Description from GoodReads:
Standing tall above the tree line, Sequoia stretches his ancient arms and gathers clouds to him. He watches as days, seasons, years pass by. His branches are home to owls and choirs of frogs. Beneath his broad canopy, a world grows.This is his story. Through controlled verse and luscious illustration, Tony Johnston and Wendell Minor do justice to the enormous figure of the sequoia tree.
About the author: Tony Johnston has written many award-winning books for young readers, including Bone By Bone By Bone (Roaring Brook Press). Since her youth she has been devoted to nature. Mrs. Johnston has a ranch in California, where evenings she sits on the porch and gathers sunsets to her.
About the illustrator: Wendell Minor is the illustrator of over fifty children's books including The Last Train (Roaring Brook Press, 2010). His interest in nature and the environment has taken him from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in between, most recently the majestic sequoias in this book.
An interview with author, Tony Johnston...well maybe some reflections...
In 1991, I moved to California and began teaching at a small school in Altadena. As I created my classroom library, I began with titles from various authors and illustrators, but I had multiple books from authors such as Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, Bill Martin, Eve Bunting, and Tony Johnston. At that time, I never imagined that I would meet one of these incredible authors let alone several of them.
Around this same time as I was starting out teaching, Tony Johnston had written a poem about a very special tree, a sequoia, and filed it away to hopefully be pulled back out and shared with others when the timing was just right. Twenty-three years later, this ode to one of our great trees ended up in a picture book with paintings that bring the words to life and honor and respect the beauty of this majestic tree.
Well, that picture book ended up in my hands, and I just happened to bring it one Saturday morning to a group that attend, which is comprised of librarians, teachers and some authors. One of those authors just happens to be Tony Johnston. Now how do you talk about a book when the author is two seats away from you?
Oddly enough, at the break, Tony approached me. Someone had mentioned my blog to her and she wondered if I might mention the book on it. I suggested not only mentioning it but also turning it into an interview. Knowing that Tony was likely quite busy, I suggested sending her a few questions by email. Quickly, I discovered that Tony wasn't one for electronic communication, such as email.
After working out some of the details, Tony and I decided to meet at one of her favorite restaurants for brunch. We arrived around the same time and I discovered that this was more than Tony's favorite place. She was treated like family by the staff. Over a lemon creme brulee scone for her and waffles for me, we chatted about teaching, and children's books, and writing inspiration, and more.
Here is where I must confess that I am terrible about in person interviews. I really despise turning on a recording device. It just seems to muck up the mood and hinders the flow of dialogue. So instead of an interview, this is more of a reflection of my time with Tony.
During our meal, I discovered that Tony first started out as a teacher at a school about a mile from where I began teaching. I learned of her move to New York City and then Mexico as her husband's work took them to different places. As a result of her time in Mexico, Tony's quite fluent in Spanish and you can see how it has influenced many of her books.
I was curious about what it was like to work with some of the most amazing illustrators. She has been paired with Yuyi Morales, Tomi dePaola, Raúl Colón, Ed Young, Tony Di Terlizzi and many more. However, it was the story of reaching out to Jeanette Winter to illustrate Day of the Dead that was most special. Tony refused to take "no" because she just knew that Jeanette was the right illustrator for that book.
Some day, I want to see the place where Tony stores all of her book ideas. I can imagine that a career spanning 40 years would have resulted in twice or three times as many stories still to be told than what has made it to printed form. Though I won't reveal any of the ideas that were tossed around during our time together, I already know that I am going to be eagerly anticipating a few of them.
Of course, we had to discuss her latest books Winter is Coming illustrated by Jim Lamarche and Sequoia illustrated by Wendell Minor. I was curious about her favorite painting from Sequoia.
I shared with her how powerful the image of the fire sweeping through the forest had been for me.
We both loved the image of the majestic sequoia in full winter coat.
However, it was the jacket cover that was one of her favorites (and mine).
I am more than thankful for the time that Tony graciously shared with me, and I hope that there may be more in the future. She is incredibly vibrant and passionate and it comes out in her work.
If you haven't marked your calendar, by all means do so. Sequoia comes out later this month on September 23rd.
Note: All images used with permission by Macmillan Children's Publishing. Copyright 2014 Wendell Minor.
Thank you to Macmillan, one lucky reader will win a copy of Tony Johnston's book SEQUOIA. To enter for a chance to win a copy of the book you need to be 13 years old or older and have a US mailing address. Please, complete the rafflecopter below.
Don't forget to link up you nonfiction reviews here:
Don't forget to link up you nonfiction reviews here: