Trevor Noah’s forthcoming illustrated tale for all ages Into the Uncut Grass, about a boy's quest into a magical landscape where he meets friends who are different from him, is a passion project inspired by the play and toys of his youth. “The book originated from my desire to share a message about understanding and empathy through the lens of a fantastical adventure,” says the former host of The Daily Show and author of the memoir Born a Crime. In advance of ALA, PW spoke with Noah about his inspiration, the timelessness of fables, and collaborating with illustrator Sabina Hahn.

What is the book’s origin story?

The inspiration for this fable came from a personal place. Growing up, I found solace in my imagination and the stories that I created with my toys. The idea of a boy running away with his toy bear to an imaginary garden is a nod to my own childhood adventures. I wanted to create a story that emphasizes the importance of conflict resolution and getting along with others—values that were instilled in me from a young age.

What was it like to write something timeless like a fable, as opposed to your very timely commentary and stand-up?

Writing a fable was a departure from my usual work, but it was a refreshing challenge. I approached it with a sense of curiosity and openness, allowing myself to delve into a different kind of storytelling. Writing a fable required me to think about universal themes and timeless lessons. It was about creating a story that could resonate with readers of all ages, regardless of the era they live in. This experience taught me the power of simplicity and the enduring impact of a well-told story.

What were the most enjoyable—and the most challenging—parts of writing this book?

The most enjoyable part was tapping into my inner child and revisiting the sense of wonder and imagination that comes with creating a fantastical world. It was a joy to craft the characters and their adventures in the imaginary garden. The most challenging part was ensuring that the story conveyed its messages in a way that was accessible and engaging for young readers, while also appealing to adults. Balancing the simplicity of a children’s book with the depth of its underlying themes required careful thought and consideration.

How did you feel when you first saw Sabina Hahn’s art?

I was thrilled when I saw her illustrations. Her art captures the whimsy and magic of the story, while also conveying the emotional depth of the characters’ journey. Our creative partnership was special because we both understood the importance of visual storytelling in a picture book. Sabina’s ability to translate my words into beautiful, evocative images was truly remarkable, and it made the book a cohesive and enchanting experience.

What are your hopes for readers, regardless of their age?

I want them to see the value of imagination and the importance of resolving conflicts with empathy and understanding. For children, I hope the book sparks their creativity and encourages them to explore their own adventures. For adults, I hope it serves as a reminder of the timeless lessons we often learn in childhood but sometimes forget as we grow older. Ultimately, I want this book to be a source of comfort, joy, and reflection for everyone who reads it.

Noah will be a featured speaker at the opening general session on Friday, June 28 at 4 p.m.

Into the Uncut Grass by Trevor Noah, illus. by Sabina Hahn. One World, $26 Oct. 8 ISBN 978-0-593-72996-0