The “Believe in Books” Interview Series: Joyce Wan

By amandaberlin on February 29, 2016 in Blog

joycewan-headshot-2015Joyce Wan is an award-winning author and illustrator of many best-selling books for children, including YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE, WE BELONG TOGETHER, and THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL, which was a Junior Library Guild Spring 2015 selection. When she’s not working on books, she teaches courses at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Visit her online at

Joyce was Reach Out and Read of Greater New York’s 2015 Mills-Tannenbaum Award recipient.

At our Annual Benefit and Gala last year, during her award acceptance, she told the moving story about how, as a young child, books and visits to the library were such important aspects of her childhood.

To learn more about the impact of books and reading on Joyce’s life and career, read the interview below, which she was generous enough to grant us.



Reach Out and Read of Greater New York: Which books are among your childhood favorites?

Joyce Wan: Some of my childhood favorites include:

HungryCaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – the imagery in this book is so bold and iconic and the little holes throughout added another dimension to the book that fascinated me as a child. This particular book inspires me in my own work today.
Busy, Busy Town by Richard Scarry – with all the details in this book, there was always something new to discover with each reading.
Anything by Dr. Seuss – my earliest memories of being able to read myself were with his books
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein – the poems and drawings were quirky and fun yet they taught us many important life lessons. That book is still as refreshing to read as an adult as they were when I was a child.


ROR GNY: What are your favorite titles of today?

JW: These days I don’t favor particular titles as much as I like following particular illustrators and authors. Some of my favorites include Mac Barnett, Sandra Boynton, Mo Willems, Bob Shea, and Jon Klassen. I love how these authors/illustrators are able to combine warmth, simplicity and humor in all their books.


ROR GNY: What’s your favorite childhood reading memory — whether of reading to yourself, or of someone
who read to you, or something you imagined?

JW: When I was a young child my mom could not speak English but took me and my siblings to the library every weekend. Although she was unable to read English, picture books enabled us to still enjoy the books through the illustrations and make up
stories together. That would be one of the greatest gifts my mom would ever give to me. It was in that childhood library where my love of reading and appreciation for art was born.

ROR GNY: What was your biggest idea or inspiration that came from reading?

JW: I love books with surprising, tactile or interactive elements which is why a book like the The Very Hungry Caterpillar still inspires my work today. I try to incorporate those elements into the books that I create today.


book-youaremycupcakeROR GNY: What is your favorite word?

JW: Serendipity. It’s just one of those words that sounds pretty, and who doesn’t love the idea of happy accidents or unexpected surprises that leads to a fortunate outcome?

ROR GNY: If you were going to be anything other than a writer/illustrator, what would you be?

JW: It would most likely be some other profession in the creative arts. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I can’t even imagine doing anything else right now. I feel like all my life experiences (even my brief stint in architecture) has led me to this point.
Thank you so much, Joyce Wan, for being part of our “Believe in Books” interview series (named for the theme of our 2016 Annual Benefit and Auction). For more information on Joyce Wan visit To get tickets to our Annual Benefit and Auction, click here.

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