“It’s still so incredibly exciting and oftentimes so unbelievable,” says Matthew Cordell about receiving the 2018 Caldecott Medal for his wordless picture book, Wolf in the Snow. His next book, King Alice (Feiwel & Friends, Sept.), which he finished several months before the announcement, stars a take-charge girl who is anything but wordless.
The story, about a book-loving girl who is housebound on a snowy day, but snaps out of her boredom when her father suggests she make her own book, is based on an experience Cordell shared with his own daughter.
“King Alice is directly inspired by my very precocious, headstrong, and creative daughter, Romy, who is now nine,” he says. “One day, years ago, we were playing, and we ended up making a book together—really just a retelling of The Wizard of Oz. We both wrote parts of it and we both drew parts of it. It was a lot of fun, and we really enjoyed the journey of making something together, as well as the end product.
“The book’s title,” he continues, “says a lot about the character of Alice—and Romy.” Cordell describes his protagonist as “a girl who wants to be the boss and leader and king of everything. She does not care and will not accept that a king is, even by name alone, a male presence. She refuses to be anything less. I love how young children often have little interest in gender and gender stereotypes, and I wanted to make that a big part of this book.”
Cordell is currently working on another picture book, Expedition. It captures a visit by a boy and his family to a natural history museum where, Cordell says, “very different families and individuals come together by learning and connecting intellectually and socially.”
Like Wolf in the Snow, this is also a wordless tale. “It will be a bit more like Wolf was in respect to the way the art is rendered, as well as the more serious tone of the story,” he says. “King Alice is certainly a lot sillier. I do enjoy making both sincere and funny books—so I imagine I’ll always go back and forth.”