Nerdy Book Club

The 2019 Nerdies: Fiction Picture Books Announced by John Schu

I’m honored and excited to kick off the ninth annual Nerdy Book Club Awards. First up is fiction picture books! A HUGE thank-you to everyone who nominated titles. Congratulations to this year’s winners! Happy reading, creating, and resting!

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

 

Another by Christian Robinson

Bear Came Along by Richard Morris; illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Birdsong by Julie Flett

“Ooh, this one tugs on my heartstrings. With moody, muted illustrations and straightforward text, this is the story of a girl moving to a new home and starting over where she doesn’t know anyone.” -Abby Johnson |

Please click here to read the full interview.

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

What planted the seed for Carl and the Meaning of Life?

Deborah Freedman: “What am I doing?” and “why?” were questions I was asking myself more often than usual during 2016. Was doing what I love, making picture books, too small and self-indulgent? Should I be doing something larger, more “important”? I was paralyzed for a long time, until Carl appeared one day. He arrived, a tiny character tunneling to light, and sweetly he told me, get back to work.

Please click here to read the full review.

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard; illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Kevin, I think Fry Bread is a perfect read-aloud. Did you read it aloud over and over and over again while working on the manuscript?

Kevin Noble Maillard: Oh yes! I am a big word dork. I love to play with how they sound, and how they will make people feel. In picture books, where every placement of word and art is so crucial, I wanted the letters on the page to have multiple meanings for interpretation, just like a poem. My partner and I had very long parental leaves after our second child was born, and we were in Lake Como, Italy when I started work on the book. I would sit in the kitchen late at night with the window open, listening to the crickets and the sound of the lake while I experimented aloud with word sounds, rhythm and flow, and initially, rhyming. I had pictures of my family in Oklahoma–those living and those who were gone–all around me, so it was a communal effort. Since the book is about family and food, I wanted them to be “there” with me during the process.I sent the first draft to my editor, Connie Hsu at Roaring Brook, who suggested that I take the rhyming out and just work on the beauty of the words. That gave me a lot more freedom to include my target words, like “nation,” “landscape,” and “elder,” and build the manuscript around them.

Please click here to read the full interview.

Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons; illustrated by Daniel Minter

 

“The story was inspired by my husband’s heritage and my own. As a little girl, my grandma would take me to the land in Gibsonia, PA where she grew up. Family would come together at Woods Grove, named for her dad, for reunions and fun. My mom shared stories of drinking water from the spring, picking blackberries, being captivated by stories and dancing into the night.” -Kelly Starling Lyons

Please click here to read the full interview.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry; illustrated by Vashti Harrison

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

“All the work that I’d done up to this moment may have prepared me for this project, but it didn’t solve the issue of how I was going to do it and how to express the moments experienced by the children in the book.” -Melissa Sweet

Please click here to read the full article.

My Heart by Corinna Luyken

I love finding a surprise under a dust jacket. Tell us about My Heart’s wondrous case cover.

Corinna: The case cover for My Heart comes from one of the earliest images that I made for the book. The one that says “closed or open…” with a solitary figure looking out towards a horizon of yellow. I was trying to find a way to express that feeling of being alone, and yet full of love and connection. That sense that there is love in the world, all around you, and that you belong to it. I was also thinking about choice, and about the feeling that accompanies something not quite here, but approaching on the horizon. And so I started with one of my favorite colors…yellow! I loaded up a brayer full of yellow ink, and did my best to cover most of the paper in a messy-glowing kind of way. I love how the shape of a heart also looks like a bird or a butterfly in flight. And so I added quite a few (always imperfectly shaped) hearts in various shades of yellow to the mix. When I was done it gave me the right kind of glowing feeling, and so that image went on to become a guiding visual for the book. A destination, of sorts.However, originally, the case was going to be a very different image, with a garden of yellow plants and a bunch of kids. At the last minute my art director (Lily Malcom) and editor (Namrata Tripathi) suggested that this simple yellow solution would be truer to the heart of the book. It was an image that I had thought of early on for the case, but since then I had become attached to the garden image, which was going to be used for the cover, and then (also at the last minute) wasn’t. It was difficult to let that garden image go, and so it took me a while to see that they were right. Now I think it’s the perfect case.
Please click here to read the full interview.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero; illustrated by Zeke Peña
“But I think that with Isabel and I, it’s nice because a lot of our backgrounds as people who identify as Latinx or Chicanx or Chicanos, there’s this really narrow definition of what that is. But the nice thing with my collaboration with Isabel is that we span like a spectrum of that, right?” -Zeke Peña
Please click here to read the full interview.
Saturday by Oge Mora

What does the Caldecott mean to you?

Oge Mora: Like most children’s book illustrators it has always been my dream to get Caldecott recognition one day. I simply cannot believe this has happened so early in my career but I am incredibly grateful. The award and previous winners have always inspired me to give my readers everything I can give them. The best I have to write. The best I have to paint. Children’s book illustrators don’t hold back when it comes to their work.I listen to Matthew C. Winner’s lovely podcast regularly and he had Tomie dePaola on who mentioned that he makes books because children deserve the very best. I think a lot of us would agree with that. There are so many publishers, editors, designers, agents, artists, writers, teachers, and librarians who work incredibly hard to put the very best book in a child’s hand and the Caldecott and YMA Awards are a celebration of that hard work and passion.

Please click here to read the full interview.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

“It is a unique pleasure to read a picture book you think is going to be one thing and then turns out to be something different. Smith’s narrator deftly subverts expectations, keeping readers on their toes wondering where the story is heading.” -Travis Jonker

Please click here to read the full review.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali; illustrated by Hatem Aly

 

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry; illustrated by The Fan Brothers

“This book happens to be the book of my heart and seeing it brought to life by Eric and Terry Fan is a dream come true. Their art is truly luminous and they infuse the story with such life that I can almost imagine meeting these characters one blustery fall day.” -Beth Ferry

Please click here to read the full guest post.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander; illustrated by Kadir Nelson

 

Truman by Jean Reidy; illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

“When I read Jean’s draft for Truman, I could picture every beat. I just had to see it drawn—and I had to be the one to draw it! It was love at first read. And then it seemed like from Jean’s reaction to my sketches that I’d correctly connected her story dots, and that’s so satisfying.” -Lucy Ruth Cummins

Please click here to read the full interview.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raúl the Third

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff; illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
“I didn’t intentionally avoid the word gender, it just never came up in the writing! I believe that it’s crucial to use the word transgender, though. Accurate and specific language is important to help people identify who they are within a community context, and the words we use to define ourselves can link us to history and culture.” -Kyle Lukoff
Please click here to read the full interview.
Where Are You From?  by Yamile Saied Méndez; illustated by Jamie Kim
“I write for my young readers who are seeing themselves in an adventure in which they’re the heroes for the first time.” -Yamile Saied Méndez;
Please click here to read the full interview.

Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea; illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora