February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stars? He’s Got It Covered: Introducing Artist Christian Robinson | Up Close

Photo by Anastasiia Sapon

Photo by Anastasiia Sapon

Christian Robinson is a relative newcomer to the children’s book world, yet suddenly his name is everywhere, on award-winning books such as Last Stop on Market Street, on distinguished panels, and on best illustrated lists far and wide. Two of his titles, School’s First Day of School and Little Penguins, appear on our Best Books list, and a third, The Dead Bird, was recently named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2016. His work is hip and cool and loaded with child appeal. This San Francisco–based rising star was the unanimous choice to be our December cover artist.

Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for this cover?
I was given only one request from the art director, which was to find a way to incorporate stars into the illustration. I think I was inspired by those little plastic glow-in-the-dark stars that kids sometimes stick on the ceiling of their room. Then I thought it might be easier just to place the stars on a blanket and have a child reading a book while getting ready for bed.

At what age did you know that you were an artist?
I believe we’re all artists in some form or another. I don’t know if there ever was a realization; I just know I love making things and hope to make things all my life.

What is it about the picture book form that appeals to you? Who are your touchstone artists or role models?
I love what Margaret Wise Brown said about her interest in picture books: “I don’t think I’m essentially interested in children’s books. I’m interested in writing, and in pictures. I’m interested in people and in children because they are people.” I think that rings true for me as well.

How do you pick your projects? This must get harder and harder since you are in such demand.
Honestly, I just ask myself if I can see myself having fun or enjoying the process while making pictures for a project. Now the challenge is simply finding the time to work on all the things I love—a good problem to have.

Can you tell us a bit about your time at Sesame Street Workshop and Pixar and how your background in animation has informed your picture books?
I studied animation in college and have a deep love for the art form. To animate means to bring to life. I really like this idea of thinking of a drawing or a character as something that can be brought to life or have a life of its own. I think it informs how I illustrate in some way. My time working with both studios was great. It was actually at Pixar where I got my very first book illustration job. The title of the book was Beware of Dug! (Disney Pr.).

Do you have any interest in writing your own picture book texts?
Lots of interest! Although I would say I’m more confident in my voice as a visual storyteller than as a writer. I feel as though I’m still learning how to write a good picture book, and with each book I work on, I think I’m learning more and more from the author about writing for children.

What’s your favorite place in San Francisco?
That’s a tough question. I would say I love Crissy Field Beach on a really hot and clear day. It’s always vibrant when the sun is out; plus you get the most amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Can you talk about some of your forthcoming projects?
Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio comes out in February 2017, and it’s a companion book to Gaston (both S. & S.). Also, When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks.), [comes out in] spring 2017.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.