Favorite holiday tradition?
Without a doubt my favorite holiday tradition is carving pumpkins. It has become such a trademark of mine that people start asking in September what I plan to carve for the upcoming Halloween. I’ve learned to jot down possible pumpkin ideas in my sketchbook throughout the year, but it usually comes down to crunch time (the week before Halloween) before I finally decided on the 4–6 pumpkins I carve each year. I have a gallery of past pumpkin designs, including some I’ve carved for Good Morning America, on my website.
Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?
Hopefully I wasn’t obnoxious, but I was very much a teacher’s pet. I would stay after school and go from room to room asking teachers if they needed help putting up bulletin boards or correcting papers. I usually spent the first day or two of summer vacation helping teachers pack up their rooms for the year (it helped that we lived right across the street from the elementary school), and one of my favorite things to do the first week of summer was to “play school” with the extra worksheets that teachers had given me. No wonder I became an elementary school teacher myself!
What’s the first book report you ever wrote?
We had an independent reading program when I was in third grade where instead of writing book reports, we could make a diorama, draw a poster, etc. I often enlisted the help of a few classmates and put on a short play based on the book I had read (we loved getting out of class to rehearse on the school’s old stage!). One of the books I have vivid memories of performing was “Mr. Pudgins” by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen about a magical babysitter and a flying bathtub. In one scene a bush begins to make popcorn. One of my friends brought in a huge plastic trash bag of popcorn and hid behind a chair. The class went crazy when he began to throw handful after handful of the popcorn out into the audience. We loved it!
What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?
Some day you will have the last laugh on all the bullies who are calling you “fag” and “homo.” You will also become a published author and illustrator and make lots of kids happy with your funny books.
Or more simply, I wish I could tell my 10-year-old self, “Everything is going to turn out okay.”
What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?
I would love to visit with George Selden (author of “The Cricket in Times Square” series, Mac Barnett (author of “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” and many other incredibly creative books) and famed children’s editor Ursula Nordstrom.
Where’s your favorite place to read?
On a plane, heading off on vacation.