An Interview with Bryan Collier

Do you ever read a book and ask yourself, "Wow, wouldn't it be amazing if I could share this exceptional book with every elementary and middle school student in the world?" Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington is one of those books. It's also a book that deserves to be celebrated two days in a row on Watch. Connect. Read. 

If you missed yesterday's interview with author Jabari Asim, please read it before reading today's interview with three-time Caldecott Honor winner Bryan Collier. 

Mr. Schu: I could spend hours looking at your watercolor and collage illustrations. They are gorgeous and inspiring. What drew you to this medium?

Bryan Collier: I think the collage aspect of my work comes from my grandmother's quilt making when I was a kid and the watercolor just happens to be the first and only medium I could get my hands on in the beginning.

Mr. Schu: How did you prepare to illustrate Fifty Cents and a Dream?

Bryan Collier: I did research on Booker T. Washington from books, websites, and being familiar with the area in which he was born and raised, Virginia and the Hampton area.

Mr. Schu: If you invited us inside your studio, what are a few things that we would see?

Bryan Collier: You would be shocked at how small and cluttered my studio appears but everything is right where I need it to be.

Mr. Schu: What do you hope young readers take away from Fifty Cents and a Dream?

Bryan Collier: I hope young readers will appreciate the hard and nearly impossible obstacles that a young Booker T. Washington had to over come as he moved from an illiterate slave to a well educated world leader.

Mr. Schu: Please share what it feels like when you answer the phone and the person on the other end says, “Hello, this is the Caldecott Committee.”

Bryan Collier: Well, at first I do not know what to say, and then as I get up from the floor feeling amazing, I say, "Thank you.”

Mr. Schu: Please complete these sentence starters:

Picture books are a glimpse of what my heart sees and says.

Reading is an unknown door that is slightly open and waiting for you.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about what joy means to me...

And the answer is... I love it when my two daughters  (Haley, 9 and Chloe, 20 months) barge in and grab and touch my old magazines and brushes and glue to make their own masterpieces.

I am giving away one copy of Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 12/9 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/12. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Please borrow Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.


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