Today’s picture book is another poetry collection about young people doing extraordinary things.
Jeanette Bradley last visited my blog back in 2020 to talk about NO VOICE TOO SMALL (the first picture book collection of poetry about young people doing extraordinary things). She is back today to talk about the next picture book in what I hope will be a continuing series. Jeanette is not only the illustrator of this collection, but she is also the editor AND in today’s picture book, also a contributing poet. Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. Jeanette lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. You can learn more about her at her website.
NO WORLD TOO BIG is a picture book collection of poems written by a variety of talented picture book authors and poets. Every poem is about a young person making a difference in the world in regard to conservation. These young people aren’t sitting down and watching our world continue to fall apart. Instead, they are standing up and demanding change. There is such a collection of talent here that it is mind boggling. You won’t want to miss this one.
Welcome back Jeanette!
Me: This is a fantastic follow up to NO VOICE TOO SMALL. Were both books pitched together? Or did this book come after the success of the first book?
Jeanette: We pitched NO WORLD TOO BIG after we had completed NO VOICE TOO SMALL and reviews had started to come in, but before publication.
Me: There are a lot of writers’ names I recognized in this book (only a few returning from the first project). How did all of them get involved? Did they approach your team? Or did you approach them?
Jeanette: We approached the poets in both books. In both, we were trying to be intentional in our matchup of poet and activist, so we looked for poets that had shared life experiences with their biography subjects. For example, did you know that Vansessa Brantley Newton attended the Fashion Institute of Technology? With her love of color, pattern, and reusing scraps in her illustration, she was the perfect pairing for Maya Penn.
Me: Of course! That makes perfect sense. In the first book, you mainly edited and illustrated, with the exception of one free verse poem you co-wrote with the other editors at the end of that book. Yet in this book, you wrote a sea chantey poem credited only to yourself. What made you decide to write a poem in this collection by yourself? Was that a challenging format?
Jeanette: My push to take the leap into writing poetry was that we had a poet pull out at the last minute due to unforeseen (positive but inconvenient) circumstances. I was a decent match for Zanagee Artis, since I also live in coastal southern New England, and like his parents, I am part of a two-mom family and a former activist for marriage equality. It was 2020 and the teen in my house was singing sea chanteys on tik tok with people around the world.
Zanagee’s brilliance as an activist lies in his ability to connect people and get them to work together as a group toward a common goal. Sea chanteys were originally sung to unite people as they coordinated their efforts pulling rope on big sailing ships, and they often tell epic tales, in the rhythm of that joint effort. The format felt like a fit for Zanagee’s story and that Gen Z generational moment. I had a lot of fun writing it.
Me: I love that! NO VOICE TOO SMALL encompassed a lot of issues that were important to young Americans who were making a difference. NO WORLD TOO BIG focuses on one issue and the kids who are making a difference all over the world. Why were these shifts important to you and the other editors?
Jeanette: Keila Dawson has lived all over the world, and while we were working on NO VOICE TOO SMALL, she kept noting how much she wished we could expand the focus from American activists to an international viewpoint. We knew we wanted to do a book with a global perspective, and to make that work we needed a thread to tie it together. The climate crisis affects all of us. It is a global problem, and young people around the world have been taking the lead on activism as adults drag their feet.
Me: Do you feel that the message of NO VOICE TOO SMALL is the same as the message for this book (i.e., you’re not too young to make a difference)? Or is there a different take away here? Why did you and the other editors want to share this with young readers?
Jeanette: The more personal reason for focusing on climate activism is that my youngest child, who was also the inspiration for NO VOICE TOO SMALL, developed climate anxiety after an unseasonably warm winter. As I read more about it, I found so many kids shared these feelings of fear, grief, anger, despair, and deep anxiety about their futures.
The antidote to being stuck in a place of despair and overwhelm is taking action with others. I wanted to create a book that showcased these young activists who are taking action all over the world as an inspiration for readers to do the same. They have certainly inspired me!
Me: This book looks very similar to the first one in illustration style. Can you talk a little bit about the illustration process you used for this book? Did you use the same techniques?
Jeanette: Both books are illustrated in Procreate for iPad. Because these books have complicated layered text on each spread, our art director Diane Earley did the book design first. When I got her designs back, she had used a font that looked like a hand-painted protest sign. I pictured it as white paint on a piece of cardboard, which is what inspired me to use a midtone kraft paper background and draw loosely with digital chalks. I wanted to preserve the freshness of that hastily-lettered protest sign aesthetic in the illustrations, while still providing a realistic portrait of each activist.
Me: What a great idea. It works so well here. Can we look forward to any more books in this series? Is there a plan for another companion poetry picture book?
Jeanette: At this point we don’t have any plans, but we aren’t ruling out the possibility either!
I love that! I will keep my fingers crossed. Thank you for stopping by my blog today Jeanette!
Dear readers, this book releases March 14th. Keep an eye out for it! But why wait? We have a giveaway today on my blog for one copy of the book. You can enter the rafflecopter here. Good luck!