What promises to be a picture-perfect annual BookExpo event makes its debut today. During the “New Picture Book Showcase,” eight authors and illustrators will share their most recent contributions to the genre in a panel moderated by Sarah Enni, host of the First Draft podcast.

Show Daily caught up with a trio of panelists, including David Shannon, who says that Mr. Nogginbody Gets a Hammer (Norton Books for Young Readers, Sept.) “started out as a doodle in my sketchbook. I was really just playing around with goofy little characters and he tickled my funny bone.” Once Shannon found the right setting for Mr. Nogginbody—“I pictured him in an odd little world where not everything had to make perfect sense”—he started looking for a story. “The saying, ‘If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail,’ was something I’d run across earlier and seemed like it might work,” Shannon adds.

The book turned out to be a “pretty significant departure” from Shannon’s earlier work, which tends to be more structured, with pencil and tracing paper and planning. By contrast, Shannon says, “This book evolved in my sketchbook in pen and ink, and I really liked the sketchy immediacy of the drawings. So I decided to have them photographed and printed and then added some minimal color with oil paint on the prints.” It all resulted, he notes, in “what might be the most enjoyment I’ve ever had making a book.”

Chinese illustrator Yu Rong, a newcomer to BookExpo, and to the U.S., is promoting Summer (Imprint, May), her second collaboration with Cao Wenxuan, one of China’s most popular children’s authors. “It is a really fun story that allowed me to explore the full breadth of my illustrations, such as varying the color range or the book format,” she says. “The tale of animals seeking shade on a hot summer day inspired me to design overlapping pages in the middle section of the book to let the readers discover the owners of the different shadows, which let the shadows become part of the story.”

Introducing Summer to American booksellers and readers, Rong continues, “is very special to me. It is exciting to have an opportunity to share a book that has been such a success in China with a whole new market here in the U.S. China has imported a large number of children’s books from the U.S. in recent years, and Chinese publishing houses are also working hard and rapidly to make original Chinese picture books. It is an essential way to exchange different cultures and diversity of life.”

Mac Barnett (Just Because, Candlewick, Sept.) says that, for him, the picture book has always been “the most important format to work in [and] the most exciting and most vital creative space.” Adding to the genre’s value, he says, is the “generational connection. Since picture books are read by children and adults together, they are a common ground and are so important in family rituals. And in no other format do you see the same sophistication, creative richness, and tradition of experimentation.” This first “New Picture Book Showcase,” Barnett adds, “recognizes the growing importance of picture books in children’s publishing—as well as all the exciting work going on in the picture book world.”

Additional panelists include Isabelle Arsenault, coauthor with Barnett of Just Because; Matt Tavares, Dasher (Candlewick, Sept.); Beth Ferry, The Scarecrow (HarperCollins, Sept.); Holly McGhee, Listen (Roaring Brook, Sept.); and Tom Fletcher, There’s an Elf in Your Book (Random, Oct.).

Today, 9:30–10:15 a.m. The “New Picture Book Showcase” will be on the Choice Stage.