A Conversation with Liz Garton Scanlon

Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read., Liz! Do you remember telling my students about The Great Good Summer on World Read Aloud Day two years ago?

Liz Garton Scanlon: Yes! – although it’s funny that I did, because it was really still an abstraction at that point. I’d gotten the words down on paper, but there was much work still to be done, and the idea that it would actually become a real book someday? I don’t think I was there yet. I’d been primarily a picture book author so the very idea of a novel was kind of preposterous.

But the fact that I mentioned it to you guys must mean I felt some semblance of confidence.

Or at least some semblance of hope.
Download The Great Good Summer's curriculum guide. 
I have an overwhelming to-read list and pile (it is really a mountain), but I moved The Great Good Summer to the top the day I bought it at Anderson’s Bookshop. I read the first 120 pages without getting up once. You should know this experience is highly unusual for me. I have a hard time sitting still for more than 20 minutes.

Liz Garton Scanlon: Ha! I think of you as Mr. Zen Reader Man, in an armchair with books, still and silent for days on end. But I guess you’re usually leaping about the library with your students, and criss-crossing the country to speak and teach, and reading in between all of that, whenever you can.

Really, this is just so flattering. When I write a picture book, my hope is that readers will “pick it up again.” Now, having written a novel, my hope is that readers won’t want to put it down in the first place. So thank you.

I loved your characters immediately. I had to keep turning pages to learn how things turned out for Ivy and Paul. What does it feel like to share your characters with the world?

Liz Garton Scanlon: They’re so real to me. I’ve experienced that many, many times as a reader but never as a writer before. I was so curious about them as I wrote, and worried about them, too. They do some scary, reckless things, and they’re tender kids at a tender age – it’s nerve wracking! I guess I hope readers will connect with them, and care about them, even half as much as I do. And that they’ll find their way in the world the same way they do in the book.

You hit the cover jackpot! I love everything Marla Frazee illustrates. She captured Ivy and Paul in such a special and heartfelt way.

Liz Garton Scanlon: I know. Doesn’t it just shine? I love Marla, as a friend, and I worship her as an illustrator. We collaborated on the picture book All the World, so you would’ve thought I’d already had my fair share of luck in that category. But then she said yes to this! When I saw the art, it blew me away but it also seemed so familiar. It was like, “Oh, look! There are Ivy and Paul!”

If we had been friends in elementary school, what book would you have put in my hands?

Liz Garton Scanlon: Misty of Chincoteague. (I was a huge reader and an even huge-r horse lover.)

Please finish these sentence starters:

In the Canyon tells the story of a child connecting with the animals and red rocks and hot sun and mules and cacti and water of the Grand Canyon, and taking all of it home with her, in her heart.

School libraries are a saving grace.

Reading is my main map of the world.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I was nervous about including the hot-button issues of science and religion in The Great Good Summer. The truth is, as a debut novelist, I was worried about everything I put in The Great Good Summer – not just the hot button issues! But in the end, in the battle between nerves and curiosity, curiosity won out. They’re hot button issues because they are so layered and complex, because there’s so much to know and to wonder about. I just really loved exploring all that through Ivy and Paul.

And I’m glad you explored with me. Thanks again, Mr. Schu!

Thank you, Liz! 

Borrow The Great Good Summer from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. Thanks for the great interview, Mr. Schu! I love Liz's picture books, and am looking forward to reading this novel. And I absolutely LOVED Misty of Chincoteague. I even had a Misty figurine that I used to take everywhere :)


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