June 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Molly Idle’s ‘Flora and the Flamingo’ Is a Wordless Wonder | Under Cover

Artist and author Molly Idle talks about her latest book, her life, and her obsession with Prismacolor pencils.

SLJ Talks to Author Andrea Cheng: Her latest book, ‘Etched in Clay,’ charts the courageous life of Dave the potter | Under Cover

Author Andrea Cheng’s latest book, ‘Etched in Clay,’ charts the courageous life of Dave the potter, a 19th-century slave who became an accomplished artist.

Life After Death: Susin Nielsen’s tenderhearted novel, ‘The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen,’ explores the aftermath of a school shooting | Under Cover January 2013

Canadian novelist Susin Nielsen talks about her novel The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, which explores the aftermath of a high school shooting.

Everything from A to Z: Vincent X. Kirsch adds some serious fun to ‘Noah Webster & His Words’ | Under Cover

Photograph by Jim Dandy

Jeri Chase Ferris’s picture book Noah Webster & His Words is a great read, but it could have been a snoozer without your witty illustrations. How’d you react when editor Kate O’Sullivan offered you the assignment?

Being someone who’s very fond of words, I started looking at other books that were done about Webster, and not to degrade them, but they were very dry, realistic, watercolory, and very highly rendered. Noah Webster looked like some […]

Touched by an Angel: Martine Leavitt’s ‘My Book of Life by Angel’ Is a Harrowing Tale of Redemption

Your latest novel is a dark and disturbing story about a 16-year-old named Angel who moves in with a guy she meets at the mall and is lured into a life of drugs, violence, and prostitution. It must have been tough to write.

I tried to put it off as long as I could. I wrote Heck Superhero and Tom Finder—both about homeless boys—and I knew that someday I was going to have to write a book about a […]

This Is Not My Sequel: Just Wait Till You See This New Book from Jon Klassen | Under Cover

In This Is Not My Hat, a minnow steals a big fish’s bowler hat while he’s asleep. Part of what makes your art so striking is that the water, or background, is black instead of blue.

Initially, it was more of a mid-tone, like a teal, or a green. But I was fighting it value-wise. Also, since the fishes’ eyes are such a big part of the storytelling, the darker you can get behind them, the more their eyes are going to pop.

My, How You’ve Changed! Jason Chin’s ‘Island’ Charts the Galápagos’s Evolution | Under Cover

Photograph by Corey Hendrickson.

Island: A Story of the Galápagos is packed with fascinating, well-researched facts about this archipelago and your exquisite paintings of its unique flora and fauna. How’d the idea come to you?

While working on my last picture book, Coral Reefs, I was reading a lot about evolution, and I was thinking, “Well, maybe I could do a book about evolution.” But how could I do it in a way that was a little different? Nothing […]

Straighten Up and Fly Right: Elizabeth Wein’s new spy thriller will break your heart | Under Cover

Does your novel have a message for readers?

The message is that if you are a girl, you can do anything. I really didn’t want my female characters to feel stopped by the fact that they were female. I wanted them to be able to control their lives, to do what they were good at, and what they wanted to do regardless of what society’s expectations were. I think that’s a good message for modern girls, as well, and that they need reminding about.

Bloody Good: Don’t miss J. Anderson Coats’s debut, ‘The Wicked and the Just’ | Under Cover

Your novel, The Wicked and the Just, has two feisty 13th-century teens: Cecily, whose father forces her to move to Wales from England to seek a better life, and Gwenhwyfar, her resentful servant who lost everything when the British took over her town. Why Wales? Most folks have never even heard of it!

Holy Cow!: Sy Montgomery’s ‘Temple Grandin’ is an inspiring tale of cattle… and courage

When Temple Grandin was born, her parents didn’t know she had autism. In fact, her father thought she was retarded and wanted to send her to live in a mental hospital. Today, she’s a renowned scientist who designs humane environments for cattle and other animals we eat. What impact has she had on the industry?

Thirty-five million cattle are raised annually for beef in the U.S. Half of them spend their final minutes in buildings Temple designed, but her […]

Tough Love: Marie Lu’s dystopian thriller offers plenty of explosive action and romance

Your first novel, Legend, triggered a major bidding war, Hollywood can’t wait to turn it into a movie, and you’re only 27.

It’s just been a really, really exciting ride. I wake up all the time and I pinch myself, because it’s all just so overwhelming sometimes.

Legend features two teens from opposite sides of the tracks in postapocalyptic L.A. Day is the Republic’s most wanted criminal, and June is a military protégé who’s charged with taking him down. […]

Going Deep: Author-artist Claire A. Nivola’s ‘Life in the Ocean’ tackles some urgent issues

Your gorgeous new picture book is about Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and leading spokesperson on the importance of the ocean to our planet’s survival. She’s designed undersea research vessels and has spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. Have you ever gone scuba diving or snorkeling?

No, and while doing this book I was thinking, how can I do this book without snorkeling? I’d love to do it, boy. But I’m not a brave soul. I share Sylvia Earle’s love […]

The Mane Event: Maggie Stiefvater on success, rejection, and her new novel, ‘The Scorpio Races’

Hollywood’s eager to turn your New York Times best sellers into movies, your book tours take you all over the globe, you play a few instruments and paint, plus you have two small kids—and you’re not even 30. What’s it like being such a slacker?

[Laughs] I always dreamt when I was a little kid of being a best-selling author. I used to have this fantasy of walking into a bookstore and someone would recommend my own book […]

Fish of a Different Color: Pat Schmatz’s novel ‘Bluefish’ features some unforgettable characters | Under Cover

Thirteen-year-old Travis can’t read. To make matters worse, he’s moved to a new town far from his beloved woods. But when he meets good-hearted, outgoing Velveeta, his life takes an unexpected turn. It’s a perfect story for you to write, given that both your parents were reading teachers.

My father grew up struggling with reading. He was an outdoors guy, and all he cared about was the woods and the swamp. As a […]

Absolutely Dino-mite!: Jessie Hartland’s latest picture book puts a new spin on kids’ favorite reptiles | Under Cover

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum tells the true story of how a 145-million-year-old Diplodocus longus ended up at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Were you crazy about dinosaurs as a kid?

I was not one of those kids who were especially excited about dinosaurs. I didn’t really know much about them, and I didn’t think there were dinosaurs in the United States. I thought they were in Africa or India—in […]

Da Do Ron Ron: Ron Koertge’s sequel to ‘Stoner & Spaz’ is even better than the original | Under Cover

Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II is about an unlikely romance between a sexy, foul-mouthed druggie and an isolated kid with cerebral palsy who lives with his rich grandmother. No offense, but I thought you were much younger.

Oh, Christ! I’m 71! Yeah, a youthful 71.

Are kids shocked when they meet you?

I don’t do a lot of school visits, like a lot of young adult writers, but I do some. I walk in […]

Say What?: Allen Say’s ‘Drawing from Memory’ charts the story of his improbable journey | Under Cover

While growing up in Japan, your father discouraged you from drawing. And in your new book we first see him from behind.

It’s the only time I show him.

When I saw that illustration, I knew it meant trouble.

You’re very perceptive—no one’s picked up on that. That was the only way I could depict my father and live with myself—to show him from behind and not his face. We had a very bad relationship. […]

Frenemies: Jack D. Ferraiolo’s hilarious new novel features dueling superhero sidekicks | Under Cover

Sidekicks opens with Bright Boy, aka Scott Hutchinson, the teen sidekick of superhero Phantom Justice, getting aroused as he’s rescuing a hot young woman. The bulge in his bright yellow tights is caught on camera, and now everyone’s cracking jokes at Bright Boy’s expense. Is any of this autobiographical?

[Laughs] The whole thing is autobiographical, right down to saving a woman from falling off a building. Everything! No, actually, I mean like any […]

Secrets and Lies | Under Cover

Australia’s Craig Silvey tackles racism and hypocrisy in ‘Jasper Jones’

Jasper Jones opens with a horrifying scene—the body of a young girl is found hanging from a tree. Can you set up the story for those who haven’t read it?

It’s set in the summer of 1965 in a rural town in Western Australia. It’s chiefly about two boys who set out to solve a crime on their own because they’re rightly distrustful of the community. One of these boys, […]

A Bird’s-eye View | Under Cover

Gill Lewis’s first novel is about friendships, tragedy, and unexpected connections

In Wild Wings, two kids protect a pair of endangered ospreys by keeping their existence a secret. Somehow, it seems fitting that you write in a tree house—at least, when the weather’s nice.

Since we live in England, that’s probably about one day a year. [Laughter]

When one of the birds, Iris, is in danger of dying, Iona and Callum share their […]