The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Candace Fleming & Amy Hevron, Review of The Tide Pool Waits

Have I got a special treat for you today! A chance to join me for a peek at the creative genius of Candace Fleming and Amy Hevron as they discuss the inspiration and process of making their stunning new picture book The Tide Pool Waits.

Candace Fleming awarded herself the Newbery Medal in fifth grade after scraping the gold sticker off the class copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and pasting it onto her first novel—a ten-page, ten-chapter mystery called Who Done It? She’s been collecting awards (her own, not Elizabeth George Speare’s) ever since.


Today, Candace is the versatile and acclaimed author of more than forty books for children (fiction, historical, and science picture books), and young adults (biographies, anthologies, & novels), including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize honored The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of the Russian Empire; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award-winning biography, The Lincolns; the bestselling picture book, Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!; the Sibert-Award-winning Honeybee and Giant Squid; Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen; and the beloved Boxes for Katje. She even contributed the chapter on Katharine of Aragon to Fatal Throne.

For additional information on Candace, see our earlier interview (here).

Amy Hevron loves exploring nature, birdwatching and baking tasty treats from her home in Seattle, Washington. Amy’s medium of choice is acrylic paint on wood which she layers with pencil, charcoal, and marker, and collages digitally. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design and a certificate in Natural Science Illustration. She is a two-time winner of the Portfolio Honor Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Prior to focusing on illustration, Amy worked as a graphic designer and sold her original wood paintings at boutiques and craft fairs around the US.


Amy is the author/illustrator of several picture books including the upcoming The Longest Journey: An Arctic Tern’s Migration (Summer 2022, Neal Porter Books) and Dust Bunny Wants a Friend (2019). She’s the illustrator of the upcoming Tree Hole Homes by Melissa Stewart (Fall 2022, Random House Studio), The Perfect Pet for You! by Estelle Laure, and Trevor by Jim Averbeck (2018).

Their newest picture book The Tide Pool Waits, released April 5th.

Welcome Candace & Amy,


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? )


CANDACE - I do most of my writing in my little office in the little house I share with Eric Rohmann. Most days I write while my dog, Oxford, lays at my feet and my cat, Oliver, is curled beside him. I write all my first drafts (pictures books, novels, big pieces of nonfiction) on wide-lined, loose–leaf paper with blue Bic pens. I like the freedom of writing this way because the words don’t feel precious. I’ve been writing this way since I was a kid. I guess it’s too late to change now, huh? I don’t have a favorite type of book. Each has its own challenges and joys. Truthfully, though, when I’m immersed in a YA biography, I often long to write a preschool picture book. And when I’m writing a picture book, I find myself dreaming of my next chapter book. Yup, I like variety.


AMY – I started making children’s books 8 years ago. Prior to that I worked as a graphic designer and fine artist for 18 years. So those skills helped prepare me for my jump into kid’s books. I work in my studio at home and am a morning person, so I work best early in the day. After about 3pm my brain shuts down J And like Candace, I don’t have a favorite kind of book to work on. I love the research aspect to working on nonfiction books and the challenge of creating whimsical animals and natural settings but keeping them somewhat realistic. And I also love fantastical books and books centered on cute characters where I can create more from my imagination.


Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

CANDACE - I had so many, but if I had to land on one it would be Marguerite Henry. In fourth grade, the same year I arm-wrestled my way to elementary school fame, I fell in love with Misty of Chincoteague. So, I wrote Marguerite Henry a letter. Honestly, I’ve absolutely no memory of what I said in that letter. But it must have been good, because weeks later I arrived home from school to find a package from… wait for it! … Marguerite Henry. It was a signed copy of Misty with both her signature and Misty’s hoof-a-graph. I still have it, a most prized possession.

AMY – I was one of those reluctant readers as a child. I preferred to draw, color and imagine my own stories featuring my stuffed animals. But there are a few picture books that I loved as a young child. Corduroy by Don Freeman and Moon Mouse by Adelaide Hall, illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres were two books that really captured my imagination. Their beautiful illustrations tell a story all on their own, and I remember “reading” them before I could even read the words.


These are such great books! Candace, what was your inspiration for The Tide Pool Waits?


CANDACE - All my life I have rolled up my pant legs and scrambled over rocks to comb the seashore for hours on end. My office shelves are lined with sea glass, seashells and sea-smoothed rocks. Obviously, the place holds some inner meaning for me, though I’d be hard-pressed to explain its exact significance. I just know that the shore’s constant change and movement attract me. So do its tide pools. How many hours have I spent crouched on seaweed-slick rocks looking closely?

Gazing into a tide pool is like peering through Lewis Carroll’s looking glass. The world beyond is strange and wondrous. Flowers bloom that are not flowers, but animals. Stars – red and yellow – freckle rock rather than sky. Eyes – belonging to what? – peek out from the protective shelter of swaying weeds. There is struggle and survival in a tide pool. There is drama too. Wow, talk about inspiration!


Wow! I love this explanation of your fascination with tidepools. I think the many happy hours I likewise spent on the beach and scrambling around outcroppings was what initially drew me to the book. It always feels like a second home. Amy, what was it about The Tide Pool Waits manuscript which appealed to you as an illustrator and/or what discoveries did you make?


AMY - I love the pacing and anticipation in Candace’s manuscript. It evokes that same sense of waiting when you visit tide pools in person. You sit and watch and wait. And eventually, little creatures start to reveal themselves. I also love how she features several unique and unheard-of critters. In fact, there were a quite few that I had to look up because I didn’t know what they were, like sculpin and chitons.


I totally agree with you, Amy. Candace, how many drafts did it take for you to get the rhythm and refrain established? And how long did it take The Tide Pool Waits to go from idea to publication?


CANDACE - I’ve just pulled out my folder to count drafts. It looks like fourteen in total, with the refrain “the tide pool waits” not appearing until draft number six. Writing really is a discovery process, isn’t it? Hmmm… I’m not sure I remember exactly how long from initial idea to publication. In fact, Neal Porter originally suggested the idea. Umm… maybe three years? Does Amy concur?


Books do seem to peek out of manuscripts in their own sweet time - just like your sea creatures. Amy, how many revisions did it take to create the fun illustrations for The Tide Pool Waits? Can you tell us a little about your unique process?


AMY - When I started paginating the book and sketching out scenes, I quickly realized that I needed to look at a tide chart. I plotted out the scenes based on a day in July when high tide was at midnight (where the story begins), and low tide was roughly around 8 am. Then as the story continues, we move into afternoon when the tide is high again. Knowing the time of day helped me to determine sea levels, the position of the sun, and how bright the sky and sand should be throughout the book.


For this book, I painted with acrylic on Bristol paper, which is different for me since I usually paint on oak plywood. But I wanted to paint on paper because I knew there would be a lot of little details that would be hard to pull off on wood. And I thought the wood grain texture might be distracting in a book mostly set under water.


There were only a few revisions to the art. Towards the end of the art process, we had a tide pool expert review the art, and he found a few things that needed to be edited to be more accurate. For instance, the crabs needed 8 legs (I originally only had 6 on some of them), the baby opaleye fish needed blue eyes, and there were some strands of seaweed in there that were too abstract, so I repainted it to look more like giant kelp.


I found your oak painting illustrations fascinating. It's interesting that this book required not just lots of research for you, but also an adjusted style. I think you did an awesome job with it! Is there something you both want your readers to know about, or take away from, The Tide Pool Waits?


CANDACE – I hope they sense the ephemeral nature of the tide pool – it appears and disappears – and makes them think about how one thing can change another. I hope on some level it makes them think about waiting for life’s inevitable changes… anticipating them… embracing them. Above all, I hope they just find in the book’s pages a good story, well told and beautifully illustrated.


AMY - I love how this book is a great introduction into the fascinating worlds of tide pools. I’d encourage readers to try to experience tide pool habitats in person as well. Many aquariums like the Seattle Aquarium in Washington state and the Monterrey Aquarium in California have great tide pool exhibits where you can get up close and touch starfish, urchins and all sort of these unique creatures. And my favorite tide pool beach to visit is Agate Beach in Newport, Oregon. Here they have great informational signage and wildlife staff on-site to help point you to which tide pools have interesting critters in them that day.


I may be biased, but I thin you definitely succeeded. Amy, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in The Tide Pool Waits? Could you share one or more with us?


AMY - I love those illustrated treasures in picture books! And I added a little hermit crab substory in there that’s not mentioned in the text. It first appears in a yellow shell on the title page. Then midway through the book, we see a red shell being swept in by the rising tide. Then in the dueling kelp crab/rock crab scenes we see the hermit crab find the new, larger red shell. And in the last scenes we see the hermit crab in its new red shell home.


Thank you so much for highlighting this extra illustrated narrative. Candace, what is the hardest or most challenging thing for you about writing children’s books? How about writing The Tide Pool Waits in particular?


CANDACE – I believe nonfiction picture books should have drama. They should have tension, anticipation, suspense… even books about science and nature. Finding that tension in the topic of tide pools, however, took some mulling and pondering. It took some trying and experimenting. It took several trips to the seashore and about a pound bag of M & M’s. But eventually, I realized that the waiting provided anticipation. Once I hit on the tide pool creatures waiting, the story came together quickly. For me, writing picture books is like breaking into a safe with a combination lock. All it takes is for a couple numbers to click into place and… voila!... a story.


I love the image of you as a "safe cracker." Amy, what was the hardest part about illustrating The Tide Pool Waits?


AMY - There wasn’t anything hard about illustrating The Tide Pool Waits. Candace’s manuscript was structured so perfectly that the sketches came together effortlessly. And then working with my editor Neal and art director Jennifer is always a joy. I started sketching on this in the fall of 2020 and then painting the art in January 2021, so this was such wonderful world to escape into during that time.


Oh my gosh, it definitely would have been! Candace, did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Amy’s illustrations? What is your favorite spread?

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Amy Hevron, 2022.


CANDACE – I’m surprised at how whimsical they are, and yet so evocative of real tide pools. My favorite spread is where the kelp crab and rock crab meet. They have so much personalities for crustaceans!


I see Amy's hermit crab with its yellow shell at the bottom of the illustration as well. Amy, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Amy Hevron, 2022.


AMY - I love the illustrations where you can show views that wouldn’t be possible in real life. Like all the cross-section and underwater views. But I think my favorite spread is the title page because it shows the overhead view of looking down into the tide pools. I like how it invokes the real experience of visiting tide pools.


Did you all find the hermit crab in the yellow shell on this spread? How are you, or have you been, staying creative these days?


CANDACE –I’ve written more since the pandemic began than any other time in my writing journey. Working at my desk, absorbed in research, or in my imagination has been an escape. For a few hours a day, at least, I can get away from the “real” world.


AMY – I’ve gotten into a regular routine of taking a walk in the morning. Hearing the birds, seeing the plant life budding, and just strolling around my neighborhood really helps me to clear my mind.


Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

CANDACE – Eric Rohmann and I have a nonfiction picture book called Polar Bear coming in Fall, 2022 with Neal Porter Books/Holiday House. It follows a mother bear and her cubs through their first year together as they navigate a changing Arctic landscape due to climate change. Also publishing in the fall from Scholastic/ Focus is a middle grade nonfiction called Crash From Outer Space which on the surface is about flying saucers, extraterrestrials, and the myth of Roswell. In actuality, it’s about critical thinking, conspiracy theories and why we believe things that are demonstrably false.


AMY - I’m currently illustrating a book called Can You Hug a Forest? by Frances Gilbert. I’m having fun illustrating this story because it’s set in nature but has fantastical elements. After illustrating several nonfiction picture books in a row, this one is fun to let my imagination run wild.


I can't wait to see these books! Okay, last question. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?


CANDACE – That’s easy – Indiana Dunes National Park. It hugs the south shore of Lake Michigan. I grew up in the area and it has long been my “happy place.” I escape here whenever possible in any kind of weather. Going there is like going home.



AMY – I love so many parks. But I would have to say Olympic National Park in Washington State is my favorite of ones I’ve visited. I love hiking through its old growth forests among 500+ year old evergreen trees, driving up to see the sweeping mountain views from Hurricane Ridge, and of course, visiting its tide pools along the beach.


I couldn't resist highlighting the amazing range of ecosystems that these two parks contain. Hopefully, you can see why it was hard to pick one picture to represent each park! And besides, I love the Olympic National Park, too.


Thank you Candace & Amy for sharing with us a bit about yourselves and your newest picture book.


To find out more about Candace Fleming, or to contact her:

Website: https://www.candacefleming.com/index.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/candace.fleming.books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/candacemfleming

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/candaceflemingbooks/


To find out more about Amy Hevron, or contact her:

Website: https://www.amyhevron.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amy.hevron

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amyhevron

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amyhevron/


Review of The Tide Pool Waits


Spending time with my Grandparents meant joining them in explorations of the beach and tide pools along the Oregon coast. Those are some of my favorite summer memories, both as a child and in college. I still think of them every time I wander any beach. So it's no wonder I fell head-over-heals in love with this book.

The Tide Pool Waits


Author: Candace Fleming


Illustrator: Amy Hevron


Publisher: Neal Porter Books/Penguin Random House (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Sea creatures, tide pools, patience, and the rhythm of nature.


Synopsis:

Dive into the rich ecology of tide pools and watch a hidden world spring in this masterful nonfiction picture book for very young readers.


Twice a day when the tide goes out, an astonishing world is revealed in the tide pools that form along the Pacific Coast.

Some of the creatures that live here look like stone. Others look like plants. Some move so slowly it’s hard to tell if they’re moving at all, while others are so fast you’re not sure you really saw them. The biggest animals in the pool are smaller than your hand, while the smallest can’t be seen at all without a microscope.

During low tide, all these creatures – big, small, fast, slow – are exposed to air and the sun’s drying heat. And so they have developed ways to survive the wait until the ocean’s return.


Opening Lines:

The waves . . .

CR-A-A-A-A-SH

in.


And then . . .

cr-e-e-e-e-p

out.


Swish, gurgle, trickle,

drip-drip-drop.


Seawater collects

between the rocks.

And quiet settles

over the shore.


And . .


What I LOVED about this book:

Even without the illustrations, Candace Fleming's lyrical text captures the motion of the waves as they race ashore and slowly ripple through the night back into the ocean. And just like she did with Giant Squid and Honeybee she uses every inch of the book's real estate. Those opening lines occur on the pages before, and lead directly to, the title page.

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Amy Hevron, 2022.

Amy Hevron's colorful acrylic paint and pencil illustrations not only capture the passage of time and the ocean tide, but also all the plant and animal life that exists in and around these pools.


As "the sun rises/and brightens the sky," the sand dries out and the pools begin to warm. Seagulls and sandpipers converge on the pools. Curious and waiting. Hoping for food to be exposed as the water level drops. At the same time, muscles, snails, limpets, and little fish wait for the waves to return.

Text © Candace Fleming, 2022. Image © Amy Hevron, 2022.


Candace and Amy highlight other animals - octopus, sculpin, crabs, and shrimp - all waiting. As if collectively holding their breath. "They all wait. And wait. And wait." I love that even "the restless ocean waits." Its time to rush and crash back on shore controlled by other forces - the earth, moon, sun, and wind. Until "wild and roaring, cold and foaming" the waves surge and snake ashore.


With a repeated tryptic series, mirroring the tide's recession in the beginning, Amy shows the tide reclaiming the beach and the tide pools. And the text and illustrations come to life as the plants and animals react. Opening up, wiggling, swimming, or poking about they each seek food or head back to the sea. I love the action, sound, and movement in the text and the illustrations as "everything is busy. All brim with life." The gorgeous illustrations beg the readers to slow down, pause for a second, and hunt for each of the flora and fauna mentioned (as well as discover some extra ones), and explore all that these pools have to offer.


But nothing ever lasts, least of all the tide level. With a repeat of the initial tryptic image and a reverse of the opening text:

Swish, gurgle, trickle,

drip-drip-drop.


Once again, the waves

cr-e-e-e-e-p

out.


And you can guess what happens. Candace and Amy have created a beautiful, lyrical ode to the ocean and the plants and animals one can find in the tide pools.


Fostering a sense of wonder and curiosity, this book offers kids an exciting and vibrant interaction with the cycle of a tide pool. A cyclical look at both the waiting and the bursts of action that occurs within these special environments. The backmatter includes a conversationally written illustrated guide to the various species found in Pacific Coast tidepools (inspiring kids to go back and make sure they found each one), a list of sites to facilitate virtual explorations of tide pools, and a fun annotated diagram showing the various habitat zones.


Resources:

- make your own tidepool from recycled materials. Some ideas for making crabs (https://www.craftplaylearn.com/easy-crab-craft-ideas-for-kids/) and an octopus (https://iheartcraftythings.com/12-outstanding-octopus-crafts-for-kids.html).


- next time you're at the beach, look at some tide pools and make a list or draw a picture of everything you see. What was similar or different from the tide pools in this book?

- do you think tidepools differ around the world? What types of plants or animals might you find in all tidepools? What might only occur in some places? Here's a guide to help identify plants and animals in tidepools.

- how do the earth, moon, sun, and wind have an effect on tides? Why are some tides high and some low? Which tides make the best tidepools?

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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