Evan Turk is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks. His other books include Heartbeat and The Storyteller. He lives in the Hudson River Valley.
Q: You note that your father has worked for the Park Service for more than 40 years. What role have the National Parks played for you personally throughout your life, and why did you decide to write and illustrate this book?
A: The National Parks were a big part of my childhood. Being from Colorado, and visiting a lot of the parks in the west as a kid, making this book really felt like a homecoming for me.
I think that because I was introduced to the parks, and to nature, at such a young age, they were always a big part of the way I saw the country and my place within it. I decided to create this book in the hopes that it would inspire that feeling in more kids and more families.
The National Parks seem eternal, but they are constantly under threat from pollution, people, and politics, and I wanted this book to inspire families to see the magic in these places, and make them a priority.
Q: You did some of your work on this book on location in various parks. Do you have some favorites?
A: I visited 20 different parks for this book, and did many of the illustrations in the book on-location in the parks. With each new place I visited, I felt like THAT was my new favorite park.
It’s so hard to choose a favorite, but I think that Glacier National Park is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen! The mountains are jaw-dropping in scale, the rocks are maroon and teal, the lakes are bright turquoise, the forests are lush and green, and there is an abundance of different wildlife. In one short trip I saw grizzly bears, mountain goats, moose, bald eagles, and many deer.
Runners up would be Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Sequoia….Arches…Zion…okay, all of them!
Q: How did you come up with the idea of focusing on the theme of home in this book?
A: My husband and I had recently moved up to the Hudson Valley, outside of New York City, and I came up with the idea for this book after I had spent a year drawing our new surroundings in pastel. I had drawn the river, the plants, the animals, the seasons, and sort of created a portrait of our new home.
As the year came to a close, I began thinking about the idea of what was next, and more broadly about this idea of “home” in nature. One day while walking by the river, thinking about my own connection with the National Parks in my childhood, I began writing the poem that would become “You Are Home.”
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope that all kids, even if they haven’t been to a National Park yet, feel at home in nature. And I hope that kids who do visit a National Park will come away with a greater appreciation and sense of wonder and responsibility for the parks.
I think that a lot of times today, especially with social media, there is a tendency to reduce the beautiful places we visit to a photo-op. But maybe this book will inspire families to slow down, think more deeply, and really appreciate the incredible wonders we are lucky enough to experience in a National Park. Maybe even draw a little bit!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Right now I am just finishing up a book called A Thousand Glass Flowers, which is about Marietta Barovier, one of the first female glass workers and entrepreneurs in Venice during the Renaissance. It imagines the circumstances leading to her creation of the glass rosetta bead, which would travel the world and become one of the most valuable currencies of the early Renaissance.
Venice is one of my favorite places in the world, and getting to bring its art, architecture, and beauty to life through a fascinating figure like Marietta was a dream come true!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Evan Turk.