Publishers' Preview: Picture Books and Graphic Novels: Five Questions for Dan Santat

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2022 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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There’s A First Time for Everything; witness this first graphic memoir from Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat about his first trip abroad the summer before he started high school.

1. What’s your favorite Fanta?

Orange, because it’s the first one I ever tried. It triggers a fond memory for me, as do most first-time experiences. When I drink an Orange Fanta, I’m transported back to a café in Paris when I was thirteen years old. To me, it tastes like adventure.

2. All those times I thought, it’s okay, no one noticed, I was wrong?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but there are those embarrassing moments that your mind convinces you were much bigger deals than they really were. Most people can be fairly ­oblivious to things going on around them and ­completely miss what’s in front of them.

3. What city would you most want your kids to visit — without you?

Some kids need to ease into things because culture shock can have an adverse effect. Going to a place where you aren’t familiar with the food or can’t speak the language can cause a lot of anxiety, so it’s maybe best to go someplace that feels just slightly different from home, not too similar. London would be a good start for my kids.

4. What would you tell a picture-book artist embarking on their first graphic novel?

Graphic novels are a tremendous amount of work, and I know that intimidates a lot of people. But all those extra pages give you an opportunity to really build up emotion in a scene, flesh out characters, and flex your dialogue. The whole process is extremely rewarding. It’s like climbing a mountain: not many people have done it, but once you climb one, you’re looking for the next mountain.

5. What would you tell a kid leery of new experiences?

The human mind is designed to make us avoid pain and displeasure. But there’s tremendous power in experiencing something new. If you don’t like the new experience, then you only have to experience that displeasure once. But you might end up loving it, and then you’ve got something to look forward to for the rest of your life. With new experiences come confidence, courage, and a greater understanding of yourself.

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Photo: Dan Santat.

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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