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Caldecott Prize-Winning Author-Artist Layers Children's Books to Life

When author-artist David Wisniewski won this year's Caldecott Medal for his children's picture book, "Golem," his phone rang off the hook. "I realize it is temporary, and I take it all with a grain of salt," says Mr. Wisniewski, the author of six picture books, all with cut-paper illustrations. (Some of his illustrations appeared on The Home Forum Page in the past.)

Here are some excerpts from a telephone interview:

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How did you develop your cutting technique?

It grew out of the shadow theater that my wife, Donna, and I have done for years using jointed, silhouetted figures. I have simply transferred the cutting skills to a smaller stage, and use an X-Acto knife on a flat surface for cutting. Sometimes there can be 12 paper layers in a picture, and I use about 800 blades for each book. It takes me between four and five days to do a double-page spread.

What do you want readers to take away from the story?

When I was a kid, I was always impressed by authors who really took me places, like H.G. Wells, Jules Verne. So I feel if the book sends a child someplace, then it's just great. And if they learn something about a culture, that's even better. I'm an old-fashioned moralist, so, yes, there's always a moral lurking.

What is the 'Golem' moral?

It's a story with a lot of gray areas. But in my version of this old folk tale, I give Golem an awareness that he is alive, and enjoys being alive, and so when it ends for him, this is the emotional center of the book. Otherwise, if he is just a robot, who cares? But if he is alive and knows he is alive, and appreciates all the beauty of life, this is what makes it a poignant ending.

What is your next book?

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I'm doing a book with Eve Bunting called "Ducky" for younger readers. It's based on the true incident of a cargo ship caught in a storm. A crate is washed overboard, and out come 29,000 plastic bathtub toys. It's the story of how one plastic duck finds its way to a bathtub.

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