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

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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City Under the City, a picture book–graphic novel hybrid, looks innocent at first glance, but wait for what’s to come — not to mention what lies beneath.

1. Dan, I thought I was opening a bedtime story.

A reasonable assumption! This is a very different book for me. I wanted to create a story that works as a read-aloud and as a text for kids starting to read on their own. I knew the graphic-novel format would be the perfect way to tell this story.

2. Would this book have scared young you, or were you brave like Bix?

I would’ve totally been into it. When creating books, I keep six-year-old Dan in mind. He loves adventure and characters who move through strange worlds — the stranger the better.

3. Yum, surprise gatefold spread. When did you know you wanted one?

When I turned in my sketches, my editor Maria Russo suggested one and of course I said YES! There was so much love and attention paid to how a reader would experience this story. Have you seen the incredibly cool case cover? The wonderfully tactile quality of the pages? The cover’s matte finish? Even the trim size is unusual. I’m grateful to designer Amelia Mack for everything that makes City such a wonderful visual and tactile experience.

4. Did you read John Christopher’s Tripods books? I was reminded.

I read them to my son when he was eight. I love sci-fi, and I’m surprised there’s so little accessible science fiction for kids. That was one of several engines that drove me to develop this book. I wanted to gently show how surveillance is creeping into the world. I also wanted to celebrate self-reliance for kids, who have so few opportunities to be independent. And I wanted to show how reading can set you free.

5. Can reading save the world?

It already has! Let’s continue to press books into the hands of aspiring readers to create intelligent, informed adults capable of critical thinking. And we need to fight book bans! City is a cautionary tale about an authoritarian tendency we’re seeing in our world now and how even kids can fight that. What happens when they do? Well, you’re going to have to read the book!

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Photo: Michael Benabib.

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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