In two days, it will be Valentine’s Day 2019. On this day we give extra recognition to love, acts of love and those we love. Secrets are revealed, as this day asks us to declare that which we value the most. I can think of no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019 than chatting with two wonderful creators in the world of children’s literature. I am very happy and excited to welcome Anika Aldamuy Denise and Lucy Ruth Cummins to Librarian’s Quest for the cover reveal of their new book, The Love Letter.
Thank you so much for having us, Margie. And for sharing the cover of our new book.
I want to know about the character on the cover. Who is it? Why this animal?
This is Hedgehog. He’s a bit prickly. Why a hedgehog? I suppose part of the credit goes to my friend Emily. She’s an artist and a proud hedgie mommy. She posts pictures of her sweet hedgies (Figgie and Doodle) on her Instagram feed all the time—curled up sleeping, nestled in her arm, taking a bath. I guess I had hedgies on the brain as I sat down to write. Our story begins with Hedgehog, and a mysterious letter.
What inspired Hedgehog’s story?
Well, it’s a shared story, of three friends, Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel—and a small mouse. The idea began with something my daughter Sofia started years ago, where she’d write a poem and leave it for me to find. Her poems were short and lyrical. They always made me smile. And so, I started writing poems back to her. We've done this on and off through the years. No matter what our poems are about, finding them unexpectedly makes us both feel happy.
It got me thinking about how a simple unexpected expression of love, or joy, or gratitude… can be powerful. The story came from that basic idea: the effect of kind words.
Lucy, what was the first visual that popped into your head after you read the manuscript?
The first thing that popped into my head was a vision of the little mouse silhouetted against the moon. I knew I wanted it to be a quiet, private moment, and I knew I wanted the enormity of the moon to overtake the whole scene. I wanted readers to feel the emotional significance just from scale alone.
I was so taken with Anika's words, and so excited at the prospect of setting a story in the woods, and in the snow. That was a thrill for me, having set most of the books I've worked on in cities and neighborhoods that look very much like where I live with my family in Brooklyn. I grew up in Central New York, though, where it always seemed like we spent 10 and a half months of the year freezing cold, buried under a foot of snow, and fully encased in snowsuits, and where there were giant, beautiful trees everywhere you looked. It was neat to be able to unload all my visual memories of those views into the pages of our book.
What medium did you use for the cover and the art in the book?
I used anything and everything, as is my habit! I seriously have a hard time limiting my materials. I paint with gouache, use pencil and charcoal to define shadows and contours, crayon for texture here and there, brush marker for details and patterns, and digital line work overall.
I also had a lot of fun incorporating real bits of typewriter text for the letter—I used my friend Navah's typewriter and the ribbon was SO dry I had to press and hold each key for 10 seconds, wiggling my fingertip and pushing with all my might!
Is there a character in the book who you most relate to?
I am such a Rabbit! And I love naps just as much as she does. I think she would enjoy a mountain of varied art materials just as much as I do—her frenetic energy and joie de vivre spoke to me! And I'm married to a Hedgehog—it's...an interesting balance!
And you, Anika?
I think I’m a little like Mouse. A bit of a dreamer, the unlikely optimist. Small, but opinionated. And if it means I get to spend my days in Lucy’s lovely winter woods, under the big beautiful moon, then yes, I definitely want to be Mouse.
Thank you both, Anika and Lucy, for taking a few moments to talk with me about your book. I can hardly wait to show the world the cover. When I look at it, I can't help smiling and wanting to twirl around and hug someone. So . . .
Happy Valentine's Day 2019 to Anika Aldamuy Denise,
Lucy Ruth Cummins and
The Love Letter
This title published by HarperCollins Children's Books will be released on October 8, 2019.
Other books featured here written by Anika Aldamuy Denise are Baking Day at Grandma's, Monster Trucks, Starring CARMEN!, and Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre. Books written and illustrated or illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins showcased here are A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals, This is NOt a Valentine, and Stumpkin.
To learn more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and Lucy Ruth Cummins and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. Both Anika and Lucy have accounts on Instagram. You can find both of them on Twitter, too, here and here.
Anika Aldamuy Denise is the author of many picture books including Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre, Starring Carmen!, Lights, Camera, Carmen!, and Monster Trucks. She grew up in Queens, New York, and spent summers in the Adirondacks where she had a series of jobs including: chamber maid, breakfast waitress, ice cream scooper, and t-shirt seller at Fort William Henry. She now lives with her family near the coast in Rhode Island where she happily works as a writer. She still enjoys ice cream. Her favorite flavor is coffee.
Lucy Ruth Cummins spends her days at Simon & Schuster, art directing everything from picture books on up to young adult novels, and her evenings at home, drawing everything from the very, very cute on up to the very, very weird. She made her picture book illustration debut with a parody of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree---The Taking Tree and is the creator of A Hungry Lion, Or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals as well as the Stumpkin. She is also the illustrator of This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins, Truman by Jean Reidy, and the covers for author Stuart Gibbs. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and once worked at a Taco Bell restaurant.