Whitney Gardner | The Children’s Book Review | March 23, 2017
Art and Words: Giving Readers Something to Connect With
My favorite books always have pictures in them. Growing up, I was a late bloomer. I knew how to read, but I just didn’t like it as much as my teachers or mother would have liked. I liked books themselves. They just had to have pictures in them for me to obsess over. When I was six, my mom gave me a copy of LEO THE LATE BLOOMER, hoping that it would spark something in me. That I would relate to the little tiger and see that I could bloom. Instead of reading more, I traced that gorgeous spread of Leo lying in the flowers and hung the picture on our refrigerator door myself.
When I started writing books I thought I would work exclusively on picture books. They were my first literary loves. I wanted to give a child their own Leo. But my stories kept getting longer and longer. The plots grew more complicated. And then I realized the stories I wanted to tell couldn’t be contained in thirty-two pages. So I started writing novels.
But even after writing the 60,000 words I wanted to write, I couldn’t give up the pictures. I just wouldn’t let them go. I remember what it was like to be a reluctant reader, when books got longer and less colorful. They looked boring, even if the stories contained on their pages weren’t. I wanted to read a fast paced story broken up by illustrations. The pictures would give my mind something else to chew on when words tired me.
So I made the decision to include illustrations in all of my stories no matter the length or age range. I try to make sure the pictures play an important role in each one. That way, when you flip through the book, even without reading it, you can get a sense of what the story might be about. You can find something to connect with. Something that might help you bloom.
You’re Welcome, Universe
Written by Whitney Gardner
Publisher’s Synopsis: A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.
Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.
Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.
Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399551413
About Whitney Gardner
Whitney Gardner is the author of YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE (March 7, 2017; Knopf), an illustrated YA novel about a Deaf teen artist who must decide between being painted into obscurity or risking getting caught after she finds herself locked in a graffiti war with an opponent who takes it a step too far. Visit her at heywhitney.com.
The article Art, Design, and Words in Young Adult Novels was written by Whitney Gardner, author of You’re Welcome, Universe. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Art, Art Of Writing, Books On Deaf And Blind, Whitney Gardner, and Young Adult Fiction.