the first two books in the series, and this book stood alone very nicely. Aunt Josephine’s story is simply fantastic, and this feels like it will be a classic. It’s a bizarre, quirky telling, but this makes it stand out from other books that I’ve read. 

The illustrations are absolutely marvelous–not surprising, given the illustrator–and the story is very engaging. The story winds in a way that keeps readers on their toes and feels different and exciting. This book demands to be read aloud to a crowd of children! Adults and children alike will want to read this one again and again.

Kellee’s Review: Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell sure have a vivid imagination and silly sense of humor, and this book definitely show that it is true–once again Aunt Josephine takes the reader on a wild adventure! This book strays away a bit from the structure of the first two books in the series because instead of Sadie going on an adventure, Aunt Josephine shares an adventure SHE had from her younger days. 

I loved this story because it gave us a bit more insight into Aunt Josephine as we got glimpses not only into her past but also into her home, and it all gives us a bit of an understanding of some of Sadie’s characteristics! I think the easiest way to describe it all is quirky, equally balanced between Stead’s sensational story telling and Cordell’s intricate illustrations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is an obvious choice for read alouds and creative writing classes. I’d also use it with high school and adult readers, too. It teaches excellent examples of craft that could be analyzed richly by all ages and would inspire writing of all kinds.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the story maintain reader interest?
  • How do the illustrations pair with the story to make the story more effective?
  • Was the ending what you predicted? How does the ending enhance the story?

Read This If You Loved: Special Delivery and The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip Stead; Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems; The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel; Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion

Author and Illustrator Interview

What keeps bringing you back to Sadie and Josephine?
MATTHEW: Phil’s had such great ideas and adventures for them, so I was always thrilled to be on board. I love the strange world these characters inhabit and the madcap stories they tell. So much fun to draw!
PHILIP: Sadie and Josephine are two of my favorite characters I’ve ever created. Matt and I talked a lot at the outset about wanting strong female leads that were confident and capable in the face of increasingly ridiculous circumstances. It’s just been so much fun coming up with those ridiculous circumstances and watching how Sadie and Josephine power right through.

Was the original story a collaboration? If not, how did it come to be? And is it more of a collaboration now that you’re on book 3?
MATTHEW: Unlike most author and illustrator picture book team scenarios, Phil and I and our editor Neal have collaborated through and through. Typically, authors and illustrators do not work together to make a picture book come to life. It’s a bit more of a relay race. The author does the first bit with the editor. Then the editor passes the baton to an illustrator to finish up the book. But since Phil and I were friends before Special Delivery (book 1), we always wanted to work together with Neal, so that’s how it’s always been. It’s always been a very natural and organic way of working for us. Can’t imagine it any other way, really!
PHILIP: Ditto that! Really, collaboration is the only way of working I’ve ever known. The only other illustrator I’ve worked with (other than myself) is my wife Erin. Writing work and illustration work are constantly overlapping in our studio and I think that overlap leads to better, more cohesive books. I definitely think many of the weird quirks of the three Sadie books wouldn’t have survived the more normal book making process where author and illustrator work separately on their own little islands.

Each Sadie story has an animal focus–how do you choose which animal(s) will be in the story?
PHILIP: Well, obviously I have a thing for elephants that goes back to my first book with Erin, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. My first book with Matt, Special Delivery, centers around an elephant as well. I love how expressive an elephant face can be. Erin and Matt are both very expressive illustrators, albeit with very different results. That’s probably why elephants came to mind for both of them. Plus, an elephant can really fill up a book page nicely. All the other animal choices are somewhat opportunistic. Like, who wouldn’t want to see Matt illustrate a giant frog riding on the back of a rhea?! A rhea is basically a South American ostrich, for those of you reading that aren’t current on your ornithological studies.

Any plans for more Sadie stories?
MATTHEW: Nothing else is in the works for Sadie, Aunt Josephine, Sherman, and those monkeys. But Phil, Neal, and I (different kind of monkeys?) are already working up a whole different picture book idea now. I’m currently in sketches for this one. And hopefully there will be more books on down the road too. I sent Phil some drawings from my sketchbook a while ago to see if he could pry a story out of them. We shall see!
PHILIP: In Follow That Frog! there’s talk of getting to Paris. I’d love to send Sadie and Josephine to Paris someday. But for now Matt and I are onto something new.

Recommended For:

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**Thank you to Sara at Holiday House for providing copies for review!**