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New children's book explores purpose through a school bus

 June 26, 2024 at 4:32 PM PDT

S1: Welcome in San Diego. It's Jade Hindman today we're talking about a children's book about a yellow school bus that takes us on a journey. We'll talk with author and illustrator Lauren Long. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Connecting our communities through conversation. The yellow school bus is an iconic symbol in American culture. I mean , we all know the lyrics to wheels on the bus , but what happens when a school bus loses its purpose ? Well , a new children's book called The Yellow Bus explores just that. In it , we follow the journey of a yellow bus as the town around it changes and it slowly becomes forgotten. The book is written and illustrated by best selling author Lorin Long. He's also doing a storytime this Saturday , June 29th at the San Diego Central Library , and Lauren joins me now. Lauren , welcome to midday.

S2: Well , thank you so much for having me , Jade. I'm excited to talk about this brand new picture book of mine.

S1: Oh yeah.

S2: Um , and it started about four years ago , as you might recall. And the rest of the world. There was something going on four years ago. It was the spring of the of , of 2020 and the pandemic hit , and my wife and I made a few changes like everybody did. And one of them was we decided to adopt a crazy hound dog. And it was kind of one of those pandemic adoptions. And , uh , every moment I'm in my studio , Charlie the dog is in my studio. He's a little high strung , which led me to another change in my life , and that is started running. And I was never much of a runner. But to get Charlie worked out and get his energy , um , going , I would go run with him every day and we would run along a bike trail. I live here in southwest Ohio , in the Cincinnati area , and there's a wooded bike trail nearby. And every day we noticed. A rusted out school bus through the trees. Now the rusted out school bus was sitting in a goat paddock and there were goats all around it. It was kind of miserable. It was sinking in the mud. Uh , the floorboards were rotting out. Um , but somehow , over time , Jade , as I was running along for a good year , just kind of think , you know , that's curious. Why is that bus there ? It dawned on me that bus seems happy with those goats climbing in to get out of the rain , playing in the springtime on top of the bus. And the bus was at the , you know , in a way , the worst place a bus could have been. I was thinking , surely it started bright and shiny , doing the most important job carrying this precious cargo from one important place to another. And there it sat , at the lowest point I could think of. Yet it seemed happy. And that that got me thinking about maybe this is a picture book.

S1: Yeah , well , you know , the bus once transported kids , and now it takes care of kids of a different type. That's right. Right.

S2: Right. Very good , very good , I love that.

S1: I mean , you know , in the book , everything is drawn in black and white except the yellow bus. It's it's what really brings colour to this world. Was that something you intended from the start ? No.

S2: Jade , that was another surprise. So first of all , okay , so as a children's book author and illustrator , um , I always think of the visuals first. However , I just wrote this piece not really thinking about the what the book would look like now. I , I , I was armed with the knowledge that I would illustrate it , so I did have that going for me , but I pretty much wrote the piece and tried to be as minimal as possible with text , knowing that I could show what little eyes will read , um , so that the words partner up very well with the images. But then I was about midway through the sketch dummy , which is basically the plan , like the storyboard of a picture book. Um , and I always visualize as if I'm kind of making a little movie , like , I'm a film director and I'm the cinematographer , and I've got my main character and I'm the casting director , and I'm , I'm the person who dresses up all the characters , and I'm making a little film. And it kind of occurred to me like , you opened with that. The school bus , the yellow bus is an iconic symbol in our society , in many societies across the world , and I wanted that yellow to pop off the page. So if you're a 15 month old on somebody's lap , this book just just might be an exercise in pointing out the yellow off of that gray charcoal ground. But if you really read into the book , what really got me going as a writer was I kind of happened across this refrain. They filled her with joy. Then it started taking on a little deeper meaning than just a cute story about a school bus.

S3: Um , and.


S2: It represents just this simple feeling that the yellow bus gets when she's doing something in the service of others. It's a very simple , simple , like human thing , but that's kind of in a way , touching on what my hope is , is that readers and families and teachers and children could take from this of all ages. And that is , um , just the curiosity I had when I was running by that , that abandoned , broken down bus. And I hope readers will ask themselves , why is this yellow bus happy ? And there's a there's a lot of twists and turns and surprises in the buses life that are out of its control , out of her control. Yet what she can control is her outlook. So this is this is me now getting a little bit more , uh , deeper or philosophical about a , uh , a picture book for children. But I think sometimes readers can take different things away. And I think that's what a lot of us as people who are writing for children and making art for children , kind of endeavored to do. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. This is KPBS Midday Edition. We're back after the break. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman , speaking with author and illustrator Loren Long about his new book , The Yellow School Bus.

S2: I was , uh , I was just a typical kid in the Midwest who , uh , liked lots of different things , sports and whatnot. Uh , my mom and dad were not artists. We we didn't visit museums. I actually grew up in Lexington , Kentucky , but around seventh grade , I started. I mean , I always like to draw , but around seventh grade , I had an art teacher that encouraged me. And , uh , I'll never forget him. Mr. Pennington , the cool thing about Mr. Pennington is he was not only the art teacher , he was the football coach. The coolest man in the building. Right. And , uh , and he he , uh , would see my name and hold my drawing up in front of a class of my peers , and that that stirred something inside of me. And it planted the seed. I wonder if I could be some kind of an artist. And , um , then I went to college and art school and finally decided I'm going to be an illustrator. Um , had the talk with my father , who was in sales , and mom was like a secretary , so they didn't know , but they always supported me. And , and , uh , I was very fortunate that even though they didn't know this world that I was going to try to , to work in , they were supportive.

S1: Family support is so important. Well , you're going to have this event at the San Diego Central Library. Tell us about that.

S2: I'm really excited about this. I'm going to be at the American Library Association , which is hosted in San Diego , uh , this coming weekend. And I was so excited when Macmillan , um , my publisher also arranged this San Diego Public Library event , and I'm going to be really for only about the , the the second time presenting the yellow bus to families and to the public. So what I'll do is it'll be a , you know , a nice short presentation , but yet pretty , um , involved. I'm going to share , from the idea to the process , different decisions that I made on this yellow bus. So I would encourage families with little ones to come. I would encourage anyone who who is a teacher or a librarian or a bookseller to come. And also not just the little tiny ones , but let's say you're a middle school kid who likes who likes to draw , or let's say you're an art student or a college student. And , uh , it's always for me , studying other artists and hearing them talk has always been informative and inspirational. Mhm.

S3: Mhm.

S1: All right. Sounds good. And something that a lot of people will want to come in here. I've been speaking with Lauren Long , author and illustrator of The Yellow Bus. He'll be doing a storytime at the San Diego Central Library this Saturday , June 29th. Lauren , thank you so much for joining us today.

S2: Thank you so much for having me. Jade. And I hope to see as many people can make it come out Saturday. I'd love to meet you.

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The cover of the book, "The Yellow Bus," is seen in this undated photo. It is written and illustrated by author Loren Long.
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
The cover of the book, "The Yellow Bus," is seen in this undated photo. It is written and illustrated by author Loren Long.

The yellow school bus is an iconic symbol in American culture. But what happens when a school bus loses its purpose? A new children’s book called “The Yellow Bus” takes readers on a ride through new beginnings and how one bus finds happiness in the most unexpected places.

Bestselling author and illustrator Loren Long joined Midday Edition Wednesday to talk about what inspired the book.

Long will also be doing a story time this Saturday, June 29, at the San Diego Central Library.


Loren Long, author and illustrator of "The Yellow Bus"