100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Breaking Barriers: An Interview with the Creators of This One Summer

Of all the surprises at this year’s Youth Media Awards, none was bigger for me than when This One Summer was announced as a Caldecott Honor winner. Full of stunning illustrations, this book scrapes the top of the Caldecott-eligible age range (0-14)

I had a chance to chat with illustrator Jillian Tamaki and author Mariko Tamaki about their barrier-breaking book.

Travis: Okay, so it seems like a backhanded compliment to say that your book winning a Caldecott Honor was the surprise of the Youth Media Awards, so please try to take it as a fronthanded compliment. What was your level of surprise when you got the Caldecott Call?

Jillian Tamaki: Very surprised, in that I wouldn’t have even considered our book Caldecott material. Very thrilling and surprising.

Travis: What did you say when you first talked to each other after receiving the news?

Jillian: We texted. Some smiley emoticons were part of that exchange.

Travis: I don’t want to pigeonhole, because I think your books work for a lot of different readers, but I think most librarians would call them YA (or at least “YA-ish”). Does this in any way open up your brain to a new, younger audience you didn’t have in mind before?

Mariko Tamaki: We’ve never paid too much attention to “audience.” I think when you focus on “audience” you spend less time thinking about story.  I leave it to publishers and librarians and booksellers to decide “audience.” Although, you know, ultimately it’s up to a reader to decide.

Travis: This One Summer was one of most well received books of 2014 – in general, how do you guys respond to the love of starred reviews and awards?

Mariko: They are lovely.  Also lovely are people coming up to you and emailing you and talking to you about the book.

Travis: How do you feel about breaking the Caldecott graphic novel barrier?

Jillian: It’s cool! It felt inevitable that a graphic novel would be recognized eventually, though. I’m just pleased it’s ours. Comics has been deepening and diversifying for years, it’s nice to be recognized by a broader book community.

Travis: How do you feel about breaking the Caldecott f-bomb barrier?

Jillian: Frickin’ awesome! I didn’t know that was another new thing. That feels maybe as significant as the fact it’s a graphic novel!

Mariko: F yeah.

Thanks Jillian and Mariko for taking my questions. Thank you to Gina Gagliano at First Second for arranging the interview.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Nice! And, Travis, do you do translating?

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Ha! Having a spam comment issue right now, apparently – I went in and deleted

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    THIS ONE SUMMER was just named as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Graphic Novel category! :-)

    • Travis Jonker says:

      The awards keep coming!

      • librarylady says:

        Do you really think this is appropriate for an elementary library setting? The Caldecott use to be my go to for award winning illustrations with a good story….not just award winning illustrations. Sorry I won’t be purchasing it.

      • Travis Jonker says:

        I think This One Summer is a tremendous book all around, but it definitely throws a wrench in the sight-unseen Caldecott purchase for the elementary collection. I work in a K-4 school and there are Newbery books we don’t have in our collection because I felt older kids would get more out of them. Same situation here (in my experience, a first for a Caldecott winner) – 13-14 year olds and up seems to be the age that will get the most out of this book.

      • Speaking of awards for this book…I noticed that it also won the Canadian Governor General’s award for children’s illustration. Which made me wonder….when was the last time a Caldecott or any ALA award was given to a book published initially in Canada (or elsewhere in the English-speaking world) written by a Canadian or non-US resident? Apparently the artist (Jillian) as opposed to the author (Mariko) lives in the US, which made the book ALA award-eligible?

        As a comparison, Neil Gaiman’s and Jon Klassen’s award winners were not initially published outside of the US, and both are longtime residents of the US.

      • Travis Jonker says:

        I love all of these questions, Mary. I want to find out how many books have won a CGG and Caldecott in the same year. Also interesting to me is the publication date – I’m guessing the committee is considering this a simultaneous pub, because the release dates in the US and Canada are only weeks apart (with Canada being in April, and the US in May). As far as a Caldecott book being written by a non-resident, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I would like to find out. It could be tricky to track down that information, however. Thanks for your comments, Mary!