Book Trailer Premiere: Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Hi, Matt! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Red & Lulu’s book trailer. What should everyone do before pressing play?

Matt Tavares: Thanks for having me, Mr. Schu! The story of Red & Lulu has been a part of my life for so long (it began back in 2011!), so it’s very exciting to be finally start sharing it with readers.

Red & Lulu is about a pair of cardinals who live happily in a big, beautiful evergreen tree, until one day when something unthinkable happens and they become separated. It’s a Christmas story, and a love story, and a story about what happens when your world is turned upside down unexpectedly, and you’re forced to focus on what’s really important.

Before pressing play, imagine for a moment that it’s early December, there’s a chill in the air, and the sky looks like it might snow. 

How did the cardinals who regularly visit your backyard inspire you to write and illustrate Red & Lulu?

Matt: Yes, this story began with a pair of cardinals who visited my yard countless times. When my kids were very young, it became a sort of game. If we spotted one of the cardinals out at the bird feeder, we’d go to the window to see if we could find the other one. They were almost always together. I was struck by their devotion to each other and wondered how far one of them might fly to be with the other, if they ever became separated.

What medium did you use to create the STUNNING illustrations?

Matt: Thank you! The illustrations for Red & Lulu were done in watercolor and gouache. I used a somewhat limited palate, so the red cardinal would really stand out. Originally I planned on making the illustrations black and white except for the cardinals, because I loved the idea of the bright red bird really popping against a monochromatic background.

But then I realized that this happens naturally, especially since much of the story takes place during the winter months, when the trees are bare and there aren’t a lot of bright colors. Full-color illustrations also allowed me to show the passage of time through the changing seasons.

Illustration Credit: Matt Tavares 
Red & Lulu seem to like Rockefeller Center and Central Park. Where is your favorite place in NYC?

Matt: Not surprisingly, Red and Lulu’s favorite places are also some of my favorite places! I love New York City at Christmastime, especially Rockefeller Center. There is something magical about the combination of the city lights and the holiday decorations- especially when snow is falling.

I don’t know if I have one favorite place in New York City, but my favorite thing to do in New York City is to take really long walks and just see where we end up, soaking in the energy of the city. I love Central Park, and the Museum of Natural History, and Books of Wonder, and the New York Public Library. But I also love just wandering around and finding places I’ve never been before, and will probably never find again.

Please finish these sentence starters:

School libraries are every kid's portal to everywhere. I spend a lot of time visiting schools, and I am constantly reminded of the vital role that school libraries, and school librarians, play in children's lives. 

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why this book took me so long! Some story ideas are pretty straightforward. But this one came at me from a few different directions, over the course of five or six years.

It began with an idea for a story about a pair of cardinals. I knew there was something there, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. Meanwhile, inspired by the magic of New York City at Christmastime, I was working on a different idea for a nonfiction book about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. But neither idea was really coming together- until it occurred to me that maybe the cardinals and the tree might actually be part of the same story. That led to my first draft of Red & Lulu.

That version had about a thousand words. My editor and art director at Candlewick liked it, but asked if I would consider turning it into a wordless book. I was intrigued, and spent months working on that. But when I shared the wordless version with friends, there was something missing- sort of an emotional disconnect. So I went to my editor with both versions, and we worked on creating a hybrid version, adding back words where they seemed necessary, but leaving some spreads wordless.

The final version has about 450 words. Even though it didn’t end up being wordless, I think that exercise helped the book quite a bit, and I learned a lot about visual storytelling.

By the time I started final art, I felt like this book could really be something special. It felt different from my other books, which was exciting, but also a little nerve-wracking. I really didn’t want to mess it up! So it took me a while to loosen up and get in a groove with the illustrations. I missed my deadline by a few months. But by the time I was done, I was really happy with how it came out. I poured my heart into this book. I hope it means as much to readers as it does to me.

Look for Red & Lulu on September 19, 2017. 


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