Friday, February 1, 2013

Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen

On Monday, January 28, 2013, at the ALA Midwinter conference in Seattle, Jon Klassen won the 2013 Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick), the second book that he has both written and illustrated. He also received a Caldecott Honor citation for Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), a dual honor that was last accomplished by Leonard Weisgard in 1947.

How do your stories evolve?
I've only written two, so it's hard to find a pattern so far. But for the second one, it's not so much a plot as it is a way that the text and pictures contrast. The little fish says, "He probably won't wake up for a long time," and the big fish's eye opens, and you have a book. That page is the idea for the book. It's the structure. Once you have that relationship between the pictures and the book, then you're off. Writing is so intimidating--so's illustrating I guess, but the two have to lean against each other. The more of a job you give each one, the less pressure you have on either one individually.

Tell us about the crab.
The crab is a fun guy. I'm surprised by how evenly divided children are about him. Half of them think he was always a sellout, and half thinks, "No, he's scared." There are a lot of advantages to not narrating. You put the person in the situation, and then you can say, "What do you think about this guy?" When you ask kids about the little fish in this one, even if they're divided about the crab, they're less divided about what happened to the little fish. When you ask, "Do you think the little fish is okay?," there's always one or two hopeful kids.

When you spoke at the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium this past fall, you talked about the illustration in Extra Yarn in which we see evidence of the robbers' theft of the yarn. Could you talk about how you worked that out?
You can't show certain things. With the rules we'd set up, I couldn't see a way to show three men in her room without scaring myself or anyone else. You choose the moment in time when you can imply the most. By showing the moment after, the ladders were still there and the light was on, which meant she'd discovered the theft, and the dog was chasing after them. You can do a lot by implication.

This excerpt of an interview with Jon Klassen was taken from a longer piece for Shelf Awareness Pro.

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