Book Trailer Premiere: You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk

Hello, Evan Turk! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! Congratulations on You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks. It is absolutely stunning and a beautiful love letter to the National Parks. When did you first fall in love with National Parks? 

Evan Turk: Thank you so much, John! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and I’m honored to have the trailer premiere with you! My connection to the National Parks goes back to my childhood. My dad has been a Park Service employee for more than forty years, so my parents would take my brother and I on trips to see the most incredible places in the country. To this day, I have vivid recollections of my experiences in those parks, and so many people I’ve talked to across the country have similarly poignant memories of National Parks that they will always cherish. I made this book to try to share the essence of being in a National Park, where the beauty, the monumental history, and the togetherness with loved ones and nature combine to leave indelible marks on our hearts. 

You feature Sequoia, Zion, Glacier, Acadia, Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Shenandoah, Mesa Verde, Glacier Bay, Arches, Yellowstone, Haleakalā, Grand Teton, Great Sand Dunes, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Biscayne Bay, Yosemite, Redwood, Rocky Mountains, Everglades, and Olympic in You Are Home. I know this is a nearly impossible question to answer, but if someone could only visit two of these National Parks, which two would you recommend?

Evan: Oh no! Only 2 parks?? Okay...I think it would have to be Glacier and the Grand Canyon.

Glacier, because it has jaw-dropping mountains, lush forests, turquoise lakes, incredible history, and an enormous variety of large and small wildlife. I saw grizzly bears, moose, bald eagles, mountain goats and so many deer and chipmunks! (Alternate recommendation would be Yellowstone in winter, which had so many animals (bison, elk, and wolves, oh my!) and so few crowds at that time of year).

And the Grand Canyon is famous for a reason. Although I went to a lot of the canyon parks in the west as a kid, we never made it to the Grand Canyon, and seeing it for the first time working on this book was a mind-altering experience. I drew the illustration in the book at the edge of an overlook as the fog cleared and I got to see the canyon emerge for the first time. It was a magical experience to see distance, space, and time open up like that. (Alternate recommendation would be Big Bend, which is much less famous, but is spectacular and makes you feel like you’re the only people there). Okay, so I named 4 parks, but that was still tough! 

Is it true that you created one of the illustrations underwater?

Evan: Not quite! While I did try to do as many illustrations on-location as I could, all of the images in the book were done in pastel on black paper, which doesn’t hold up terribly well underwater. However, I did want the experience of drawing underwater, so I used a diver’s board, oil pastels, and a grease pencil, and did some preliminary drawings while snorkeling in the reef at Biscayne National Park. The waves were a bit intense, but doing those drawings helped me remember the feeling of the swelling waves, and the movement of the fish and corals while doing the final illustration at home, which I think made it feel more alive. You can read a bit more about my trip to Biscayne here

Please finish these sentence starters:

I hope You Are Home inspires more kids and families to go out and experience the Parks, or even just to experience nature! It’s very liberating to feel at home in nature, and it is something I hope every kid can feel.

Gatefolds are the only way to make grand landscapes even grander! It’s tough when there is an incredible place on every spread, so I wanted to make sure the last spread really had that special impact.

Story is not always a narrative. It can be the building of a symbol, feeling, rhythm, or color. I think one of the most exciting things as an illustrator is creating those kind of stories behind the main narrative.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what the most exciting animal encounter I had working on this book was! That would have to be the BOBCAT! I have always wanted to see a cat in the wild. I love cats, and seeing a wildcat was a childhood dream, but they’re so elusive, I never really thought it would happen. Then, while I was in Yosemite working on this book, I was hiking and saw two people pointing excitedly off the trail. And there, almost invisible, was a beautiful bobcat. It walked maybe 10 feet away from me, and then disappeared into the trees. I frantically did a drawing and took bigfoot-like pictures and it was everything I had hoped it would be! I told my husband I felt like I deserved some kind of medal for seeing a bobcat, and when I got home from California he gave me this medal he made for me! He said he didn’t put “Best Bobcat Spotter” because technically, the couple that pointed it out first were better, which I think is fair.

Award-winning author and illustrator Evan Turk showcases the beauty and importance of the National Parks in this gorgeous picture book that takes readers on an amazing tour across the United States.

Beneath the soaring doorways of stone,
and peaks that pierce the ceiling of clouds,
from every river, star, and stone
comes the eternal refrain:
you are home.

In simple, soaring language and breathtaking art, acclaimed author-illustrator Evan Turk has created a stirring ode to nature and nation. From the rugged coast of Maine to the fiery volcanoes of Hawaii, You Are Home reminds us that every animal, plant, and person helps make this land a brilliant, beautiful sanctuary of life.


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