We interviewed Mike Wohnoutka, children’s book illustrator, widely known for his books Dad’s First Day, Moo!, and Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster. (Mike’s last name is pronounced wuh-noot-kuh.)
Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?
Picture books in general. I often hear parents say their children are too old for picture books. Recently a parent told me her first grader had “moved on” from picture books. This absolutely drives me crazy. You are never too old for picture books. They are second to none when it comes to art, storytelling, and language.
Favorite city to visit?
New York. I love the museums, comedy clubs, book stores, and theaters. It’s also nice to go to lunch with my editors since most of the publishers I work with are in New York.
Most cherished childhood memory?
Playing Kick the Can with all the kids in our neighborhood.
Illustrator's work you most admire?
David Shannon. David is the reason I became an illustrator. After seeing his presentation, when I was in college, about how he illustrated his first children’s book, How Many Spots Does A Leopard Have?, I thought “THAT is what I want to do!” His paintings are technically stunning and his stories are so funny.
When I visit schools I tell students about David being such an influence on me. It’s amazing how excited the students get when I show the cover of No David! and it’s incredible that every student is familiar with that series. He obviously has struck a chord with children.
A couple years ago, David and I both presented at the Mazza Museum summer conference. It was wonderful to meet him. He is the nicest guy and it was fun to let him know how much of an inspiration he has been to me.
Coffee, especially in the morning as I write or paint.
Fall. Leaves changing colors, cooler weather, the World Series, and Halloween are a few of the many things I love about fall.
What gives you shivers?
Strangest tourist attraction?
Our family recently took a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, mainly to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was such a fun vacation. The attention to detail in creating Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, and Hogsmeade was awe-inspiring.
My wife and I got teary-eyed when we first entered Diagon Alley.
Also, the rides throughout Universal and Islands of Adventure were a blast. Of course our kids loved it all, but the strange thing about this tourist attraction is how much my wife and I truly enjoyed everything, too. We can’t wait to go back.
Brothers or sisters? How did they shape your life?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to draw. Having three older brothers who were all really good at drawing had a big influence on me. I remember being so impressed with the simplest sketch they would do and I was determined to be as good as they were.
Best tip for living a contented life?
I have found meditation and yoga very helpful. I start every day with a 20 minute meditation (before the coffee).
Loved your Skinny Dip interview.
Yes to picture books!
Yes to Prague! I’m off on a boat/bike tour of the Czech Republic this summer starting in Prague.
Best wishes to you and David for the MN Book Award!
Your descriptions of Universal Studios make me want to get on a plane and leave right now. You are so right about never outgrowing picture books. And for someone who gets the shivers about mice, you draw them very well!