Matthew Cordell is the Caldecott Award-winning author of Wolf in the Snow, Trouble Gum, Another Brother, hello! hello! and Wish. He has illustrated the books of Philip Stead (Special Delivery), Rachel Vail (the Justin Case series) and Gail Carson Levine (Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It). He lives near Chicago with his wife, the novelist Julie Halpern, and their two children. King Alice (now available from Feiwel & Friends) is his first book since Wolf in the Snow.
On your nightstand now:
I'm currently finishing American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee. I was signing books recently at the Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill., and my bookseller friend Robert McDonald tipped me off about this one. It's an in-depth look at the wolf reintroduction that happened in Yellowstone National Park, starting in the mid-'90s. It's fascinating, inspiring and heartbreaking.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Growing up, I was really into comic strips like Peanuts, action-driven superhero comics like Spider-man and fun/silly reality-based comics like Archie. I also remember being deeply affected by Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My favorite picture book was Green Eggs and Ham--I remember my Mom reading this to me at a very early age and it really made me love the experience of reading and being read to.
Your top five authors:
Ack! This is hard. I think I'll cop out a bit and name "top five authors whose work I've recently read."
Derrick Barnes. Occasionally, I read a picture book that gives me the chills--something so good and so fresh. For me, Crown was one of those books.
Candace Fleming. I recently read The Family Romanov and found it absorbing.
Philip C. Stead. I just finished Vernon Is on His Way and I love his timeless and true-hearted stories and characters.
Arnold Lobel. I never go too long without reading the Frog and Toad books. I wish I could spin a yarn like that.
Julie Halpern (my wonderfully talented YA author wife!). I'm not currently reading a new book of Julie's (though she is co-writing a novel with Len Vlahos), but her work and sharp wit and voice are never far from my thoughts. She's a constant inspiration in words and in life.
Book you've faked reading:
Pretty sure I pretended to finish Jane Eyre in the ninth or 10th grade. And my subsequent test score was likely reflective of that.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Leaves by David Ezra Stein. Some picture books, when you finish reading them, you feel... full. Completely satisfied by what you've just experienced. This is one of those books.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Pax by Sara Pennypacker. I bought this book at an airport bookstore because I liked the Jon Klassen illustrated cover.
Book you hid from your parents:
I had to think on this.... For some reason, my parents had this multi-volume collection of books called Man, Myth and Magic. Lots of creepy encyclopedic knowledge about life's dark oddities. They were clearly not for kids, but for adults who liked spooky stuff. So, of course, my brother and I sneaked some peeks at these books. Nightmares ensued, I'm sure.
Book that changed your life:
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Before I knew I wanted to write and illustrate for children, I remembered and knew very little about the art and business of children's books. William Steig was one of a bunch of creators that my wife introduced or re-introduced me to. Sylvester's art and tight-as-a-drum story kicked me in the pants to run out and chase down a career in this beautiful business.
Favorite line from a book:
"And it was still hot." (from Where the Wild Things Are)
Five books you'll never part with:
Hmm... I'm going to assume you mean in addition to the books I mention elsewhere here!
Clown by Quentin Blake. Quentin Blake is an all-time personal favorite.
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith. The story is beautifully told and beautifully illustrated.
Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham. I've been a big fan of John Burningham's singular, fearless art and wry sense of humor from way back.
Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall. It's such a great idea for a picture book story to tell--the inspiration behind Winnie-the-Pooh.
Trombone Shorty by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Bryan Collier. I've long been inspired by the city of New Orleans, with its rich and diverse cultural and musical history and its many times of rising up and overcoming horrible tragedy and obstacles.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This one slayed me. It was such a visceral experience reading it.