Behind the Book: So Big and So Small

Oct 12, 2020 9:54:00 AM / by John Coy

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John Coy is the author of several children’s books, including On Your Way and his latest, So Big and So Small. We asked John to share with us his inspiration behind his newest picture book.

What was the inspiration for So Big and So Small?

As a boy, I was fascinated by size, by how gigantic big could be and how minute small could be. I’ve carried that with me and regularly compare shapes and sizes of different things. A few years ago, I was talking with Andrew DeYoung, who was then my editor at Beaming Books. He said he’d be interested in a story about a kid looking at different sizes. Immediately, I said that I loved the idea and would be happy to explore that. 

What did you do for research?

I am fortunate in that I spend lots of time with twin grandsons, Henry and Lewis, who are very interested in comparisons of size and love talking about it. We have had many conversations about different objects, animals, birds, and insects and their relative sizes. The two of them were so important to the creation of this book that I dedicated it to them.

What was the writing process like?

I thought and talked about it a lot and then wrote a first draft. That draft had the basic structure of the book, but then the real fun began: revision. Because “revision” means to see again, I go through and see every single page, imagine what can be on it, and change words. In a book with such short text, I examine and ponder each word and share different drafts with my writing group. Once the story was accepted by Beaming Books, I worked first with Andrew DeYoung and later with editor Jill Braithwaite, focusing on specific sentences and words to make the book clearer and better.

What was it like to work with illustrator Steph Lew?

I think Steph Lew’s art is stunning. She took the text to a whole different level with the way she envisioned the arc of the story and the details she added to her pictures. As soon as I saw samples of her work, I thought she would be the ideal illustrator for this book. As is usual with picture books, the two of us did not communicate with each other while she was creating images, but I was excited to connect with her when she was finished and express my gratitude for her wonderful work.

What conversations do you hope So Big and So Small will spark?

Most kids love conversations about big and small. These conversations can be an excellent way for kids to talk about how they see themselves and the world. They can also be a fun way for them to realize that even though adults seem so much bigger, there are still so many things that are bigger than us. It’s a conversation about perspective that can go many different directions and arrive at an appreciation that we are just right.

Do you have any advice for somebody who wants to write a picture book?

Yes, just write. So many people would like to write a picture book and even have an idea for a story, but they don’t take the time to write it down. Just write it. Once you do, you’ll have a story that you can go back and revise and make better and better and better. That revision process can be a time of wonder and discovery, and often you will surprise yourself. If you want to write a picture book, know that you can. Just write it, have fun, and see where it takes you.

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Click here for more information on So Big and So Small.

Topics: Resources, Interviews

John Coy

Written by John Coy

John Coy is the author of the picture books On Your Way; Their Great Gift; Strong to the Hoop; Around the World; and many others. He lives in Minneapolis and visits schools nationally and internationally.

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