Publishers' Preview: Picture Books and Graphic Novels: Five Questions for Oge Mora

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2020 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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The real-life title character of The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, illustrated by Oge Mora and written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, became literate at age 116.

1. How was learning to read for you?

It was a lot of fun. I felt like sight words were a game, and I was always looking to find the ones I knew. When I learned to recognize words, then sound out the ones I didn’t know the meaning for, then put them into sentences, I felt like my world opened up. And when the pages of my favorite books weren’t a mystery anymore and I could read a book on my own without help, I felt powerful. Reading is an incredible gift, and we often take its magic for granted.

2. Do you remember what book made you want to be able to read?

I don’t remember an exact book that made me want to read, but my favorite thing growing up was being read to. I could “read” the pictures in my favorite books, but I was really excited to be able to read the words, too. It didn’t help that I was the youngest of seven siblings, and they all went to school in the morning. My sisters tell me that I would put on a bookbag and try to go with them. I guess I had some serious FOMO as a kid! [Edited for my fellow seniors: Fear of Missing Out].

3. Do you have a filing system for your collage paper yet?

I do! I essentially have an expanding collection of paper drawers for tissue paper, small papers, metallics, and everything in between. My fingers are crossed that I’ll be able to get a flat file system one day. That’s at the top of my wish list.

4. Who was the oldest person you knew when you were a kid?

Hmm, I don’t think I could really categorize one person as the oldest. Taking out the fact that everyone feels ancient when you’re a kid, my neighborhood church had an older congregation, so we celebrated quite a few centenarians on Sundays.

5. What do you hope to do before you turn one hundred?

Ummm…if I live to be a hundred, I will have won the game of life, and I will smugly rest on my laurels. But I’ll keep making books as long as they let me.

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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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