Publishers' Preview: Picture Books: Five Questions for Evan Turk

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Picture Books, 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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Opulent pastel drawings commemorate the majesty of our National Parks in Evan Turk’s You Are Home.

1. Faced with a scene filled with natural splendors, how do you decide what to draw?

Before embarking on all of my National Park journeys, I went through the text of my poem and loosely planned which parks could fit each spread. But I wanted to let my experiences in the parks dictate the illustrations themselves. I always made drawings when I was too overwhelmed not to. I hope that feeling of awe comes out in the illustrations.

2. Which of the parks would you most want to live in?

Glacier National Park in Montana. Everything about the park borders on fantastical. The mountains are startlingly steep, and they emerge from lush forests and meadows covered with wildflowers. The lakes are vivid turquoise from glacial erosion, and the stones in the streams are teal and maroon. There are animals of all kinds around every turn. In the span of about fifteen minutes I saw a moose, a bald eagle, a mountain goat, a ptarmigan, and several deer. I can’t imagine waking up and seeing that every day!

3. Which park is the best one from which to see the stars?

In the Grand Canyon, while walking back to my car after watching the sunset, I happened to look up and see the Milky Way peeking through the trees. I often think about how it must have felt for people living before the days of electricity to see that spectacle every night.

4. And which one is the quietest?

Big Bend National Park in Texas. I couldn’t believe the silence there. Not only is it one of the most remote parks, with fewer people, it has such incredible scale that all of the sounds seem to get swallowed up. I was drawing in a deep canyon cut by the Rio Grande, and the only sound I could hear was the echoing of a crow’s wings flapping as it flew by.

5. How did you pick which park would get the surprise double-gatefold spread?

I wanted it to be one that captures that quintessential grandeur of a National Park. There is something miraculous about Yosemite Valley, because you are in a flat meadow, surrounded by incredible peaks and waterfalls. For that double-gatefold, I wanted that feeling of spinning around and looking in wonder in all directions.

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