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Can you tell us a little bit about the story in THIS IS NOT A VALENTINE?
Carter: You know how kids value treasures like rocks and grass clippings and handmade glue-y, marker-y masterpieces? Those are the truest gifts of admiration and friendship. And so the text of This is Not a Valentine is about all the things that aren’t exactly Valentines, but are honest and humble expressions of love. Lucy created the most endearing backstory for why our hero is offering his most prized possessions, and I just adore his pluckiness. Our editor has described it as Eleanor and Park for the elementary school set, which couldn’t be a more perfect pitch.
What materials did you use to make the illustrations in this story?
Lucy: The short answer is “almost everything,” and the long answer is brush marker, gouache, pencil, colored pencil, regular old crayons, brush & ink, and charcoal.
One of the most fun pieces I got to make for the book was a portrait of the girl, rendered in art class materials—newsprint, marker, cut construction paper, tiny pom poms, and foil star stickers. I made a collaged portrait, and then made an illustration based on it, to keep it within the visual world of the other pieces. It was a neat process!
What’s a page from the book or an excerpt from the story you’re really excited for readers to see?
Carter: I am so smitten by the title page because that’s where we see why the story unfolds as it does. But my favorite part shows our main characters working feverishly at an art table, and after the page turn, we see his very own handmade glue-y, marker-y masterpiece. It’s spectacular. (Also? The Undies.)
Lucy: For me, the most satisfying scene to illustrate was the one that takes place during story time at the library. I have such fond memories of circle time, listening to good books read aloud. I staged that scene to look like my library as I remember it at Randall Elementary School. I asked Carter for a photo of her at that age and I put us both in the circle. (I’m wearing my favorite red striped turtleneck!)
It’s Valentine’s Day, but we’re not sending valentines. What not-a-valentine would you suggest we send?
Carter: What’s in your pocket that seems small and unimportant? Send that. Sometimes spare buttons have magical powers. A broken shoelace might still be long enough for a bookmark. And nice, kind words are always free.
Lucy: In the spirit of our book—I think the finest not-a-Valentine one can give is a gesture that lets someone know that you pay close attention to them, and know them and care about them so much, on both frilly cards day and every other day.
Carter Higgins is a librarian at an independent school in Los Angeles. She is the author of A RAMBLER STEALS HOME (HMH, February 2017) and two forthcoming picture books from Chronicle Books, THIS IS NOT A VALENTINE (Fall 2017 with Lucy Ruth Cummins) and EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A TREEHOUSE (2018 with Emily Hughes). She is an Emmy-winning visual effects and motion graphics artist. She writes about picture books and graphic design at her blog, Design of the Picture Book. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @carterhiggins.
Lucy is a writer and illustrator, and also a full time art director of picture books, middle grade books, and young adult novels for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Paula Wiseman books. She is the art director for numerous New York Times and international bestsellers from authors and illustrators including Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, Andrew Smith, Tommy Wallach, Michelle Hodkin, Becca Fitzpatrick, Kenneth Oppel, Mark Pett, and Jon Klassen. She proudly serves as both art director and illustrator for Stuart Gibbs’s New York Times bestselling middle grade mysteries. Lucy made her author-illustrator debut in 2016 with her picture book A HUNGRY LION, or A DWINDLING ASSORTMENT OF ANIMALS.
Lucy is the youngest of six children. She was born in Canada (and lived in an actual log cabin!), raised in upstate New York, and currently lives with her little family in Brooklyn, New York. Her favorite food is the french fry. Find Lucy online at lucyruthcummins.squarespace.com.