Publishers' Preview: Spring 2024: Five Questions for Loren Long

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2024 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2024, 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 Yellow Bus doesn’t look down the road for happiness, she has it within her.

1. Is that a real town your bus explores?

It’s an imagined town. I built a diorama of the town and nearby valley and used this model as a reference to sketch from. Upon opening the book, readers see an aerial view of the entire setting. They follow the bus along her journey, see the passage of time, and witness her changing circumstances. Most of all, through pictures and words, I hope readers will feel her joy in service of others.

2. What are the particular painting challenges of school-bus yellow?

This is the first picture book I’ve created using charcoal. To highlight the iconic yellow inherent in the main character, I gave myself the challenge of blending a painterly full-color bus into each black-and-white composition. The yellow really pops off that charcoal. Still, painting a shiny yellow metal box on wheels in different light and from different angles while keeping that hue consistent was tricky. How do you make the yellow dark in shadow without it looking muddy? How to paint the yellow surface to look like sunlight is hitting it? I rely greatly on my wife, Tracy, who pointed out many paintings where my school bus looked too lemony yellow — likely my attempt to show sunlight on the bus. It was an easy fix with Tracy nearby checking the art carefully before it left the studio.

3. Were you a school bus kid?

I was, in junior high in the late seventies. One bus driver was a wild man. He brought his boom box, cranked up AC/DC, and gave us a daily roller coaster ride.

4. Who was your favorite personified vehicle in childhood?

Katy of Virginia Lee Burton’s Katy and the Big Snow.

5. You and I are both colorblind. How can you make/let that serve you as an artist?

Being colorblind is mostly annoying. As an artist, I’ve created systems to get around it. As mentioned above, I rely on a little help from others. One way it serves me, perhaps, is to make me focus more on value than hue in a composition. This can be good.

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Photo: Chris Von Holle.


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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