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Fall 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Brendan Wenzel

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2016 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.

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wenzel_brendanThey All Saw a Cat…but the cat a child sees is dramatically different from the one a dog, a mouse, or a bee sees. Brendan Wenzel illustrates his simple text with a variety of styles that show a range of perceptions.

1. This story of differing perceptions could have been told using any number of subjects. Why a cat?

BW: In my experience, people tend to react strongly to cats, one way or another. After considering the animal’s tendency to wander, its position on the food chain, and its way of moving through the world, which I have always found to be a bit mystical, I ended up feeling like a cat was the perfect subject to explore. A fox and an owl were also originally in the running.

2. How much research was involved in the illustrations? Did you study the way animals see, or did most of the perspectives come from your imagination?

BW: My process was to read as much as I could about how animals see, and then take a hard left turn into the realm of artistic interpretation. Many strange days were spent in character as a skunk, snake, or bee, although I did stop short of crawling around in the bushes outside my house.

wenzel_they-all-saw-a-cat3. Which animal’s-eye view would you most like to try out for a day?

BW: Definitely not the mouse’s! Probably the bat’s. It would be fascinating to experience the world through echolocation.

4. The copyright page says the illustrations “were rendered in almost everything imaginable.” Which medium was the most unusual?

BW: The combinations were more unusual than any one medium. I like to experiment, so occasionally watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil pastel, crayon, charcoal, colored pencil, and cut paper all end up vying for attention within one image (as well as on my hands and shirt).

5. The text sounds a little like a folktale. Are there any stories you would cite as influences?

BW: I love folktales from around the world, and I’m thrilled the text feels as if it gives a nod to these traditions. The voice developed from boiling the language down to simple, objective statements that, when juxtaposed with the images, would show that even the most straightforward sentences can be packed with hidden meaning.

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  1. Such a brilliantly simple idea presented in a marvelous way. Just bought your book and will be using it in my Writing for Children class at Suffolk Community College.
    Bravo on both the writing and illustrating !

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