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Publishers’ Preview: Picture Books: Five Questions for Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2018 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Picture Books, an 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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In her 2013 Caldecott Honor Book Green, Laura Vaccaro Seeger considered the many literal and metaphorical shades of the title color. What does she do with Blue?

Photo: Dylan Seeger.

1. First in Green and now in Blue: what inspired the die-cuts?

My rule for die-cuts is that they must be integral to the book. In Green, they are necessary because it’s a book about how everything in our environment is connected. The paintings are literally connected to one another. Since Blue is Green’s companion book, it needed to share its format. But that’s not reason enough — in Blue, the die-cuts are absolutely integral because all of our experiences from birth onward are connected and define how we live our lives.

2. What’s your favorite blue?

I love them all! But in Blue, I do have a favorite spread. As I was working on the “true blue” scene, my dog Copper (the inspiration for Dog from Dog and Bear) became unexpectedly ill and passed away. Creating that painting was at once painful and cathartic.

3. Are you in possession of a worn-out LP of Joni Mitchell’s Blue?

I am not, but thanks to you, I have had the pleasure of discovering that stunningly beautiful song. Now I need to download the entire album!

4. How can blue skies, blue movies, and blue mood mean such different things?

That question is really what inspired me to create Blue. After Green, I’d heard repeatedly, “Please make books about other colors, too!” I was reluctant to do that for fear it would feel forced or formulaic. But books often tell authors they need to be written. I started to ponder the many ways in which the color blue can evoke emotion — innocence (baby blue), loyalty (true blue), sadness (so blue), hope (new blue). And so that exploration began…

5. Tell me a story about blue paint.

When I was a child, I was given an assignment to create a pointillist painting. We had the choice of using shades of blue or its complement, orange. I was the only one who chose orange, and my painting was hideous! I brought it home and hastily threw it in the trash. The next day, it was sitting in our living room — my father had retrieved it from the garbage. I threw it away again. About a week later, I came home and found it framed and hanging on our living room wall. It’s astonishing how a simple act of encouragement can make the difference of a lifetime for a young artist.

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