When I Wake Up by Seth Fishman and Jessixa Bagley

Hello, Seth Fishman! Hello, Jessixa Bagley! Thank you for stopping by to celebrate When I Wake Up, a thought-provoking picture book that’s going to be so much fun to experience and discuss with students in classrooms and school libraries There is so much to take in, to follow, to absorb. What a gift you’ve given us! I’ve returned to it multiple times over the past two days. I spot something new with each reading. Since the story starts with a clock and a specific time, would you please tell everyone about that clock and that time, Seth?

Seth Fishman: First of all, thanks for the kind words. This was a really fun and challenging book to write, and it all came out of that clock. Or, rather, this stoplight clock we bought for our son. You know the type? It shines a soft red until a set time, and then turns green. The idea being that a kid will not leave their room until it’s green. My oldest, Wes, he never slept well so we were getting desperate. The light didn’t work, not really. And the end of the book is most often how the end of the night went. And despite the struggles and exhaustion, the planning and schemes, I couldn’t really be too upset by such a result. 7:00am… that’s just a dream we have never and, I fear, will never hit.
Jessixa, what ran through your head and your heart when you received the manuscript for When I Wake Up?

Jessixa Bagley: I thought it was an incredibly gentle and creative way to tell the story of choices in a child’s day. I was instantly struck by its language and delicate descriptions. Seth is a wonderful writer and so considerate of his reader. I loved how each storyline had its own narrative and how they were explored through the eyes of the child in such a thoughtful way- nothing too overt- mostly by way of the child’s feelings of what each experience would entail. As an illustrator, you live for text that allows as much room for subtext and play as this manuscript did. I was very inspired by its open field to create my own complimenting visual stories that would fill in the spaces. 
Seth, how would you describe When I Wake Up to booksellers?

Seth Fishman: I feel like this is a book about possibilities, and autonomy. A young kid wakes up and realizes they have endless options. What will they do? What have they learned from watching their parents? The kid comes up with four possibilities, and the book splits, following those narratives side by side until the threads unite into their eventual path. Not a Choose Your Own, more like a The World is Yours.

Jessixa, what materials did you use to create the art for When I Wake Up?

Jessixa Bagley: I used watercolor and pencil on hot press watercolor paper. I have been using a very limited palette for my past few books already, but this took it to a very literal level. I have five color stories and only used black, red, yellow, purple, and green. I did each storyline monochromatically, so for each of the colorful storylines, I used the color it is told in and added different degrees of black to create the darker values. This concept was how I envisioned the book from the start. I felt it the most compelling and visually easiest way to help differentiate the storylines from one another while allowing me to tell them in an interesting way. 

Seth, please finish the following sentence starters:

Jessixa Bagley’s illustrations are just inspiring. To be able to tell these four stories in a way that is both amazing to look at, full of nuggets and fun, and also in a way that makes sense, that’s understandable… that’s really difficult. I am blown away by her genius, the colors, the new styles on each page. She tackles the serious, the timely, and the simple joys, fears and loves of every kid.

Picture books are such a fun challenge. They are steeped in tradition, from length to word count to rhyme, yet evolving over and over again. I love writing books that are made both for the kids, and for parents. That help create a reality that grounds youngsters and, hopefully, adds some inclusivity and awe to their daily lives. Most of all, I have two kids, and I love reading these little nuggets of poetry and laughter every morning and night, and couldn’t be happier to be part of that tradition in someone else’s home.

Jessixa, please finish the following sentence starters: 

When I Wake Up is dedicated to my son Baxter! He was my inspiration for the look of the child. As the final art was made during the pandemic lockdown, our ability to be in the world was removed. So, everything about Baxter (his jammies, room, toys, etc.) were my reference points for the book. He also posed A LOT for my sketches! Early on, my editor and art director had talked about making the kid in the book a kid that many could see themselves in, so not really making the child one race or one gender. Baxter is mixed race, so he was a natural muse for the main character. But also, his curly hair could be either read as a girl or a boy. Incidentally Baxter named the child “Jesse” which I find amazing because Jesse is both a girl and a boy’s name!

Picture books are important. They are often our first introductions to language and art, so they are our foundation for appreciating those critical cultural pieces. I also feel because they are meant to be experienced through sharing, they create opportunity for love and communication between people. And when that moment happens between an adult and child, for a few minutes there is a unifying bridge of connection between the constant and the mercurial. It’s very special. Picture books can make you laugh, inspire your imagination, teach you, take you on adventure, make you feel seen, make you feel safe, make you feel loved. They are magical, intimate, and sacred.

Thank you, Seth and Jessixa! 

Seth Fishman is the author of Power UpA Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, and The Ocean in Your Bathtub. He is also a literary agent and the author of two young adult novels, The Well’s End and The Dark Water. He is a graduate of Princeton University and received an MFA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Seth Fishman lives in Los Angeles, California.

Jessixa Bagley has written and illustrated multiple award-winning picture books, including Before I Leave and Boats for Papa, winner of an SCBWI Golden Kite Award for best picture book text. Her book Laundry Day was not only a Junior Library Guild Selection, but also a recipient an Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award for writing. She lives in Seattle, Washington

Look for When I Wake Up on November 9, 2021. 

Greenwillow's Description: Every single day holds so many possibilities—how do you choose what to do when you wake up? Award-winning author Seth Fishman and acclaimed illustrator Jessixa Bagley introduce a young child and four different paths for their day in this inventive and original picture book that recognizes the imagination, courage, and independence of every child.

When an imaginative young child wakes up before their parents, they know that they’re supposed to stay in bed until the clock says 7:00. But that’s no fun—so what could they do instead? Make breakfast? Build a city? Ride a scooter? Dig in the garden? Each choice leads to a different path for the day. And in the end, the child makes the best decision of all—to curl up, safe and loved, between Mom and Dad.

When I Wake Up begins in black-and-white, and then each of the child’s four choices is rendered in a different color. Every spread includes all four choices, so readers can enjoy this book traditionally, reading all four colors at once, or they can choose one color to follow from beginning to end.

Jessixa Bagley’s masterful and ingenious artwork beautifully complements Seth Fishman’s lyrical text that celebrates imagination, creativity, independence, and love. When I Wake Up begs to be read over and over again and can change every time. Both children and parents will enjoy sharing this timeless story—no matter when they wake up or what time the clock says.


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