WILL WRITE AND ILLUSTRATE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
FOR WRITERS, ILLUSTRATORS, PARENTS, TEACHERS, LIBRARIANS
AND BOOK LOVERS EVERYWHERE
Welcome, friends! I had a most wonderful surprise the other day. A member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee asked if I’d be willing to host one of the winners as a stop on the book blog tour. Of course, I said yes! Then I found out who they’d matched me up with.
The one. The only. PETER SÍS. An author/illustrator I’ve long admired from afar!
Before we get to chat with Peter, I want to share his bio from Macmillan’s website:
Peter Sís is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker. He was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and attended the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and the Royal College of Art in London. Peter is a seven-time winner of The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a two-time Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honoree, and has won the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal twice. Peter’s books, Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei, Tibet through the Red Box, and The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain were all named Caldecott Honor books by the American Library Association. The Wall was also awarded the Robert F. Sibert Medal.
In addition, Peter Sís is the first children’s book illustrator to win the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. He was chosen to deliver the 2012 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture for the Association for Library Service to Children. Peter won the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award. This award is considered the most prestigious in international children’s literature, given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People.
ME: Welcome, Peter. Congratulations on winning the Sydney Taylor Book Award for NICKY & VERA: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued. It’s an honor and a pleasure to have you visiting as part of the Book Blog Tour. I know everyone wants to find out a little bit more about you, so let’s get started.
Who were your favorite authors and illustrators when you were a child?
PETER: When I was little I had a favorite book, which was many times bigger than I was. It contained bound pages of comics from the Chicago Sunday Times. My grandfather, who had designed railways in the 1930’s in Cleveland, had brought it back from America for my mother.
So, it is amazing that I grew up with American pictures somewhere in middle Europe, in Prague behind the iron curtain in the 1950’s. I could not decipher the text in the balloons and did not know the names of the illustrators. But I will remember the pictures forever.
Now I know they were made by Rudolph Dirks (The Katzenjammer Kids), Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie), Cliff Sterret (Polly and Her Friends) and George Herriman (Krazy Kat) and many more.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
PETER: I wish I had known years ago that I needed to get up every now and then to stretch my legs, my back and relax my eyes. I drew for many long hours.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
PETER: I have a special sketch book and a pencil which I keep next to my bed so as to draw my dreams. I have many doodles which make little sense once I wake up and look again!
I like to draw in different places, anyway anyhow anywhere!
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
PETER: Most of my work is pen and ink, and I work with natural light. I try to work every day when the light is good. Having a deadline certainly helps.
Once I made my wife leave me on a little island for a week, a perfect place to focus. It got really hot and there were mosquitos under the palm tree. When she collected me a week later I didn’t have much done!
ME: Why do you write for children?
PETER: Early on I would read a book and become part of the story- entering the illustrations were magical moments. I am trying to recreate that feeling, for children and for myself.
The best time I had as an author and illustrator was when I was making books for my own children. About their lives and their adventures. How our daughter wanted a dog, and how our son turned into a fire truck. That was fun!
ME: What inspired you to write Nicky and Vera?
It is a story about how to make a difference through an act of altruism.
“I only saw what needed to be done,” said Nicholas Winton.
The story of Nicky and Vera starts in Prague where I grew up. 29-year-old Nicholas Winton arrives there just before the Nazis take over, and realizes children are in danger. He arranges for visas, tickets and transport of 699 children in just a few months, and saves them from certain death. After the war began no more children could be rescued. He then put away his records and told no one what he had done. It was fifty years later that a chance discovery and a famous tv appearance brought Winton’s action to light.
ME: Do you have any thoughts, Peter, that might be especially helpful for authors and illustrators?
PETER: Here’s a quote from Nicholas Winton that I think might be useful for authors and illustrators “If something is not blatantly impossible, then there must be way of doing it”-
ME: Oh…yes! That’s so true. We need to keep that in mind when we get stuck or can’t find the right opening lines or satisfying ending or we come up against huge obstacles when researching.
Thank you, thank you, Peter, for sharing so much of your journey and for sharing some of the inside spreads of NICKY AND VERA. We all congratulate you on this prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award – and I know that many readers will be rushing to add this important book to their shelves.
And, dear friends, Peter is sharing a very special recipe with us of a cake his grandmother used to make.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
cherries/pitted/or berries to cover the dough
confectioners sugar for topping
*Beat egg yolks until lemon colored
*Add butter and sugar and beat until fluffy.
*Sift dry ingredients and add to egg mixture.
*Beat egg whites and slowly fold in.
*Pour into a greased pan.
*Sprinkle with pitted cherries or berries on top of batter.
*Bake 15 minutes at 450
*Sprinkle cooled cake with confectioners sugar
Peter also shared a link to an NPR Newshour special about NICKY & VERA:
And here is a fantastic discussion between Peter and his editor, Simon Boughton, presented by Politics and Prose Bookstore:
For anyone who wants to check out the rest of the Sydney Taylor Book Blog Tour, here is a link: https://jewishlibraries.org/2022-blog-tour/
And to find out more about the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners: https://jewishlibraries.org/sydney_taylor_book_award/
A huge thank you also to the Association of Jewish Libraries for lifting up important books and their creators.
And dear friends, are we done for the week? Nope. Please come back tomorrow for Perfect Picture Book Friday and a look at Beth Anderson’s newest Mighty Girl picture book bio: Revolutionary Prudence Wright.
Plus next week, I’ll be creating a special heads-up-the-#50PreciousWords-contest-is-coming-soon post – we’ve already got agents (including my amazing Essie White) and editors on board offering critiques as prizes, seats in online picture book writing classes, a three-day Personal Writing Retreat at Highlights Foundation (worth $500) AND a new literacy initiative that will support a local indie bookstore and provide books for schools in need. Stay tuned!