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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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