Oh, picture book people, you know that moment when you have a new book in your hands, you are ready to dig in, then a bear walks out of his cave and says, “Have you gotten to the part where the puppy runs away? That’s so sad.” Well, that’s the sort of thing that happens to the main character in Let Me Finish! (Disney*Hyperion) written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Isabel Roxas.
This is what School Library Journal had to say about the book:
“Much in the vein of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, this title leaves readers to assume an unexpected ending for the boy. VERDICT A fun storytime selection for audiences with a good sense of humor.”
Minh was kind enough to stop by Picture Book Builders.
Minh, congratulations on your debut picture book! Please tell us about Let Me Finish!
Thanks so much for having me!
Let Me Finish! is a (hopefully) fun story about a kid trying to find a quiet place to read, but who keeps getting interrupted by an enthusiastic (and persistent) cast of characters. The book spirals out from there and takes a few metafictional twists, but I can’t say more without spoiling the ending of the book. And given that the book is about spoilers, that is a level of irony that I don’t think any of us is prepared to handle.
What sparked the idea for this book? A spoiler from a giraffe? Perhaps a comment from a well-meaning goat?
I’ve been fortunate to avoid nosy giraffes and goats so far… though I have spotted the purple rhino lurking around my town (I’m not even kidding, check it out).
When I first got the idea, I think people were in full freakout mode about spoilers around either Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad (or both). I was impressed by both the passion that people felt about the story and how hard it was to avoid spoilers.
Of course, the idea of spoilers is not new, but I feel like it’s particularly amped up these days. Whether it’s Game of Thrones or the newest Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling even launched a hashtag #keepthesecrets to help her readers avoid spoilers), I feel like we’re at a point where the way we engage with each other through social media often comes in direct conflict with the act of discovering those very things we love and want to talk about with our online community.
Of course, that might not be what a kid thinks about when reading the book, but my hope is that the underlying dynamic was a fun one and that the tension of spoilers would make for a fun read aloud for all ages.
Did you face any particular challenges while working on this book?
The whole Disney-Hyperion team was so great (I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Isabel or a better editor than Rotem Moscovich) that I didn’t really feel any particular challenges while working on the book itself.
Actually, my biggest challenge was getting started at all… as in, taking myself seriously enough to actually send a manuscript out into the world. Once I (with a helpful nudge from my all-star wife) figured out how to defeat my own debilitating self-doubt, everything else was a (relative) cake walk.
Isabel Roxas’ art feels like the perfect match for your text. The palette, the expressions, those glasses! What was your reaction when you saw the art for the first time?
Oh man, I cannot say enough wonderful things about Isabel’s art: the energy she infuses into every page, her explosive use of color… like you said, it’s perfect. The way I sum up my response to her artwork is this: While she took the story to a level that I couldn’t have possibly imagined, at the same time, it is somehow also exactly what I had in mind. Which, for a non-illustrator author is the dream.
I really hope this book makes her into a bonafide kidlit star in a way that matches her immense talent. (Note: I admittedly have some stake in her success now, but that’s secondary to the art).
Not only are you an author, but you are a national early childhood policy expert who writes regularly about children’s literature at bottomshelfbooks.com. You know picture books. If you had one key piece of advice for writers, what would it be?
Ha, you are too kind! I have devoted a lot of my time to studying children’s literature, which provides a nice balance with the important (but much drier) policy side of my life. And writing about picture books and getting to see advance copies of everything that comes out each year has been an invaluable education that prepared me to send out my own stuff.
But other than “read everything,” when people ask me for advice about writing, I always point them to this one particular quote, which for my money is the best piece of writing advice I can give anyone. It’s from a book Wind, Sand, and Stars, by Antoine St. Exupery, the author of the Little Prince. In the book he talks about building airplanes during the early days of flight and has this beautiful line:
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“
I try to keep that quote in mind whenever I’m working on a manuscript. Not that you have to go full Hemingway and write only in terse prose… but you should make sure that every word on the page is essential. This is doubly so if you’re an author working with an illustrator. You have to give the illustrator room to work their magic and (at the risk of extending the metaphor too far), if you weigh down the manuscript with unnecessary words/details, the book might never take flight.
Scoop time! What’s next for you?
I do have a second book in the works, but unfortunately I can’t share details quite yet. Hopefully the announcement will be coming any day now… in the meantime, I can tell you that the next project is a little more on the personal (but still fun) side, about a boy and his grandfather working to bridge a language divide. Can’t wait to share more details soon!
That sounds fantastic. Congratulations and thanks again for visiting us at Picture Book Builders!
I asked Minh for a profile picture for this post. He shared this photo of him reading a very familiar book to his boys.
Isn’t he the best?!
Minh was also kind enough to offer a giveaway for one lucky duck reader. For a chance to win this prize pack (book, nameplate, and sticker!), please leave a comment. The winner will be revealed in my next post.
Congratulations to Maria Gianferrari! She won a copy of Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
I’m looking forward to reading Let Me Finish!
This is such a cute book! I can totally relate to avoiding spoilers. Can’t wait to see more from Minh!
Love the illustrations and I can totally relate to the premise! Thanks for the opportunity!
This sounds so fun and I love the picture of father and son.
This looks fabulous! I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for introducing it to me.
Looking forward to reading this one — interesting post!
Can’t wait to read this one! Congratulations, Minh, on a wonderful book and future ones too! 🙂
Wow, this looks like a winner! Going on my list. 🙂
Thank you for the interview and peek into the book. Looking forward to finding out the ending!
What an imaginative story idea!! And the illustrations are amazing! Did anyone notice that one picture where the boy looks like he’s trying to escape through a tear in the page?
My library is full of awesome books discussed on Picture Boom Builders. So naturally this one will be added to the collection! Thanks for all the gems!!
What a great idea for a book, and those colors and perspective in the illustrations are gorgeous! Congrats!
This was such a fun book to read!! Great idea!
Definitely on my must read list!
Minh and Tammi, you both have me exvited and intrigued to read this book. I foresee it on many mentor text lists, but more importantly, a beloved favorite of many children and parents. Congratulations Minh and Isabel!
Great interview! I also enjoyed listening to Minh on All The Wonders podcast! Can’t wait to read Let Me Finish!
No spoiler alert that this one sounds great! Thanks for sharing, Tammi, and congratulations to Minh!
What fun! Can’t wait to read it to the kiddos at our library.
Oh, I am soooo excited to read this book…what a wonderful concept! Love the illustrations too!
I feel this way all the time when I’m reading something really good! That’s when the phone rings, or my husband needs something, or….
Terrific post, thank you! Can’t wait to get a copy and find out how it ends!!!!!
Fun concept for a picture book! Can’t wait to read it!
I just came upon this book yesterday in the library. It was one of those books where I thought – I wish this were my idea.
How fun! Putting it on my list…thanks for highlighting it, Tammi!
Congrats to Minh and Isabel. This looks like a great read and the illustrations are brilliant!
How exciting! Congratulations on your new book! It looks engaging and I can’t wait to read it!
Can’t wait to get my hands on this book.
What a fun book! The main character is adorable.
I picked this up and read it already- great title, concept and art. It all works beautifully. Congratulations!
This looks like a book I need in my classroom. I can’t wait to read it to my students.
You are the WINNER. 🙂
Please pass along your snail mail address.
Please pass along your snail mail address by the morning of 9/28. If I don’t hear from you, I will select another winner.
This looks like a fun one. Can’t wait to read it.
I love the color palette of the book – very fresh!
Sounds like a fun and fantastic book!
This book looks like so much fun!
Congratulations, Minh, on the publication of your delightful book. You’re right, the art contributes to your ideas and words!
I just saw this on the featured table at B&N. Congrats to the team!
Looks so great! I can’t wait to read it!
Looking forward to reading this book!
Lovely! Best newly created art is in picture books, IMO.
This book looks like so much fun — and LOVE the art!
I love the idea of this book. Can’t wait to read it! Great post!
I can’t wait to read this book! Thank you, Tammi, for the interview, and thank you, Minh, for sharing your process and insights.
Such a fun, great idea! I also love the colorful illustrations!
This sounds so much fun!
Hurrah! I can’t wait to read it! And I’m a big fan of Pepper Roxas!
Congrats to Minh & Isabel! I’ve been looking forward to reading this one for quite some time. The story looks so fun & kid-friendly & I love the art!!
And so excited that I won a copy of MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM!!! Thank you so much, Tammi!! 🙂
Great review! Can’t wait to read this–and such tension for book #2! Congratulations Minh & Isabel.
Always look forward to hearing about new titles – can’t wait to read it!
Can’t wait to read Let Me Finish. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
This looks like a great book! Can’t wait to get my hands on one!
Love the illustrations – can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and that fabulous quote.
Congratulations! Sounds like a fun read…one that brings joy over and over again!
Can’t wait to read this one!
Looks like a fabulous book to add to class library.
Great interview and thanks for a chance of winning a copy of Let Me Finish!
Thank you for an excellent interview with Minh Lê, Tammi. I jotted down the title, LET ME FINISH, on my list of books to read.
One of my students and I were discussing today readers who look at the end of the book first. We agreed that we didn’t care for spoilers.
What a clever and unique premise. And yes, the art draws you in. I will definitely check this one out. So many great books coming out!
What a great concept for a book! Wish I’d thought of it. Looking forward to reading it.
What a clever story! This book makes me smile!
Oh! Oh! Oh! I NEED this book!
This book sounds fabulous!
Just got this from the library. Loved it. Thanks!
This sounds like such a fun book!
Oh what a wonderful idea for a picture book and, like Minh said, those illustrations!
Looks very appealing … I can’t wait to read this one. Congrats, Minh and Isabel!!
This book looks so fun! I really want to read it! Thanks for a fun interview!
What a perfect book for kindergarteners! I’ll definitely be looking for this one! Thanks for the interview — so interesting to hear how the book developed.
Oh, this looks so cute – and so true-to-life. Can’t tell you HOW many times I get into a book and someone in my family says… “wait till you get to the part where…” or “someone close to Harry dies”.
Thank you so much, Tammi…I wouldn’t have known about this book if not for your post…and I would not have captured my newest most favorite quote.
Minh…what a cool story! And I loved the interview, especially the Antoine St. Exupery quote: ‘Perfection is reached, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothng more to be taken away.”
Oh my goodness…I will write this in BOLD letters and post it near my work space…that is something every picture book writer needs to embrace!!!
I saw this book mentioned in a Nerdy Book Club post but I’m so glad I stumbled on this Blog post through Twitter. This book looks amazing! Can’t wait to get my hands on it and share it with my Bear Creek Elementary scholars!
I love the premise and the art! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!
I hadn’t heard of this book yet, so I appreciate your interview of Minh. It looks fresh and fun!
Thanks for an excellent interview. I put Antoine’s quote next to my computer. Can’t wait to read this book.
I love the premise of your book along with the funky art!
I don’t like spoilers so I’ll probably like this book. I can’t wait to read it.
And I love the quote! I will keep that in mind when writing.
Tammi. It looks fun. What a hreat review! Alan
Love the premise & the bits shown in the post – congrats on a stellar debut. I can’t wait to read it!
Let Me Finish looks like a fun book. Can’t wait to read it and I hope when I do everyone will Let me finish!
Cannot wait to get this and finish it.
Looks like a hilarious book! Congratulations, Minh. Thanks for the interview, Tammi.
I enjoyed the interview and can’t wait to take a look at this book!
Oh, this looks FABULOUS! SO wanna get my hands on it. Too fun!
THanks for sharing!
Great interview. Congratulations to Minh and Isabel on their debut. Looking forward to reading this book.
This artwork just pulls you in. What a fun book, look forward to seeing the entire story.
Really enjoyed this post. Thank you Tammi and congratulations Minh and Isabel!
Going on the to-read list! I love the quote Minh mentioned, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“ Thanks, Tammi, for sharing!
Loved this interview. And as a household with some history of ending-spoilage, I can’t wait to read the book! Thanks, Tammi, and congratulations, Minh!
Many thanks to everyone who stopped by Picture Book Builders and left a comment! 🙂
Thanks so much for this wonderful interview, Tammi and Minh! What a fun and relate-able theme to play with, and the illustrations look incredible, too.
Fabulous interview for an amazing book. Thanks Tammi and Minh!