Publishers' Preview: Diversity Five Ways: Five Questions for Christian Robinson

This interview originally appeared in the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Diversity Five Ways, 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 Matter, says Christian Robinson, in a freewheeling ­homage to the power of affirmation.

1. How did you get from evolution to a park bench in the same book?

You could ask Mother Nature; I was taking cues from her. Although I did spend more time highlighting the human moments, which was very human of me. This book was an excuse to draw things that excite me, from the tiniest of organisms like amoebas to the biggest, like the T. rex. But really, it’s about perspective and observation. What better place to observe from than a park bench?

2. Do you ever get surprised by your own work?

The pictures in my head rarely turn out the way I imagine. There’s an improvisation that needs to happen when I translate an idea to the page. I like to leave space for spontaneity, because that’s where the fun is. Also, I make mistakes. Sometimes, I’ll illustrate something many times, trying to get it right, only to realize that the most wonky, weird one of the bunch had the most life.

3. How did you describe this book to your editor?

Originally titled Small Problems, the story began as a question posed to life forms throughout time: “What’s your problem?” With the help of my editor, Justin Chanda, the book evolved to have a more nurturing, self-empowering vibe.

4. How much fun is cutting out ­dinosaurs?

I’ve illustrated books written by many other authors, and not once have they given me the opportunity to draw a prehistoric creature. So, I’ve been waiting a very long time to cut out dinosaurs, and yes, it is so much fun!

5. Who tells you that you matter?

My grandma, who raised me; my brother, who calls me every day; and my lovely boyfriend, John. This book, however, is about both the “who”s and “what”s that make us feel like we matter. The world would be a different place if we all received that message. It’s easy to think, “How can tiny little me matter in such a great big universe?” I think we are being reminded now more than ever that even the small stuff can have a huge impact on our world.

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Photo: Anastasiia Sapon.

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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