How did you get started in children’s books?
I got started in university, taking a course in which you had to create a picture book for some giant percentage of your mark. We were warned us not to write cute or talk down to kids, then turned loose. I’d never tried this kind of thing but I got right into it. When I handed my work in, the prof encouraged me to send it to a publisher, and even suggested one. I was in the right place at the right time: the publisher liked my stuff. It became Puddleman, my first book, and I became an author before I was even really a writer. Sometimes you get lucky. Who knew?
What (or who) inspires your writing or art?
My writing is inspired by the oddly fascinating things I run across in real life (truth really is stranger than fiction), by all the kind readers who encourage me to write some more, and by all the amazing writers whose stories make me try harder. Also by the need to regularly buy groceries.
What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
When I was a kid my favourite reading was Classics Illustrated comics. I suppose you’d call them graphic novels now: comic book versions of adventure stories like King Solomon’s Mines, War of the Worlds, or even Moby-Dick. They cost three cents more than regular comics, so you can tell I was a serious fan. The cool thing about them was great plotting. Unlike superhero comics, you couldn’t tell how they were going to end: if the hero died in the book, he died in the comic version too: way more suspense. They also came in handy later, when some of the titles turned up on high school reading lists.
How can teachers use your books in the classroom?
I hope teachers can use my books in the classroom to help start discussions or thoughts about what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Bounced, one of my new titles, has on-line discussion questions you can find on the Scholastic web site. There’s an on-line activity kit for my new Harry and Clare picture book, too. But, equally important, I hope they can be just plain fun as read-alouds. You never can tell when
hearing a story might be very important to someone in unexpected ways. It’s the first way we experience the serious joy of reading.
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
I’m looking forward to sharing stories with people of all ages who are as excited about the magic of reading and writing as I am. Plus, I won’t have to cook.