We had the opportunity to interview Chris Raschka, a multi-award-winning author and illustrator that has created over 30 books for children. He has twice received the Caldecott Medal, winning for his The Hello, Goodbye Window (Hyperion) and A Ball for Daisy (Schwartz & Wade). His other books include The Death of the Hat (Candlewick), Paul Writes (a Letter) (Eerdmans), and the Caldecott Honor-winning Yo, Yes! (Scholastic). Raschka’s books have appeared on notable and best-of lists from the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and numerous other publications.
Though he is a talented illustrator and author today, Raschka had initially planned to become a doctor. After graduating from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with a BA in Biology, Raschka had his intentions set on medical school. However, when he realized art was his passion, he moved to New York City (where he still lives today) and pursued his dream of working with children’s books.
EBYR: What made you decide to write and illustrate books?
CR: Really, I was inspired by picking up one book, opening it, and marveling at the pictures—The Pup Grew Up, by Vladimir Radunsky.
EBYR: Where do the ideas for your books come from?
CR: My ideas come from my daily life, which always has talking to people, walking, reading, and looking at things in it.
EBYR: Do you have a favorite medium or style?
CR: My favorite medium is always the one I am just happening upon or developing now.
EBYR: Who has been a major influence on your illustrating style?
CR: Above all, the great Chinese painters and calligraphers of antiquity, because of the eternal immediacy of the touch of their brushes.
EBYR: Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
CR: My answer is much like the one above—inspiration comes from daily living.
EBYR: What is the process of writing and illustrating a book: how does it go from an idea to a finished work of art on sale in bookstores?
CR: The publication of a children’s book revolves first and foremost around the book dummy, that is, a usually smaller, hand-made, carefully reviewed and edited version of what the book wants to be. All the rest is just figuring out the most efficient way of turning that dummy into an edition of books.
EBYR: What characteristics do you think illustrators need most?
CR: An illustrator needs to be a patient person, comfortable in their own company.
EBYR: What do you hope kids learn from Saint Spotting?
CR: I hope readers of Saint Spotting will be helped to see the great art and storytelling that exist on the walls and ceilings of churches all over the world.
EBYR: Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
CR: I have seen dolphins in lower New York Bay. How about that!
A church is a weighty thing, isn’t it? Its doors are heavy and hard to budge. Its walls are made of stone. And there may be strange or even scary pictures inside. How can a small person make sense of these intimidating places? Two-time Caldecott medalist Chris Raschka shares his mother’s wonderful way of visiting a church: what they would call saint spotting. Each visit to a church becomes an adventure, a trip through the stories that have shaped centuries of faith.
Playful and poignant, this beautifully illustrated book introduces readers to saints and symbols through the warm bond between a mother and son. From bookish Paul to faithful Mary Magdalene, from musical Cecilia to animal-loving Francis, there’s a fascinating saint to discover in every corner.