Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield

Hello, Heidi Woodward Sheffield! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Congratulations on winning the 2021 Ezra Jack Keats Illustrator Award for Brick by Brick. What does receiving this award mean to you?
Heidi Woodward Sheffield: Thanks, Mr. Schu! Receiving this award is a dream come true. Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day was one of my favorite books growing up. I keep it by me in the studio to this day. Whenever I read it, the book fills me with wonder. Receiving the EJK Illustrator Award for Brick by Brick means the book will have greater ability to reach the children who need it most. The most powerful thing for me about Keats was his belief that all children need and deserve to see themselves represented in books. I would like to continue to create inclusive books that celebrate all children.

Scenario: Imagine you’re booktalking Brick by Brick to first-grade teachers. What do you share with them?

Heidi Woodward Sheffield: Papi is a bricklayer, and he works hard every day to help build the city, brick by brick. His son, Luis, works hard too–in school, book by book. Together, they dream big about their future as they work to make those dreams come true. And then one Saturday, Papi surprises Luis with something special he’s built for their family, brick by brick.

One of my favorite illustrations in the book is the cityscape picture, where I added affirmations into the buildings: “I can build…Dream…Si, mis sueƱos.”

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Brick by Brick’s illustrations are chock full of textures from everyday objects, including blue jeans, Mexican embroidery and bricks. LOTS of bricks. You’ll never look at a brick the same way again.

Nancy Paulsen is my dream editor to work with! She really hones in on the heart of the story and suggests areas where I can further strengthen it.

Picture books are like haikus, in their brevity but also in their condensed meaning. They are the perfect marriage of words and images. I believe picture books are for all ages. There’s an initial simplicity that gives way to nuance, and a boiling down of word and picture that leads to a beautiful richness.

Heidi Woodward Sheffield has received numerous awards from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for her illustrations, and Brick by Brick is her first picture book. On any given day, she can be seen taking photographs of textures that inspire her stories and collages. She especially drawn to old brick buildings, and likes daydreaming about the strong hands that built them and the people who lived there. She lives in Northville, Michigan.

Please click here to read my interview with Tricia Elam Walker.


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