Valleycott Awards 2021

Valleycott Awards 2021


Grade 2 library classes, recently studying Caldecott Award winning picture books (awarded as such by the American Library Association for outstanding artwork), spent February evaluating some of 2020's best illustrated picture books and handed-out their annual Valleycott Awards. The Valleycott Award winners represent what the 2nd graders feel are outstanding examples of picture book artwork. Each 2nd grade class also chose one winning illustrator to write a letter of congratulations to, and you can see the winners' responses below... 
The 2nd graders wrote to Mike Twohy, illustrator & author of 2021 Valleycott winner Spacebot.  Here are their questions and his answers:

Thank you for giving my book SPACEBOT your special award!   And, as you can see from the drawing I did for you, Pup and Spacebot are excited about receiving it, too!
Look!  He drew us a picture!


1)  Which do you prefer - being an author or an illustrator? 

I feel lucky that I have had the chance to be both, but since I've been drawing cartoons for way longer than I've been writing, the drawing part comes easier and is the most fun for me.


2)  Why did you choose to be an author and illustrator as a career? 

I actually decided when I was a kid that I wanted to be a cartoonist, which was fortunate because it turned out I wasn't very good at anything else.

3)  What gave you the inspiration for writing this very funny story? 

What I do especially like about writing children's books is coming up with the ideas.  But, once I have an idea that looks like it might make a good book, that's when the hard part starts for me.  I have drawers full of beginnings of stories that never got endings or even middles. When all the pieces of a story finally come together and seem to work, that's very satisfying.


4)  How long did it take to start and finish this book? 

SPACEBOT took a really long time to write--like you guys were in preschool when I first started playing around with the idea of an alien space dog. It went  through so many changes that I can't remember them all.  One early version had a boy throwing a ball for his dog, when a space dog finds it first and flies with it back to the boy.  The boy thinks the space dog is so cool that he takes it home and his own dog, who is left out, has to prove that it takes a real dog to be a true friend.  Just a very small bit of that version ended up in SPACEBOT.


5)  What materials did you use to make the illustrations?  A few of our favorite illustrations were of the two dogs meeting each other for the first time, and when Pup watched in surprise as the UFO arrived.  What is your favorite picture from the book? 

I used watercolors and felt-tip pens to do the illustrations--oh, and a little sprinkling of confetti.  I'm glad you like the two pictures you mentioned.  Yes, I'm with you on those.

There's one great thing about doing children's books that I didn't mention--and that's hearing that kids like one of my books--so thanks again for letting me know!

Best wishes, Mike Twohy

*****     *****     *****

The 2nd graders also wrote to Ashley Wolff, illustrator & author of 2021 Valleycott winner Only the Cat Saw. Here are their questions and her answers, which she provided in a beautiful & illustrated letter she sent us:

Dear Valleyview 2nd graders - thank you!  I am very honored to receive your Valleycott Award for Only the Cat Saw!

1)  What gave you the idea to write this story about a cat’s adventures at night, and why did you choose to make a cat the main character of the story? 
Way back in 1984, when I was a new author/illustrator, I had the idea to tell a story about a normal, Summer evening for a family and their marmalade cat.  The cat who posed for me back then was named "Nutkin," after Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrice Potter.  I've never owned a cat because I am allergic. But my friend's cat always went out at night and must have seen so many interesting things.  Cats see well at night so I chose him as my main character.

2)  How did you choose a farm for the setting of the story, instead of, for example, a city? 
I chose this farm because this is where Nutkin had lived.  The farmhouse, barns, and all the details are from a real farm near Middlebury, VT.  I thought about making another book set in a city but it seemed a little scarier and not as much fun.  

3)  What materials did you use to make the illustrations? 
All the paintings are done with acrylic gouache (pronounced g'wash).  I took loads of photos of Nutkin in the daytime and used my imagination to create the illustrations of the cat at night.

4)  One of our favorite pictures is of the cat and the owl chasing the mouse.  Another favorite is when the cat and rooster are watching the sunrise.  We would like to know what your favorite picture is in the book? 
I love the owl picture too.  I think my fave might be the one in the sheep barn with the shooting star in the background.

5)  What inspired you to become an author and illustrator? 
I've loved to draw and write since I was in Kindergarten and have spent my life practicing every day to get better at it.  It is my favorite thing to do, so it doesn't feel like work.

6)  How long did it take to start and finish this book? 
I made this book for the 1st time in 1984 and I re-illustrated it for a new audience in 2019.  So "how long" is kind of a complicated question to answer!  Most books take me about 6-8 months to complete and in a good year I can make two books.  I will have two published in 2021:  How to Help a Pumpkin Grow, and WILDFIRE!  I hope you like them too!

Thank you again and keep reading, writing, and drawing.  

With my best wishes, Ashley



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