Spring 2016 Publishers' Preview: Five Questions for Cynthia Rylant

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring 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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After an eleven-year absence, Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant returns in The Otter to her Lighthouse Family, which finds itself involved in the rescue of two new friends.


rylant_cynthia Photo courtesy of the author.


1. Why is life in a lighthouse such an appealing prospect?

CR: Seclusion, solitude, the various ways someone withdraws from life (sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not) have been themes in my life and in my thoughts for a long time. So that brought Pandora, the solitary cat in the lighthouse, to my mind. I felt I understood her.

2. Did you need a sort of writer’s time machine to add a new entry to a series published more than ten years ago?

CR: The time machine I invented was a pile of books on sea life from the local library. Those got me back into that world. When I started the series years ago, I was living in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, so it was easy to feel I was part of a sea family. But now I am in a regular neighborhood near downtown Portland, Oregon, and the only ocean creatures I see are the gulls that get bored and fly in from the coast to walk around the grocery parking lot.

rylant_lighthouse_otter3. How do you manage the line between exciting and frightening?

CR: I guess by not having great white sharks as characters.

4. You have created so many beloved series characters. Do they ever meet in your imagination?

CR: No. I don’t think about my books much anyway. I do sometimes see Mr. Putter’s car on the road and that makes me smile.

5. There’s some good food in this book, and I’m deciding between the rose-petal muffins and the elderberry fritters. Which do you recommend?

CR: I suggest whichever has the most icing. You’ll have to ask Pandora! I gave her all the nice qualities I don’t have, including being a really good cook. If you’re going to live in isolation, it’s good to do so with a good cook.

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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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