The Tree In Me by Corinna Luyken

Hello, Corinna Luyken! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! My heart is so happy and honored you’re here today to celebrate The Tree In Me. I know this GORGEOUS and LYRICAL picture book will lead to deep and thoughtful conversations just like My Heart does.

Corinna Luyken: Thank you for having me Mr. Schu, my heart is very happy to be here with you!

Thank you! I’m curious, what came first: the illustrations or the text?

Corinna Luyken: With this book, the words came first.

But as I began to clarify the style, rhythm and shape of the book, some of the text changed in response to the art. For example— “part yummm!” wasn’t in the original text. Once I started to break the book down into page turns and add a visual narrative however, I realized that there was an opportunity to add another page and a more playful variation on the rhyme. So in the end, although the words set the tone, it was still a back-and-forth-dance of a book. (As all the best books are!)

Scenario: A bookseller at Browsers Bookshop in Olympia asks you to fill out a shelftalker about The Tree In Me. There is enough space for 280 characters.

Corinna Luyken: Oh these are soo difficult! This is why I am a book maker and not a book seller! I love to make the art, but always have such a hard time succinctly describing what it is that I’m trying to do. This is why I appreciate the team of people who surround the making of a book SO much. Very smart people like editors, sales reps, teachers, book sellers, and readers who are much better at describing what it is that moved them about a book. That said, I am going to borrow the words of my editor, Lauri Hornik, who wrote the following…

A stunning and sensitive portrait of the strength within each of us. This book explores the ways we as human beings are strong, creative, and connected… to everything. An invigorating conversation-starter that contains a world of truths— about self-esteem, community, and living a meaningful life.

Please finish the following sentence starters.

The Tree In Me’s endpapers are a celebration of pattern, color, and texture. I was trying to capture the feeling of looking up at light filtering through the branches and leaves of a tree.

Apples, oranges, pears, almonds…YUMMM! My husband, (and more recently, my daughter) are really the bakers in our family. But while I am not a precise follower-of-recipes, I do love to cook. And so the free-form messiness of a rustic tart suits me very well. I love filling them with apples or plums, cardamom, lemon zest and almonds…

The art for The Tree In Me was made with ink, pencil, and acryla gouache.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why there is no green in a book about trees! This is really a book about the interconnectedness of all life, as opposed to a book about a specific tree or forest. It is a book about looking deeply and being able to see connections with your heart and mind, as opposed to your eyes. And so early on in the drawing/exploration process, I figured out that I didn’t want to use green, which was making the book feel too literal. (In some early sketches I was exploring the branching patterns of the inside of a human being, the ways in which our blood vessels and brains and look very much like a tree… but after sharing them with my art director and editor we all agreed that they were a little too realistic/creepy/unsettling!) As I tried to figure out a color palate that would feel more interior, but also playful and imaginative, I kept coming back to neon pink (and from there dark brown, mustard yellow, and blue.)

Look for The Tree In Me on March 16, 2021.

Corinna Luyken grew up in different cities along the West Coast, and after studying at Middlebury College, she settled in Washington State, where she draws inspiration from nature, her family, and the human form. She is the author and/or illustrator of several acclaimed picture books, including The Book of Mistakes and My Heart.


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