Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Tessa Allen

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, 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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Sometimes People March, and Tessa Allen honors the many people who walk for justice. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted in April.]

1. What was your first protest march?

When I was in high school, someone vandalized the school with antisemitic graffiti. I was invited by friends to walk out and march to the park. I remember feeling the need to stand alongside those who were attacked. Standing up and moving with others, using my body to show solidarity, felt empowering. Realizing that I could be a part of active resistance, even as small as I felt, was inspiring.

2. As an artist, what do you look for in a protest sign?

Anything handmade. I especially love lots of color and wild fonts. I am also partial to seeing folks of all ages and artistic abilities draw people.

3. Do you sketch from life?

If I’m trying to figure out specifics, I make friends pose for me. I had a difficult time imagining what everyone would wear in the crowd scenes, so most outfits are based on the clothing of people in my life. Sometimes I take a picture and draw from there, and several  illustrations in this book are inspired by historical photographs from newspapers or museums. Sometimes I just draw from my imagination.

4. Were there any causes you thought twice about including or excluding?

The question for me was less what to include, more how. The history of resistance in the United States is difficult, with topics that can’t be dealt with easily in a thirty-two-page picture book — racial justice, gun control, the AIDS epidemic. But to be respectful both to the people who fought (and fight) for these causes and to the children encountering them for the first time, I could not leave them out. I hope I share them in a way that invites adults and children to have conversations about resistance and be curious to learn more.

5. What’s a petty thing you secretly wish people would march for with you?

The first things that spring to mind are food-related, so I’ll choose one: I’d advocate for the use of chocolate ice cream in a variety of circumstances: with pie à la mode, in root beer floats, for breakfast.

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Roger Sutton
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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