Katherine Paterson and John Rocco

Katherine Paterson
John RoccoKatherine Paterson and John RoccoA Conversation with the CreatorsKatherine Paterson:What did you find compelling about The Flint Heart?   It is a wonderful, whimsical story that asks the reader to think about the abuse of power. It’s my considered opinion that Tolkien read it. There are many echoes of The Flint Heart in The Lord of the Rings.Why did you want to work with your husband on this specific project?   The Flint Heart was John’s passion, but he likes to collaborate. On Roberto’s Trip to the Top, he worked with our son John, but John was very busy in his real job and said he really couldn’t do The Flint Heart. I thought the project would be fun. We’ve done four books together now and have always enjoyed the process. Besides, he needed my typing ability.What did you most enjoy about writing The Flint Heart? Did you run into any surprises or unexpected challenges on the way?   It was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had on a writing project. The characters, the setting, the story-all are simply delightful. I think the big surprise was that at the big scene when the Marsh Galloper is being tested, Charles is outside the Pixie Holt. My editor pointed out that Phillpotts had fallen down on the job there, so we had to invent a reason to keep Charles offstage and still make it plausible.Bedrock Studios and Arcady Bay Entertainment are developing a feature film adaptation of The Flint Heart. What elements of The Flint Heart are you most excited to see on the big screen?   All the armies of fairies will be a delight to see, but how will they do the hot-water bottle? Or the magnificent Zagabog?Why do you think fantasy has remained so popular for over a century? Has the appeal changed over time? What are some of your favorite fantasy novels?   To be honest, I prefer realistic fiction to fantasy. Sorry about that. John is not here at the moment, but to tell the truth, I think The Flint Heart is the only fantasy I’ve seen him passionate about. I think, however, that the element of wonder in fantasy appeals to us all. I’m still haunted by Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising. I read Lloyd Alexander along with my children and loved the humor and fantasy elements there. I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter, but John never read any of those. I think until Harry Potter, fantasy was a bit out of fashion, but it is all the rage now, though mostly in the vampire and werewolf veins. I guess that’s how the appeal has changed. Now fantasy is closer to what I think of as horror rather than magical wonder. I find that sad. I do hope young readers will love The Flint Heart. It is such a vibrant, heartening, funny story, and that final chapter is filled with wonder. We all need this kind of healing experience as readers. John Rocco:Were you familiar with the original 1910 version of The Flint Heart before working on this project?   I must admit that when Candlewick contacted me about illustrating The Flint Heart, I had never heard of the original version of the story. What I did know was that John and Katherine Paterson were involved and that it would be published by Candlewick, so I was immediately intrigued. Not only was I familiar with the works of Katherine Paterson, but I also recently had the pleasure of being an audience member during one of her moving keynote speeches. Her love of children’s literature and her absolute joy about reading were an inspiration. The opportunity to collaborate with her and her husband on this book is an honor I do not take lightly. The icing on the cake was having Candlewick as the publisher. I have been an avid collector of children’s books for over two decades and have always been thrilled with the quality of books published by Candlewick. Their innovations in publishing and their attention to detail have helped solidify the importance of the physical book for children in this ever-growing digital age.How did you create the illustrations? Can you walk us through your process?   My process for creating the illustrations for The Flint Heart was very similar to my process for illustrating book jackets and picture books. First I read the entire text several times to get a general feel for the story and its characters. Then I begin a series of sketches, trying to work out what some of the characters and environments look like. Once I have a feel for what the illustrations are going to look like, I begin sketching out all the different scenes in the book I would like to illustrate. Luckily I have a lot of wall space in my studio, which I quickly cover with blown-up prints of my sketches so I can rearrange them and make notes on them.

For The Flint Heart, I worked with the folks at Candlewick to decide which scenes would work best for the book, then began the process of creating the final paintings. My process consists of creating a tonal pencil drawing based on the sketch, which I then scan into my computer and paint digitally using Photoshop. Painting the colors on the computer allows me to have greater control over the overall palette of the paintings, and, let’s face it, allows me to easily fix any mistakes. As I work through each painting on the computer, I tend to go back to earlier paintings and adjust them so that by the time I start to get near the end of the project, I am really working on the book as a whole, which allows me to have a greater consistency.What did you find most appealing about illustrating this story? Was there anything especially challenging?   Illustrating The Flint Heart was an absolute dream come true for me. It has fairies, goblins, children, talking animals, and even an anthropomorphic hot-water bottle from Germany as its characters. The original story was beautifully illustrated in black and white by Charles Folkard, and for those of you who are familiar with his work, you know those are some big shoes to fill. The basic challenge for me was to create characters that felt like they all inhabited the same world, as well as adding a more modern twist to the Edwardian imagery that the story evokes. For this challenge, I decided to create different levels of realism for the characters. On one end of the spectrum would be the more realistically illustrated characters (humans, non-talking animals), and on the other end of the spectrum would be more stylized characters (fairies, talking animals). This spectrum of style is narrowed as the characters become more enmeshed in each other’s worlds.For more information visit: www.theflintheart.com.Contributor: Candlewick Press  ReviewsBlackoutJohn Rocco   One ordinary night in the hot city, all the family members are busy, too busy to play a game together until suddenly all the lights in the apartment, and in the city, go out. Nothing works. The family huddles around flashlights and candles in the heat, until they decide to go all the way up to the roof. There they can see the wonder of the stars. Hearing people, they go down to the street, where folks are having a party with free ice cream before it melts, music, and water from a hydrant turned on by a firefighter. “And no one was busy at all.” When the lights come back on the family decides that instead of going back to their usual individual activities, they will enjoy more playing a game together by candlelight. Across the book’s cover is a row of buildings with just one window glowing. The jacket shows that building on the back, with the family admiring the stars from the roof on the front. After this and the dark end pages, we are surprised to see on the first two pages that every window of the street, and even the street lamps, are brightly lit. We are given close-ups of the “too busy” people in some windows. And then the dark descends. The sparse text is set in elaborate upper case letters. The focus is on the family created in comic book style with action in different size frames and across double pages. The contrast of dark and light is intense; there is a warm light around the family as they enjoy the unusual opportunity to be together. 2011, Disney Hyperion Books/Disney Book Group, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewers Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781423121909Blueberries for the QueenJohn and Katherine PatersonIllustrated by Susan Jeffers   When his brother Roger announces that a queen has moved in up the road, William knows he’s joking–there aren’t real queens in the U.S.A. But it’s true! The year is 1942, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her family are spending the wartime summer in New England. William longs to meet the neighboring royalty. Struck with inspiration one morning, he sets out with a basket of freshly picked blueberries. Upon arriving at the queen’s temporary home, he is assured by the woman who meets him at the door that his gift of berries is just what the Queen needs. To his surprise, the woman at the door is a princess, and the Queen herself is a “plump, white-haired lady in a regular old dress” who smiles “just as his own grandmother would have.” A concluding historical note describes author John Paterson’s childhood experience of delivering blueberries personally to Queen Wilhelmina while she was renting a Massachusetts home with her daughter and granddaughters. The Patersons’ charming story is enhanced by illustrations showing the products of William’s active imagination as it is sparked into overdrive by the proximity of royalty. His visions of a fairy-tale queen in a crown and ermine robes, a turreted castle, and himself as a knight in armor riding a white steed are delightfully balanced by the reality of an ordinary-looking woman with the extraordinary title of Queen. 2004, HarperCollins, Ages 5 to 9, $17.99 and $18.89. Reviewer: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2005).
ISBN: 9780066239422Brother Sun, Sister MoonRetold by Katherine PatersonIllustrated by Pamela Dalton   In her note at the end of the book, Paterson explains her impetus to “reimagine” St. Francis of Assisi’s The Canticle of the Sun. It was partly Dalton’s art samples and partly the exercise of imagining herself “as close kin to all the rest of the natural world.” In this “reimagining,” Paterson has mined the essence of the prayer and maintained the reverence, peace, joy, and awe that are found in the original. Dalton’s illustrations are detailed and yet maintain a simplicity about them that reflects the clarity of the text. Each picture of her watercolor papercuts, reminiscent of the popular nineteenth century scherenschnitte, is cut from a single piece of paper. The visual impact is very strong, whether she is showing day, night, or windy weather, or emotions of love and forgiveness. The black background allows the colors and designs to leap from the page. Put together, Paterson and Dalton have created a treasure for the reader. There is beauty and depth in the language, the ideas, and the illustrations which all come together seamlessly. The Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi is included at the end and was translated from the Umbrian text by Bill Barrett. It, too, is beautifully and simply illustrated with St. Francis holding a freshly baked loaf of bread. This would be a perfect Christening or First Communion gift. It truly sings the praise of the natural world and our relationships within it. 2011, Handprint Books/Chronicle Books, Ages 4 to 9, $17.99. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780811877343The Flint HeartKatherine and John Paterson   A heart-shaped amulet fashioned more than five thousand years ago was designed to make the wearer successful in overthrowing the tribal chief. However, no one, except perhaps the Thunder God, knew how far-reaching would be the power of this small token. Greed, rebellion, deception, and general oppression followed in the wake of the flintheart. Even at the death of its owner, the heart stayed strong and, years later, a completely innocent family man with a loving wife and clever children stumbled upon the talisman. Following in the footsteps of his Dartmoor ancestor, Billy Jago, an all-round good chap is transformed into a man who is more feared than loved. Working cooperatively, a fairy king, a German hot water bottle, and the clever and caring Jago children manage with stealth and wisdom to bring their precarious lives back to normal. Retelling the Eden Philpotts’ fairy tale with their signature tongue-in-cheek humor, sparkling narration, unique characterization, and ingenious dialogue, the Patersons offer a joyous romp through the English countryside and a fairy world that is utterly believable. This tale promises another triumph for the award-winning author and her husband. 2011, Candlewick Press, Ages 7 to 12, $19.99. Reviewer: Janice DeLong (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780763647124Roberto’s Trip to the TopJohn B. Paterson Jr.and John B. Paterson Sr.Illustrated by Renato Alarcao   This charming picture book is about Roberto’s first big adventure without his parents. Because of his good grades in school, he gets to ride the teleferico (cable car) to the top of El Avila, the mountain that overlooks all of Caracas. Since Papa has to work, Roberto’s uncle, Tio Antonio, is going to take him instead. Roberto gets to take his new camera so that Papa can see all the exciting views from the top of the mountain. When Roberto accidentally loses his camera, he’s afraid that he won’t have anything to show Papa from his trip. At the last minute, he asks a photographer at the top of El Avila to please take a picture of his Tio Antonio and himself. The photographer is glad to do so, and Roberto has a perfect picture to take home to his Papa. Renato Alarcao’s lively illustrations add much to the warm text about a resourceful boy on his first adventure. 2009, Candlewick, Ages 6 to 8, $16.99. Reviewer: Paula Day (The Lorgnette – Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 22, No. 4)).
ISBN: 9780763627089Wolf! Wolf!John Rocco   The traditional story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf is elegantly retold in this beautifully illustrated children’s book. In this updated version of the classic tale, the hungry wolf is too old and too slow to catch animals. Instead he dines on the vegetables that he has been trying to grow in his garden. When he hears a voice calling “wolf,” curiosity inspires the old wolf to seek the source of the cries. The hungry wolf is amazed to discover a young boy who is responsible for watching a group of goats. Hidden amongst the weeds, the wolf is not seen. Villagers quickly appear and they are angry with the boy who obviously found humor in summoning them for no apparent reason. The wolf quickly assesses the situation and devises a trick of his own. No one gets eaten in this delightful version of the story and everyone enjoys a delicious meal. 2007, Hyperion Books for Children, Ages 3 to 7, $15.99. Reviewer: Denise Daley (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781423100126Updated 8/1/12To stay up to date on new books by this author, consider subscribing to The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. For your free trial, click here.If you’re interested in reviewing children’s and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to marilyn@childrenslit.com.Back to Top

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