Fall 2015 Publishers’ Preview: Five questions for Erin & Philip Stead

Publishers' PreviewsThis interview originally appeared in the September/October 2015 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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Erin E. Stead and Philip C. Stead’s A Sick Day for Amos McGee won the 2011 Caldecott Medal; Lenny & Lucy takes them deep into the woods.

Stead_ErinPhil_300x449 Photo: Nicole Haley.

1. I’ve always maintained that there’s a significant difference between and and &.

E&P: Now that you mention it, there is something about an ampersand that implies a stronger connection between two things. The symbol even looks a bit like a knot of string. Laverne & Shirley, peanut butter & jelly, Philip & Erin — what is one without the other?

2. Phil, how do you know when to hand a manuscript over to Erin? Erin, do you ever send it back?

PS: If I could, I would keep my manuscripts hidden forever. I hate to share anything until every word is in its right place. Unfortunately, sometimes the longer I fiddle with a bit of text, the more likely I am to ruin it. This is when Erin swoops in and saves me from myself.

ES: I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. Every book is different, and we spend a lot of time together, so it is a difficult relationship for keeping secrets. That being said, I do edit — sometimes liberally, sometimes just a word or two.

3. The placement of type in Lenny & Lucy is very careful. How early in the bookmaking process is that worked out?

lennyandlucy_300x276ES: Very. We decide on the trim size, type, and layout at the same time as the character designs and color palette. The layout can change if a picture calls for it, but we place all of the type into a strict grid system very early on in the process. I like working that way. It feels like having a tidy house.

4. This is a true picture book, with words and pictures each conveying only part of the story. How do you decide what to tell and what to show?

ES: Thanks, Roger. And yes, there is some back and forth throughout the making of the book about what we need to write in or take out. There are times when I read a passage and say, “I think I can draw that instead.” That doesn’t happen too often, though, as Philip is also an illustrator and writes with the visual storytelling in mind.

5. What are the scariest woods you have ever had to go through?

E&P: The Catskills, for sure. We spent one very bad year living in a cursed cabin in the dark heart of the Catskill Mountains. Everything that could have gone wrong did. Luckily, just like Peter in Lenny & Lucy, we had our faithful dog by our side.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus 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 MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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