Publishers' Preview: Picture Books and Graphic Novels: Five Questions for Alphabet Rockers

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2021 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Picture Books and Graphic Novels, 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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You Are Not Alone with Alphabet Rockers here to keep you ­company. Musicians Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd join with illustrator Ashley Evans to give everyone a high-five.

1. How is writing a picture book different from ­writing a song? 

TSS: With songs, you sometimes have to encapsulate thoughts in just a stanza. With books, you can flesh out ideas and really expand upon them. 

KM: Our songs have sometimes started from full stories, since we’re always asking questions of ourselves and our community. This listening — hundreds of hours of it — changes us and affects what and how we create. Writing picture books is a chance to really visit with our heart space in and around each of our songs.

2. What line of this book says the most to you personally, Kaitlin?

“Breathe. / I want to remember / this moment. / Me and you. Together.” The reader and listener and characters themselves are all in this place together, taking a breath. It feels really special and intimate. We get to hold space with the two kids in the illustration, and the kids in our lives with whom we are reading.

3. And you, Tommy?

“You don’t know me, / but I need you to know that / I don’t always feel safe here.” It reminds me of being a kid and being the only person who looked like me in the room. And definitely not feeling safe. I wish more people had noticed it for what it was.

4. Can a book change the world?

KM + TSS: We know that books, music, and film play a huge role in changing the world. But it might be more helpful to look at it this way: when a book inspires someone, it expands that person’s worldview. We believe that when we expand our view, we can truly work together to make change.

5. Why does A come before B, anyway?

KM + TSS: Absolutely Baffling.

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Photo: Steve Jennings.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. from 1996-2021. 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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