Monday, November 12, 2012

Picture Books We Love: “The Reader”

Review and Author and Illustrator Interviews
The Reader is an adorable picture book written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Lauren Castillo and published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. It’s also the lead character of the book. The "Reader" is a small boy with a dog, a sled, and a suitcase. The boy and his dog play in the snow and climb to the top of a tall hill where the suitcase is opened and they share a surprise. The Reader is about the quiet of nature. It’s also about being able to hear yourself think. And of course, it’s about the special bond between child and dog. The illustrations are gorgeous, created in a sure-handed minimalism that makes you step back in awe. Beautiful moments of fun in the snow make this a perfect holiday gift. And it celebrates a love of reading and of books. It’s a small piece of perfection

Amy and Lauren answered a few questions for me:
Media Darlings: Why did you choose to not give the boy or dog names in this book?
Amy Hest: I wasn't consciously avoiding giving the reader a name; it just kind of evolved that way. I like calling him The Reader because it's simply the essence of who he is in the context of this story. A proud new reader! Of course he’s much more than that (just ask the dog)—he is definitely a good friend!

Speaking of dogs, I also happen to enjoy the fact that the dog in this story has no name. It allows us to focus on who he is: a most loyal fellow and extraordinary friend.

MD: What message do you hope your readers will get from this book?
AH: I suppose the message readers might get is to enjoy reading! Any time! Any place! Any mountain! Any weather! Bring a friend! Get cozy! Share the joy of reading!

MD: This is a book that celebrates the joy of reading. Do you fear that this joy is slipping away? Were you upset at the New York Times piece about the death of the picture book?
AH: Well I'm a BOOK person, and will always be a book person. I love not only reading them but writing them and of course sharing them. Picture books have a very special place in my heart. I honestly believe they will never go out of style and that young children (and old children and young adults and middle-aged adults and old people) will forever be charmed and moved by a beautiful picture book.

MD: What’s your favorite children’s book from both the writing and illustration side?
Amy Hest: Oh dear, sorry! I’m in love with too many children’s books to choose just one!
Lauren Castillo: Well I could name a handful of favs, but I'll stick with the winter theme and say Snow, by Uri Shulevitz. :) A simple and poetic text with gorgeous, magical art.

MD: Which children’s book do you wish you wrote/illustrated?
Amy Hest: I should have written Leo The Late Bloomer. Really. I mean it. Why didn't I write that book?!?
Lauren Castillo: The Gardener, by David Small and Sarah Stewart! In my opinion, this book is the perfect marriage of art and text. An altogether stunning package.

Amy Hest’s many acclaimed children's books include the New York Times bestseller Kiss Good Night. A three-time winner of the prestigious Christopher Award, she lives in New York City. She claims to have absolutely no hidden talents, unless you count an uncanny interest in coffee ice cream and certain dogs in the Wheaten Terrier or Airedale family. Amy likes to take long walks (in the city), ride a bike (in the city), and swim (also in the city). She likes movies and reading, of course! For more information, visit her website.

Lauren Castillo grew up in small town Maryland, but now spends her time in the bustling borough of Brooklyn, New York, writing and illustrating books for children. She likes exploring the city, daydreaming in parks, doodling in cafes, and spying cute dogs on the street. Visit her website and her blog. Drop by and say “hello” any time!

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