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Introducing Lolly Robinson

Lolly RobinsonBeing a person in love with stories, I wanted to get the REAL STORY of Lolly.

How did you become involved in the world of children’s books?

Lolly: In college I had a hard time deciding whether to be an English major or an art major. For a while I was a double major, but there weren’t enough hours in the week to do both AND hold down my campus jobs and sing in several choruses. I ended up being an art major. Senior year I fell in love with picture books while taking a mini-class with Joe Slate (painter and writer of the Miss Bindergarten books) and decided to work in children’s book publishing.

What’s the best thing about working at the Horn Book?

Lolly: The BEST thing is that I get to work with people I like. They are smart and good at what they do, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Working with new books and talented book creators is nice, too!

Which Caldecott Medal did you help select? What were the honor books?

Lolly: Kevin Henkes, Kitten’s First Full Moon. Honor books were The Red Book (Barbara Lehman), Coming on Home Soon (E. B. Lewis), Knuffle Bunny (Mo Willems)

How did sitting on the Caldecott Committee change the way you read books and pictures?

Lolly: I don’t think it changed much about the way I approach picture books, but it really opened my eyes about how to talk about them and how emotionally attached people can be to books they love. We had a wonderful committee of people who felt passionately about books and who worked extremely hard to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.

What is a deal-breaker for you when you are reviewing picture books?

Lolly: One thing I feel strongly about is tone, especially in picture book biographies. If the style of art doesn’t match the subject’s life philosophy, that’s a deal breaker for me. I think the hardest thing to remember sometimes is that what seems derivative to me could be a brand new idea to a child. Like most people who read lots of lots of books, I am thrilled when a book surprises me. When a book seems too familiar, I need to work harder to get past my initial reaction. The real questions are: is the book true to itself, does it use the picture book form to the fullest extent, does it work as a whole with no one element upstaging the others. As a designer, I’m very sensitive to flashy design. Manipulating  type into swirls and different sizes and colors doesn’t necessarily make it good design. Design elements need to be integral to the whole, supporting all the other elements. It’s okay for design to move into the spotlight every once in a while, but it needs to let the others have a turn, too.

Is “Lolly” a nickname? If so, I hope it is for “Lolita.”

Lolly: Yes, but no one who knows me calls me Charlotte! In college I had a voice teacher who liked to call me Lolita. She was a dramatic soprano and would half sing it so that it rang down the hall. I think she did this because it embarrassed me so much – I used to turn very red at the drop of a hat.

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.

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