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Spring 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Cynthia Rylant

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring 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.

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After an eleven-year absence, Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant returns in The Otter to her Lighthouse Family, which finds itself involved in the rescue of two new friends.


Photo courtesy of the author.

1. Why is life in a lighthouse such an appealing prospect?

CR: Seclusion, solitude, the various ways someone withdraws from life (sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not) have been themes in my life and in my thoughts for a long time. So that brought Pandora, the solitary cat in the lighthouse, to my mind. I felt I understood her.

2. Did you need a sort of writer’s time machine to add a new entry to a series published more than ten years ago?

CR: The time machine I invented was a pile of books on sea life from the local library. Those got me back into that world. When I started the series years ago, I was living in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, so it was easy to feel I was part of a sea family. But now I am in a regular neighborhood near downtown Portland, Oregon, and the only ocean creatures I see are the gulls that get bored and fly in from the coast to walk around the grocery parking lot.

rylant_lighthouse_otter3. How do you manage the line between exciting and frightening?

CR: I guess by not having great white sharks as characters.

4. You have created so many beloved series characters. Do they ever meet in your imagination?

CR: No. I don’t think about my books much anyway. I do sometimes see Mr. Putter’s car on the road and that makes me smile.

5. There’s some good food in this book, and I’m deciding between the rose-petal muffins and the elderberry fritters. Which do you recommend?

CR: I suggest whichever has the most icing. You’ll have to ask Pandora! I gave her all the nice qualities I don’t have, including being a really good cook. If you’re going to live in isolation, it’s good to do so with a good cook.

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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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