An interview with Holly Tonks, Commissioning Editor at Tate Children’s Books, and editor of The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis.

Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube is one of five books on the shortlist for the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize. The judges very much liked the inky line and Kate Berube’s considered use of the page and space. They found the story of Hannah genuinely moving.

When did you first come across Kate’s art and what was it about it that caught your eye?

Hannah and Sugar was presented to Abrams by Kate Berube’s agent, Lori Kilkelly. I wasn’t the only one who took notice of Kate’s warm watercolors and gentle storytelling. In fact, an auction for the book ensued! Abrams was the lucky winner of the auction, though I did feel fated to work on the book because I had connected so strongly to the tenderness in Kate’s illustrations.

How complete, or at what stage was Hannah and Sugar when you acquired it for your list?

Kate’s book dummy was very tight when we received it - her story of empathy and kindness was already well rendered. Abrams Creative Director, Chad Beckerman, and I just wanted to work with Kate on the pacing and how to play up some of the strong visual motifs she had already introduced.

Could you describe how you and your designers worked on the book with Kate. What sort of editorial advice did you give her?

Chad and I loved the moments where Kate used vignettes to tell the story, so we looked for places where she could add more vignettes to her compositions. Similarly, she did a lovely job of interjecting quiet moments and pauses into the rhythm of the storytelling. These were also fun ideas to amplify for even greater emotional impact.

Which is your favourite spread in the book and why?

There’s a wonderful progression of images in the book when Hannah decides to overcome her fear of dogs and help Sugar. Kate chose to show this emotional change first with a wordless spread where Hannah and Sugar stare at each other, face to face. (This composition later became the inspiration for the jacket image.) This image conveys how Hannah is mustering the courage and finding strength. The following spread is a simple dark color wash, free of imagery, with just the text “Hannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath.” This lovely, quiet moment helps bring the reader into Hannah’s mind as she decides to move forward and act. Another page turn then reveals how Hannah actually helps Sugar, after she has worked through her anxiety. It’s a very strong series of pages that beautifully illustrates the stages of emotions that we all experience.

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