Publishers' Preview: Picture Books and Graphic Novels: Five Questions for Matt Tavares

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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With Hoops, veteran picture-book creator Matt Tavares offers his first graphic novel, a sports story based on a real-life winning team.

1. Did you read sports books as a kid? Novels or nonfiction?

I read anything about baseball, especially fiction. I loved the Matt Christopher books, like The Kid Who Only Hit Homers. I remember checking out Roger Kahn’s classic, The Boys of Summer, from the library when I was nine or ten, too young to understand most of it. But it had Ebbets Field on the cover, so I went for it.

2. Who was a model for you in creating your first graphic novel?

I watched my kids devour books like Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl and Raina Telgemeier’s Smile. I started reading them, too, and was hooked. I felt like Hoops could be that kind of story. I also looked to friends who’d made the leap from picture books to graphic novels, like Scott Magoon and Dan Santat. They answered questions and helped me quite a bit.

3. Do your kids play sports?

When I had the idea for Hoops, my daughters were in sixth and third grades and both played basketball. Now they’re in college and tenth grade and onto other sports. Ava was a three-sport varsity captain last year, and her lacrosse team made it to the state championship. Molly made varsity volleyball this year. I love watching them play.

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

Go back! Save yourself! But seriously: go for it, and ask questions of those of us who have done this before. I don’t think I could have done this without the support of my community of children’s book friends. Ultimately, whether it’s a picture book or a graphic novel, you’re telling a story with words and pictures. If you can do that in a picture book, you can probably figure out how to do it in a graphic novel.

5. New Englanders are spoiled for sports to root for, but which team breaks your heart the most?

The Red Sox. In a weird way, though, I miss how it was before all the winning. When they would come close to winning the World Series for the first time in eighty-five years and then lose — it was devastating. Now that I’ve watched them win four World Series titles, the losses aren’t as heartbreaking.

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Photo: Sarah Tavares.

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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