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Fall 2015 Publishers’ Preview: Five questions for Dav Pilkey

Publishers' PreviewsThis interview originally appeared in the September/October 2015 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored by
Little, Brown

Caldecott Honor recipient Dav Pilkey illustrates Richard Blanco’s One Today, which the poet read at President Obama’s second inauguration.

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Photo: Kai Suzuki.

1. Was the prospect of illustrating an inaugural poem at all intimidating?

DP: Not really. The intimidating thing was illustrating for the brilliant Richard Blanco. His words don’t need anything added to them. They’re perfect the way they are. I worried that adding my vision to his vision might change the intention of this poem. The last thing I wanted to do was to alter Richard’s objective — or risk disappointing him.

2. What are the particular challenges of illustrating non-narrative verse?

DP: Because this poem had no central characters, I had to create them and give them something to do. I didn’t want to paint this book as a tribute to President Obama, or even to America. I wanted it to be a tribute to humanity. A tribute to the things that make us all the same. The dream of two small children wandering the landscape of the world. No flags. Nothing nationalistic. Just two kids, their mom, and a cat. A family in a world of families.

onetoday_300x2383. Am I seeing some Chagall and/or Delaunay here? Are you an Orphist?

DP: The only conscious tribute I did was adding a window to the museum that was directly inspired by the Chagall windows at the Chicago Art Institute. I’m honored that you saw some Delaunay in my paintings, although that was not my intention. The bright colors were chosen more for their kid-friendliness than for Orphism.

4. The children in the pictures wander unsupervised. Are you worried?

DP: Not at all. This book is more representative of a dream than a reality, and dreams are never supervised.

5. One unifying motif in the illustrations is a bridge. What is the bridge you are happiest to cross?

DP: One bridge that I find myself crossing constantly is the bridge of humility. I have so much to learn (and unlearn). I’ve been creating books for children for thirty years, yet every day I feel like I know less and less. I’m always meeting artists and writers who have visions and voices that shine so brightly. I feel very grateful and happy for the wealth of talent that surrounds us.

Sponsored by
Little, Brown

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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