My Heart by Corinna Luyken

Hello, Corinna Luyken! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. My heart is soooo happy you dropped by to celebrate My Heart. I’ve been telling everyone about it. Thank you for writing and illustrating this beautiful and lyrical picture book. How will you celebrate My Heart’s book birthday tomorrow (January 8, 2019)? 

Corinna Luyken: Thank you! I’m so excited for this book to be out in the world. As far as celebrating goes, Tuesday morning I’ll read the book with my daughter. Or rather, she will read the book to me. Which will leave my heart in a puddle on the floor. After that, I’ll celebrate by working on my next picture book! I have a pretty full January, so I’ll be in the studio working for most of the day. That said, my birthday is a few days before the book’s birthday… so it will be a celebratory kind of week that is certain to include my favorite ice cream, earl grey! 

What planted the seed for My Heart?

Corinna: My Heart started as a poem that I wrote a number of years ago. Around that time, I also lived near the ocean and began collecting heart rocks from my walks on the beach. Once I started looking, they were everywhere, and with almost every walk I would find one. It became a game for my daughter, husband and I, and by the end of a year we had a large wooden bowl full of heart rocks. This realization that hearts are all around us, in the ordinary (and even the darkest) moments and details of our lives, was the seed that grew into the visual world of this book. From there, thinking about all the different ways that I could tuck a heart into an image was pure joy.

I love finding a surprise under a dust jacket. Tell us about My Heart’s wondrous case cover.

Corinna: The case cover for My Heart comes from one of the earliest images that I made for the book. The one that says “closed or open…” with a solitary figure looking out towards a horizon of yellow. I was trying to find a way to express that feeling of being alone, and yet full of love and connection. That sense that there is love in the world, all around you, and that you belong to it. I was also thinking about choice, and about the feeling that accompanies something not quite here, but approaching on the horizon. And so I started with one of my favorite colors…yellow! I loaded up a brayer full of yellow ink, and did my best to cover most of the paper in a messy-glowing kind of way. I love how the shape of a heart also looks like a bird or a butterfly in flight. And so I added quite a few (always imperfectly shaped) hearts in various shades of yellow to the mix. When I was done it gave me the right kind of glowing feeling, and so that image went on to become a guiding visual for the book. A destination, of sorts. 

However, originally, the case was going to be a very different image, with a garden of yellow plants and a bunch of kids. At the last minute my art director (Lily Malcom) and editor (Namrata Tripathi) suggested that this simple yellow solution would be truer to the heart of the book. It was an image that I had thought of early on for the case, but since then I had become attached to the garden image, which was going to be used for the cover, and then (also at the last minute) wasn’t. It was difficult to let that garden image go, and so it took me a while to see that they were right. Now I think it’s the perfect case. 

Please finish these sentence starters:

Yellow is a color that I have used in all three of my books. When you live on the coast of Washington state, yellow is everything that is missing through the long deep grey of winter. It is warm and bright and glowing. It is sunlight, joy, and an open heart. 

Story is connection. Story is a way to reach across and through time and space to connect one heart to another.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about grey. Grey is an underappreciated color. SO beautiful in it’s own right. Grey is about in-betweens, the not-blacks and not-whites of the world. Grey is subtle differences and gradation. Grey also happens to be a backdrop against which yellow can shine. If you imagine using orange instead of grey in this book, you can see how the yellow would pale and disappear. And so this book, which in many ways is a celebration of all things yellow, would be nothing without grey.

Borrow My Heart from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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