THE 2021 NERDIES: FICTION PICTURE BOOKS ANNOUNCED BY JOHN SCHU

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Happy Sunday! I’m honored to kick off the eleventh annual Nerdy Book Club Awards. First up is fiction picture books! A HUGE thank-you to everyone who nominated titles. Congratulations to this year’s winners!

Bear Is a Bear by Jonathan Stutzman; illustrated by Dan Santat

“Jonathan Stutzman’s manuscript for Bear Is a Bear carried a lot of heart and emotion and it was also very similar to a manuscript I was writing, but just couldn’t quite figure out. What Jonathan wrote and what I envisioned for my own manuscript evolved into the story that you see now, which I feel is a perfect balance of our two strengths.” -Dan Santat

Bright Star by Yuyi Morales

“Child, I wish that you always feel accompanied when you most need it. I hope that you never, ever feel alone, and that there is always someone to protect you.

As an adult human it is my responsibility to make sure that the world we live in cares for you. You deserve to be welcomed, loved, and celebrated wherever you arrive.” -Yuyi Morales

Circle Under Berry by Carter Higgins

“Would you believe me if I told you that making Circle Under Berry had the most complex process? That it was a puzzle of both poetry and pictures? That if one piece shifted in the slightest, the whole concept would come tumbling down?” –Carter Higgins

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho; illustrated by Dung Ho

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is about a young Taiwanese American girl who wishes for big eyes and long lashes, like the ones she sees in books and movies. But, through loving relationships with women in her family, she comes to realize not only that her eyes are beautiful, but that she has power to create change for the future.” –Joanna Ho

Inside Cat by Brendan Wenzel

“Like my past books Inside Cat was rendered in pretty much every material imaginable; watercolor, acrylic, pencil, crayon, cut-paper and more.This book provided the interesting challenge of creating a clear distinction between the main character, the structure of the building and the vibrant world outside.” –Brendan Wenzel

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor

“I had the idea for Mel Fell while sitting on a bench by a lake. I wasn’t trying to come up with ideas at the time, which tends to be the best way to make them appear. I was just sitting there looking up at a tall old tree growing by the water and wondering how many animals and bugs called it home. That got me thinking about how fun it would be to make a picture book where you get to flip up and down the tree as you turn the pages, and on each spread you see a different animal who lives there.” –Corey R. Tabor

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña; illustrated by Christian Robinson

“For me, the process of actually illustrating this book was I was almost like becoming Milo. I had to go back to all the times that I was on the bus or the subway. And when I was looking around at all the people around me, what was I imagining about them? What were the things that they were doing?” –Christian Robinson

My Two Border Towns by David Bowles; illustrated by Erika Mez

“I had grown up going back and forth across the border with my dad, and we had done the same with my children, as part of this transnational community with relatives on all sides. I imagined how my kids would react, coming across these kids, and how they would likely be playing with them.” –David Bowles

On the Trapline by David A. Robertson; illustrated by Julie Flett

“It is a book that isn’t about that loss, but it’s about that gift that our fathers gave us. It’s a celebration of life that honors two really incredible people.” –David A. Robertson

Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

I used color to communicate ideas that simply couldn’t be put into words. I think the first two spreads are the best representation of this. The opening spread reveals a busy and colorful crowded street scene, with bright saturated colors and lots of reds and yellows. The next spread shows the world shut down, and the imposing grays and lack of colors illustrate that. From that point on, the book is painted in muted colors and grays. I wanted that to be felt immediately, that shift in color as we shifted to this new reality. The book gradually moves back toward color, as the world grows and signs of spring emerge.” –LeUyen Pham

Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson; illustrated by Qin Leng

“This was my very first wordless picture book. A daunting task for sure and I had no idea how the process was going to be. As it turns out, JonArno has a very visual mind and he had presented an in depth manuscript with suggestions for the visuals. They were only suggestions so I was grateful to have the freedom to explore and expand on it.” –Qin Leng

Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham; illustrated by C.G. Esperanza

“I never know what I’m going to write or what will inspire me. I tend to approach writing differently. I don’t just sit and create something. I wait! I wait for the idea to hit me. Then I wait for the whole story to form in my head. When I wait for the moment where I can sit in my bed and write that story out in one sitting. This is my process.” –Winsome Bingham

The Passover Guest by Susan Kusel; illustrated by Sean Rubin

“One of the many benefits of collaborating with an author-librarian was that Susan sent me a lot of materials–postcards, tourist guides, maps, photography, you name it. At least once I just received an overstuffed package in the mail and, when I opened it, a few paintings’ worth of research tumbled out. This was super-important because I didn’t (and still don’t) have anywhere near Susan’s knowledge of DC or the DC Jewish community. Taking long walks around the area of the capital where the story took place, both with Susan and by myself, also helped.” –Sean Rubin

The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen

“The painting stage is mostly about noise. It’s not even about the value yet because you can punch that up digitally. From what I know about photography, I liken it to the same process as taking a photo on film, then bringing it into a dark room and finding out what the photograph actually is. How you deal with the exposure makes the photograph.” –Jon Klassen


¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge by Raúl the Third | Colors by Elaine Bay

“¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge is a celebration of the Bridge that connects two cultures. It is a love letter to the two communities that raised me.” –Raúl the Third

Watercress by Andrea Wang; illustrated by Jason Chin

Watercress is, at its heart, a story about feeling like you don’t belong and feeling disconnected from your heritage. And that learning more about your family history can grow and change your outlook on your own life.” –Andrea Wang

Where Three Oceans Meet by Rajani LaRocca; illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

“This story idea came from a conversation I had where I described a trip I took as a child to Kanyakumari at the southern tip of India, where people say three oceans meet—the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. Then I found myself writing a story about a girl who makes that trip with her mother and grandmother, and what she discovers along the way. I wanted to convey how although we often think about our destinations, it’s often the small moments during a journey—especially the moments we share with those we love—that mean the most.” –Rajani LaRocca

Yes & No by Elisha Cooper

“This book is about a puppy and a cat and their day together (with a surprise twist at the end). It’s also, I hope, about something more.” –Elisha Cooper

Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos; illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara 

“Picture books are the way we send unconditional love to our most vulnerable readers… the way we gift-wrap laughter and joy… time machines in which we give the future, our children, the tools they need to create the world they want to live in.” –NoNieqa Ramos

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