Hello, Brendan, thanks for joining me here to talk about what’s new with you!
Hey Dylan. Thank you! Reading With Mr. Teut is a fantastic blog and appreciate you inviting me to chat.
Tell us a little bit about the book you illustrated that just came out, One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree.
One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree is a story by Daniel Bernstrom about a boy who gets swallowed up by a big yellow snake while skipping along beneath a eucalyptus tree. Trapped within the dark belly of the snake, the boy must hatch a plan to outsmart the oversized reptile and escape. I’m not sure how much I should say about where the story goes from there, but I can tell you, the cast grows substantially, and fortunately the tale never proceeds past the large intestine.
The book was a lot of fun to illustrate and working on it provided a great opportunity to get a little dreamier than I normally do. After only a a few days with the text, the look and tone of Daniel’s world felt very clear – almost as if it were already out there somewhere – and it was just a matter of showing up, taking a look around, and seeing who popped out of the leaves to say hello.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming title with Angela DiTerlizzi, Some Pets.
Some Pets is the follow-up to Some Bugs, which was both my first collaboration with the fantastic Angela Diterlizzi, and my first published picture book. Where Some Bugs took a playful look at all the tiny creatures that share our backyards, Some Pets turns the magnifying glass around on we humans, and the pets who share our lives.
The book is set at a pet show in a city park, which I kept non-specific, but attempted to infuse with the feeling of both Central Park and Prospect Park in New York: two of my favorite places on earth. I had many pets growing up including, but not limited to, 5 hamsters, 4 cats 3 rabbits, 2 dogs, 1 python, and a pot bellied pig name Gus, and getting the chance to spend some time with them again was a great pleasure.
And, you have a book you wrote AND illustrated coming this fall, They All Saw A Cat. Tell us more about that!
Yes! They All Saw A Cat- which comes out this fall – will be my first book as both author and illustrator, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it. The book follows the path of a brown striped tabby cat, wearing a red collar and gold bell, who basically just goes for a walk. The book explores how the different creatures who cross paths with the tabby (a mouse, a dog, a fish, a fox etc.) all experience the cat in their own very unique way. One of the things I like about this concept is that it kind of plays in the grey area between science and the imagination. I had a blast, trying to place myself in the shoes (or paws) of each creature, and imagining how factors like emotion, physiology and location, might effect what they perceived. To push this further I tried to approach each spread from a very different place, and used whatever medium or materials I felt right for the specific animal. If you are imagining me covered in charcoal, staring into my bathroom mirror chanting “you are a skunk. You are black and white, and you roam the night searching for grubs.” – you are not far off.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
As I’m still pretty new to the picture book world, the list of things people don’t know will probably be pretty long. It’s no secret that I frequently create images of animals, but probably only my close friends really understand how intense and inexhaustible my interest for the natural world is. Before I was working on picture books, I spent a lot of my time collaborating with conservation groups, particularly in South East Asia, where I used to live. I’ve also spent a decent amount of time trying to get close to animals in the wild, and some highlights have included, tiger tracking on foot in Nepal, sketching the wildebeest migration in Kenya and being chased by a very upset elephant in Thailand. In the elephants defense, we were on her turf and she was only looking out for her baby, who we later realized had been in the bushes a short distance away. It was a close one.
If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Great question! Something outdoors, hopefully somewhere very wild. I love illustrating books, but the one downside is that making images typically requires a lot of indoor time (unless you’re Andy Goldsworthy). This is a bit of an issue for me considering – as we’ve covered- I am never happier than when outside, watching animals. I have often dreamt about being a field biologist, but having bumped into a few in my day- all exceptional folks- I fear I lack both the brains and fortitude to properly fulfill the job requirements. Since we’re discussing a hypothetical situation however, I’ll go with field biologist for now, and add, that if I were spending time outdoors everyday in some ecological hotspot, I could honestly be looking for thumbtacks in a bucket of fertilizer, and I’d be thrilled.
How did your career as an author/illustrator start?
Sloooowwwwly. I made my first book in the first grade, round about 1986 but was not officially published until 2014. I graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2003, and spent a little over 10 years doing all kinds of art related odd jobs – including animating, storyboarding, and puppet making- while continuing to develop my own projects in my free time. Then in 2013, Angela Diterlizzi swooped in like a kids-lit fairy godmother and reached out to me about illustrating Some Bugs. I think she had seen some of my animal images online. Since then it’s all been an exciting blur. I am actually very grateful it took so long to find my way into the picture book world, as those first ten years gave me lots of time to think about the sort of stories and ideas that I was interested in exploring.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I am just finishing up work on LIFE by Cynthia Rylant, a beautiful text that I feel incredibly fortunate to have illustrated. That should be out next year. Work has also begun on a second book of my own, which I am extremely excited about. I’m not sure how much I can or should say at the moment, but think it’s safe to share that the project – like They All Saw A Cat – will be published with the wonderful Chronicle books and will incorporate a menagerie of my favorite creatures from around the planet. Outside of the picture book world, I have been teaming up with the Mara Conservancy, to create a pictorial map of the extraordinary biological wonderland they manage in southwest Kenya. Excited to get that our there.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
It looks like I may be bopping around a bit this fall and would love to meet any and all book/animal/life enthusiasts who are interested in saying hello! Other than that, I just want to again say a big thank you for inviting me on the blog Dylan! You’re enthusiasm for picture books is contagious and this blog is a wonderful resource. Appreciate all you do!
Thank you, Brendan, for joining me here!