Today we welcome author/illustrator Jessica Linn Evans for our first ever Read, Discuss, Do! interview. If you're not familiar with Jessica and her work, you are in for a treat! She is an author and illustrator and the creator of the charming and adventurous picture book Penguin Sets Sail. Today we are excited to hear from her about connecting with kids through books, the benefits of reading wordless picture books, and more!
Now that you've gotten a peek at her lovely book, on to the interview!
Rebecca: Read, Discuss, Do! is all about taking storytime to the next level through thoughtful conversation and activities. Do you have a favorite memory of seeing this in action with one of your books? Or from your childhood?
Jessica: Oh yes! My favorite is a picture a lady sent me of her granddaughter playing Penguin Sets Sail. She had overturned a hollow plastic step stool and brought her stuffed penguin in with her to set sail together. She also had her “spyglass” with her which she made from a toilet paper tube. I love the imagination there!
Rebecca: What a special treat to see your book inspiring creative play!
Your book Penguin Sets Sail is a wordless picture book. What are the benefits of "reading" books that are told entirely (or mostly) through the illustrations?
Jessica: Kids get to be co-creator of the story! They make their own words or storyline. They can have a new adventure every time they come to the book or tell the same familiar story to themselves over and over. Non-readers have the excitement of being able to “read’ the book on their own. Wordless books help strengthen comprehension and storytelling skills. It’s a unique way for a parent or teacher to have interaction with a child since the child can tell the adult the story instead of the other way around. There are so many benefits! I love this review from Amazon: ‘My 4-year-old son asks for this book almost every night, although he doesn’t want me to read it to him. He wants to “read it himself” as he falls asleep. Because there are no words, my son can retell the story in a hundred different ways. The vivid, captivating pictures are perfect for sparking a child’s imagination. So glad we own this book!’
Rebecca: That review sums it up nicely. I have a soft spot for wordless picture books myself!
What are your favorite three questions to ask kids to spark picture book conversation?
Jessica: I don't really have favorite questions to ask kids. I am the elementary librarian at my children’s school and most of my interaction with kids and picture books is when I read to them at the library. I ask them questions while we read, so the questions depend on the book. And the questions just come as we read. If I read a situation in the book that I think deserves more explanation or more thought by the students, I'll ask it. Mostly it's phrased like: "What do you think about _______?" It’s hilarious to see how many different points of view elementary kids have!
Rebecca: As an author/illustrator do you think about how readers might extend your stories through discussion and activities while you are writing or illustrating? In other words, is that part of your thought process as a creator?
Jessica: I definitely hope my stories can be an inspiration to readers beyond storytime! My hope is that the wonder of everything around them becomes more acute, that readers become more observant of creation, adventure, loyalty, friendship, and beauty—in short, I hope it gives them one more tool in their toolbox for living life fully.
Thank you so much for being our first interviewee, Jessica!
Her debut picture book, Penguin Sets Sail, released May 2020 from Canonball Books and Rainstorm Publishing. She has also illustrated Waiting Through Winter by Jason Farley (Jovial Press, 2015), Little Mouse Finds A Friend by Jeni Leidenfrost (Jovial Press, 2017), and Solar The Polar by Kim Constantinesco (MacLaren-Cochrane, 2017).
Jessica is an elementary school art teacher, a school librarian, and a high school volleyball coach. She lives in the beautiful state of Idaho with her husband, her four delightful children, and a bunny named Bucky.