Subscribe to The Horn Book

Five questions for Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Jason Chin

In Pie Is for Sharing, written by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and illustrated by Jason Chin (Porter/Roaring Brook, 4–8 years), an inclusive community gathers for a lakeside picnic as a contemplative but child-friendly text muses on the nature of sharing. Detailed illustrations capture the day (which is, as we gradually realize, a significant one) with a realistic and sometimes humorous understanding of family and childhood dynamics.

1. Pie Is for Sharing is set during a specific event — a Fourth of July picnic. Was that always what the story was about, or did it come from the illustration choices?

Jason Chin: I had the idea early on to set the book in a park in Burlington, Vermont, where my family often has picnics with friends. We’re there in the pictures, and most of the other families in the book are close friends of ours. The idea of setting the story on the Fourth of July came later, but when I thought of it, I immediately knew that it was right. I wanted to make a statement that sharing is as American as apple pie (or in this case, cherry pie).

Stephanie Parsley Ledyard: I love what Jason did with the setting. I realized only gradually, over a period of months, that this was a July Fourth picnic. My first glimpses of the art were pencil sketches. Then much later, I got to see the full-color art via email. Finally, I printed it out on larger paper and saw all the red-white-and-blue details, and the flag on the house in the beginning, and I got it. (It takes me a while!) The Independence Day aspect has become a powerful part of the book to me — a reminder about the values of basic sharing and community in our country.

2. Stephanie, did you have particular influences in mind when you wrote the text? It conjures for me Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s classic A Hole Is to Dig (but it’s also very much its own story).

SPL: I admire Ruth Krauss’s work and will hold on to that compliment for a long time! I didn’t consciously have a particular model in mind when I wrote the text. But I had been reading aloud many, many picture books to my younger daughter…and years before that, some of those same books to my older daughter. So I definitely had the voices and rhythms of my favorite picture-book authors playing on repeat: Phyllis Root, Jacqueline Woodson, Kathi Appelt. Add to that the poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye, which I was reading aloud to myself that year. I like to think that these voices, besides making my life and my children’s lives richer, have found their way into my writing.

Photo: Deirdre Gill

3. You both have Vermont connections. Were those pies homemade, or is there a really good bakery in Burlington?

JC: Homemade! I have a cherry tree in my front yard and last summer (not long after I delivered the artwork) my kids picked a whole lot of cherries and we turned them into a cherry pie on the Fourth of July. We even had all the families from the book over to share it. It wasn’t until the middle of the party that I realized we were reenacting the book!

SPL: My original pie inspiration came from a huge piece of pie (strawberry rhubarb, I think it was) that my older daughter had at the Vanilla Bean Restaurant in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I wanted a bite of that pie, and I later scrawled the statement “Pie is for sharing” in my little notebook, right there at the table. Curiously, my family was at the same restaurant last summer when I received an email from [editor] Neal Porter with my first glimpse of the book jacket — almost four years to the day after I’d jotted down those words. So this place I have been only a few times, 1,159 miles from my home, is kind of famous to me now.

4. Did you mean for us to sob when we get to the end? The mix of skin colors and ages, etc., paired with the text: “Many can share one light. And a blanket? A breeze? The sky? These are for sharing.” I tear up every time. How have other readers reacted to the story?

JC: I’ve only had the chance to read it to one group so far, and no one cried that I noticed.  Making people cry wasn’t on my mind while I was painting (I was mostly thinking about how late the book was going to be!), but I’m certainly glad it has emotional resonance. My goal was to make an honest depiction of my family, my friends, and my town. I live in a racially diverse community, and we live in a beautifully diverse country. It would feel dishonest not to depict it as such.

SPL: I’m never against crying while reading! I do my share of that. (Maybe we need more absorbent paper inside certain books.) My readers thus far have been people who know me and have read the text at some point along the way. Still, when they get to the page with the moon and the children’s faces, they say something like, Ahhhhhh, oh wow, and we have a quiet moment looking at that page together. I hope readers will have their own powerful moments with Pie Is for Sharing. Whether the pages bring tears, a quiet laugh, a nod, or a silent connection with one of the characters — maybe those experiences will transfer into something good and make the world a tiny bit kinder, one reader at a time. Wouldn’t that be great? Bring on the tears!

5. Since this is our Summer Reading edition of the Notes from the Horn Book e-newsletter, what will you be reading this summer?

JC: When I finally finish the planetary science book I’m currently wrestling with, I will be reading Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen, and Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge. I got to know each of those authors recently — they are remarkable and inspiring people, and I can’t wait to read their books.

SPL: I’m reading:

  • Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham
  • Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out edited by Erin Moulton
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • The Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz, and anything else from the 2018 Texas Library Association Bluebonnet list (of which Jason’s Grand Canyon is part!) that I haven’t read by the end of school
  • The Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker (aloud, to my younger daughter)

From the May 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading. For a handy take-along list of titles, download our printable PDF with cover art from Pie Is for Sharing. For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.Summer Reading 2018

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

Share

Comments

  1. The interview made me want to pick up this book—and the books the author and illustrator are reading. Learning what goes on behind-the-scenes can make a book extra special.

  2. A wonderful interview with both author and illustrator. PIE IS FOR SHARING is truly a book to share – with delight, with surprises, with happy tears. Ask for a copy at your local library or independent book store.

  3. I’m really looking forward to reading this one!

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*