I love to look at the world. I love to look at books. And I find I’m really loving to look at the stunning new book, LOOK (Paula Wiseman Books/S&S, April 2024) by author Gabi Synder, which is all about – you got it – looking! I caught up Gabi to learn more:

Me: Congratulations on your wonderful new book, LOOK! As an art teacher, one of my main goals in training young artists is getting them to really SEE, so I’ll definitely be using this in my classroom. What inspired you to write this book?

Gabi: Thanks, Jonathan! Getting ourselves to really see the world around us can be challenging. It can be easy to walk through our days with a kind of tunnel vision, not really noticing much. I wrote LOOK as an ode to paying attention to patterns in the world around us, both in the natural world and in the world of human-made things. I’ve always enjoyed looking for patterns. As a child, I found patterns both fascinating and calming. Discovering a pattern can feel like unlocking a mystery or solving a puzzle. Patterns help us make sense of the world around us. And seeing or creating a pattern is intrinsically satisfying and reassuring – like being able to predict the next note in a song. I hope the story provides an example of how tuning into the world around us and paying attention to all the patterns we share can help us feel centered and connected.

Me: I’m not sure if it’s because I have an artistic sensibility, but I always find great joy just looking at things; the play of light, shadows, reflections. What do you find the most joy in looking at?

Gabi: I agree. There’s so much joy in looking at things. I love seeing the dance of light – sunlight or moonlight – across water. I love dappled light through trees. And starlight and constellations can be mesmerizing. And rainbows! Seeing a rainbow – or a double rainbow – always feels magical to me. In terms of patterns, I especially love fractals. Look at this Romanesco broccoli. The way the pattern repeats at different scales is simply beautiful!

Roman broccoli extreme close up

 

Me: The illustrations by Samantha Cotterill are stunning to say the least. How did you two get paired? Is there anything you can share about her process or your collaboration?

Gabi: Samantha Cotterill’s illustrations took my breath away! I suspect that we were paired because my editor knew that Sam’s intricate diorama style would be the perfect match for my manuscript with its focus on patterns. I love the intricate 3D worlds Sam creates, and I’m totally smitten with her super-saturated colors and exquisite lighting.

I know child me would’ve loved spending hours inside this book – seeking all the patterns, some easy to find and some hidden, within Sam’s art. And there’s a whole extra layer of story told through the art that’s only hinted at in the text. We see packed boxes and a “sold” sign on the family’s house. And we can see that the boy in the story will soon have a new sibling.

 

In terms of Sam’s process, she’s shared that she decided it would be “best to illustrate LOOK in a more realistic manner…one that would enable a smooth transition for the reader from the book to their own world surroundings” when looking for patterns. She also shared that before this book she did not enjoy drawing flowers and was avoiding the flora in this book for while. But what an incredible job she did with the flowers! Here’s Sam’s favorite from the book’s cover.

 

And a beautiful boat.

 

Me: How did you get into writing for kids?

Gabi: I dabbled in writing for several years before I took a leap and studied creative writing, with a focus on writing fiction for adults, at the University of Texas. After earning my MA, I took a succession of jobs that used writing (like grant writing and instructional design), but I struggled to find time for my own writing.

Fast forward to 2013: when my kids were little (3 and 5), we moved from Austin to Corvallis, Oregon. With a break from work following the move, I found time to get back to my own writing. Only by then, I’d become immersed in the world of picture books and fallen in love with this form of storytelling. In 2014, I wrote my first picture book drafts.

Me: Can you share what you’re working on next?

Gabi: Currently I’m working on a story about dreaming and another about starlight. And I’m (very slowly) revising a middle grade manuscript with a touch of magic realism that’s set in Seattle.

Me: Intriguing! Thanks so much for sharing. Wishing LOOK much success!

BONUS! A few more days to enter this fun giveaway:

LOOK PRE-ORDER GIVEAWAY!

Illustrator Samanatha Cotterill is offering an amazing LOOK pre-order giveaway!

Link to giveaway — https://www.formpl.us/form/6484744827437056

 

“I am excited to offer two glossy 5 x 7″ art prints from our upcoming book when you pre-order a copy from anywhere books are sold. Simply submit your proof of purchase (a simple photo of the receipt with sensitive information crossed out will suffice), and I will send you two prints, a doodle, AND enter you in to win one of 5 free custom journals to mark your own observations in! (Prints and journals will go out the first week of May. This giveaway ends April 15th at 11:59pm EST)”

And to learn more about Gabi, please visit: gabisnyder.com

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