Today we are chatting with Stephanie Graegin, author of THE LONG RIDE HOME
Read on for more about her, her book, and a giveaway!
Meet Stephanie Graegin
Stephanie Graegin is the author and illustrator of Fern and Otto, A Story About Two Best Friends and Little Fox in the Forest which garnered four starred reviews and appeared on many Best of the Year lists. She is also the illustrator of several books for children, including You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan; The Lost Gift by Kallie George; Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins, which received three starred reviews; and Peace Is an Offering by Annette LeBox. Stephanie lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at graegin.com.
About the Book: THE LONG RIDE HOME
A tender picture book that celebrates memories and friendship about a young koala and a friend who has moved away.
Little Koala has a long ride home, and every place her mother passes invokes a memory of her best friend: the ice cream shop where they giggled uncontrollably; the hill in the park where they crashed their bikes (that memory also lives on as a little scar on Koala’s knee), the library where they borrowed their favorite book again and again.
Koala’s friendship blooms beautifully on the page, seamlessly interwoven with the ride home, and soon we learn just why these memories are so important: Koala’s friend has moved away. The story ends on a lovely note of hope: Koala and her friend are still close, despite the distance.
The Long Ride Home is a universal and broadly appealing friendship story that explores the power of memory with tenderness, warmth, and heart. Stephanie Graegin expertly balances the bittersweet sensations of cherishing a moment long past with artwork that is rendered in soft, sepia hues in a way that only she can.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
The Long Ride Home came about at the height of the pandemic. It was at a time when we hadn’t left our neighborhood for several months. Like everybody, I was missing family and friends. The idea for the book started from thinking about how places can act like a storage for memories. Passing by places you have been to, or have a connection to, can instantly bring you back in time. Memories are a tangible connection to a previous time and place, a personal collection of all the important people and experiences in our lives. When I was a child, I had to move across the country, and I was devastated when I had to move away from my best friend. But much like our friends in the book, we kept in touch through letters; a ritual we keep to this day.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I love Koala’s best friend, little Cheetah. She’s quirky, creative, outgoing, and most important of all she’s a wonderful best friend who understands Koala deeply. She’s a perfect complement for Koala.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The story came first, but the title came to me right away as I was writing. It’s also part of the very first line. Surprisingly, it didn’t change at all in the process. With the other picture books I’ve written, the titles ended up changing multiple times by the time the book was finished.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The adorable Koala looking out the car window of course!
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
How to Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy. It’s a fun, quick read. The writing exercises were both fascinating and helpful, and even though it was written with songwriting in mind, it can be applied to writing picture books.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I have a Christmas-themed picture book that I illustrated, The Stocking Stuffer written by Holley Merriweather, about a mouse named Tinsel and how he saves Christmas coming out in September. I’m currently illustrating a picture book titled Today, written by Gabi Synder. It’s a companion book to Listen, which Gabi wrote and I illustrated, centered around mindfulness. I’m also working on illustrating the third book in Cynthia Lord’s chapter book series about library toys, Book Buddies.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The scene where Koala is standing outside her best friend’s old house. In a lit-up window you can see a different family inside. Her best friend has since moved away. There’s so much emotion there. It always makes me choke up.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
Friendships complete us. Your friends, especially those best ones who are kindred spirits, are always with you in your heart and memories. The great friendships of your life transcend time and distance.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Drawing cute critters!
Book’s Title: THE LONG RIDE HOME
Author/Illustrator: Stephanie Graegin
Release Date: 6/28/22
Publisher: Random House Studio
Genre: fiction picture book
Age Range: ages 4-8
Five winners will receive a copy of THE LONG RIDE HOME (Stephanie Graegin) ~US ONLY
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*