Monthly Archives: May 2017

Dan Santat Stops by to talk about RODZILLA and More!

Hi Dan! Thanks for joining me here to talk about the latest book you illustrated, Rodzilla!

It’s a real pleasure. You’ve been making quite a name for yourself in the last two years and I applaud all the things you’ve achieved in that time for the literary community!

Tell us a little bit about Rodzilla.

Rodzilla is the story of a lizard type creature who inadvertently terrorizes Megalopolis City due to his large stature and childlike mannerisms. It pays homage to classic Godzilla movies that we all used to enjoy when we were younger. It pairs well with a child’s imagination to be an omnipotent being among a tiny world which is at the mercy of your massiveness. The story was written by Rob Sanders, who lives out in Florida, and I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time, last year. It’s a fun read which I enjoy reading to kids. It gets them laughing.


Tell us a little bit about your process.  

When I illustrate a project such as this I like to just dive right in and allow my mind to be very impulsive so I can spit out whatever comes to my mind first. This phase really is just loose scribbles that only I can really decipher. I then take those ideas and then I’ll take a few passes trying to refine the jokes, compositions, and character designs all at once. I don’t really have time to spend a day focusing on just one thing (like character design) so I’m often trying to do all those things while I’m trying to work out other aspects of the books such as the pacing and color palette.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

Yes! When I was a kid I thought I wanted to make movies. I was an only child so I used to make my own comic books because it was the closest thing to storytelling in a film format that I could do. As I grew older I realized I had a greater passion for storytelling than I did for actual drawing and painting. Drawing was always the thing I was complimented on because the results were easily observed by anyone who walked by, but creative writing was subjective and oddly enough, I felt like a lot of kids I grew up with didn’t like the same things I did. I felt like I was the only kid watching “He-Man” and “Transformers” in the fourth grade. It was as if everyone I knew grew too old for that stuff at an early age. What’s up with that?!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

When I get to have lunch or dinner with fellow authors who live in town or when a fellow author is coming through town on a book tour. We often talk shop and talk process and share our emotional ups and downs.

What inspires your creativity?

I inhale content. I listen to music, read books, play video games, and watch a lot of film and television. Often times an idea comes from being inspired by other ideas. You see how someone presents an idea and when you to try to see it from another perspective you sometimes end up with something new. I’m also inspired by my family, especially my kids. They help remind me how to communicate with children and speak to their interests.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Years back when I was working on a book series with Rhea Perlman, my family was invited to her home in Malibu. We hung out with Rhea and her husband, Danny Devito, and it was the first time our 6-month old son saw the ocean. While we were there we saw someone walking down the beach over to us and we were wondering, “Do we know anyone else at this party?”

It was George Clooney.

Rhea introduced us to George. He complimented our child and kissed his forehead.

Our child was kissed by George Clooney.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I’d be a very unhappy dentist.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

My next picture book comes out in October called After the Fall. It’s about Humpty Dumpty recovering from his famous fall and overcoming his fear of heights. In April 2018 I have a book coming out with Aaron Reynolds called, Dude! and I’m working on a few graphic novels of my own. The first is The Aquanaut with Arthur A. Levine Books and the second is a memoir called You Bad Son for First Second.



Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I knew Dylan Teut before he was famous.


Interview with Mr. Evan Turk

Hey Evan! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your latest book projects!

Thank you so much for inviting me!


Tell us a little bit about The Storyteller, which was released last year.

The Storyteller is my first book as author and illustrator, and it is a story, within a story, within a story, about the power of stories to give us hope, protection, and sustenance in times of need. It is based on the Moroccan art of public storytelling, a tradition that extends back a thousand years, and follows a young boy who inadvertently becomes an apprentice to one of the last master storytellers.the-storyteller-9781481435185_hr.jpg

Tell us a little bit about Muddy, which is coming this summer!

Muddy, written by Michael Mahin, is a picture book biography of Muddy Waters, one of the most legendary and influential blues musicians. It follows his journey from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the juke joints of Chicago, and the creation of his electric sound that brought the souls of those, two places and their people, together. Muddy Waters was a part of the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the violence and oppression in the South during the first half of the 20th century. He and other blues artists created a unique music out of this painful and pivotal period that would be the backbone of American music for generations.


For me, it was a wonderful project to be a part of. The writing is beautiful. Artistically, it was exciting to delve into research and learning about something new. I was able to go to where Muddy was from in the Mississippi Delta, see where his music blossomed in Chicago, and hear and draw musicians playing the blues in the both places. The artwork was inspired by incredible artists like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and the Gee’s Bend quilt-makers of Alabama, as well as the music itself. The roots of blues are so deep, and what Muddy did with them was so electric and new, that I wanted to show those two sides coming together in the artwork.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process. 

My process usually begins with research! I do a lot of reading and looking at artwork related to a particular project. Then I will try to find some way to make it real. For The Storyteller, it was about going to Morocco and meeting and talking with real storytellers and carpet weavers, and getting a feel for the place by drawing it. With Muddy, I went to listen to the blues musicians in Mississippi and Chicago, and talked with the people there. The on-location drawing I do usually has a big impact on the final artwork of the book.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating ?

Pretty much! I always loved writing and illustrating picture books when I was in elementary school. They were usually about an obscure animal of some kind. Then, in art school, I continued working on my own illustrated book projects, and thanks to my art director, Ann Bobco, I got an early entry into the industry right out of school!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I think the most exciting part of creating books is the research phase. I just get to learn and draw, which is the best. I love making the final artwork, seeing it all done, and talking to kids! Really every part of the process is wonderful. Getting to talk with kids about the artwork and the story on school visits is so exciting for me!

What inspires your creativity?

I get inspired by drawing and by reading. When I learn something new, or see something new, I want to study it and share it, and that usually leads to some kind of story! I always love looking at new kinds of art, and seeing the endless possibilities.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I have two cats! Bert (Full name: King Aethelbert) and Pica (Full name: Empress Pica Bunnycup (because she has a little bunny tail))

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think maybe making movies? It’s kind of a similar process, but coming from a completely different angle. I’d also love to design a stage show! Costumes, sets, lighting… That seems like an amazing job.

What can readers expect from you in the future? 

I am almost done working on a new book right now called Heartbeat. It’s about a baby whale who loses her mother during the heyday of American whaling in the 19th century, and swims through the next 200 years seeing how human attitudes towards whales shift throughout the decades. In the end, she’s able to find solace in the compassion of one young girl who hears her song and sings with her, with hope for a brighter future. It’s based on the the reality of whaling, in that there were many orphaned whale calves, and that recently some whales have been discovered to have been over 200 years old! The amount of things we have used whales for over the decades is staggering: Oil for light, mechanical lubricant in the industrial revolution, machine guns and bombs in the two World Wars, food, automatic transmission fluid in cars, and whale oil even coated some of the first photos we ever took of the moon in space! So it’s a book about a lot of things: whales, history, the environment, loss, compassion, empathy, and the way we treat/commodify the most vulnerable in our society. In the end, it’s really about connection, and how listening and understanding can unite us. It will be out from Atheneum in 2018!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just a thank you to you for doing the work of spreading your passion for books to kids and everyone else! And a thank you to anyone out there who is reading these books! It really is a remarkable feeling to have someone connect with something you’ve made, and I am so grateful!

A Few Questions for Tim Miller

Joining me today is the author/illustrator of the brand new Moo Moo in a Tutu books, Tim Miller!


Hey Tim! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your new book and what else is going on for you!

Hi Dylan! Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to speak with you!


Tell us a little bit about Moo Moo in a Tutu.

Moo Moo in a Tutu stars Moo Moo, an enthusiastic cow who’s always looking for the next adventure, and Mr. Quackers, the most loyal duck a cow could ask for. They’re a pair of unlikely best friends who share different adventures together. This time around they’re heading to the ballet thanks to Moo Moo getting it in her head that she wants to be a ballerina even though she’s never taken ballet lessons before. With a somewhat skeptical yet supportive Mr. Quackers at her side, Moo Moo graces the stage with a performance that the ballet world will never forget. Although everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, Moo Moo prevails triumphantly thanks to the enthusiastic cheers of applause from her good buddy Mr. Quackers.

Will we see more of Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers?

Yes, Moo Moo & Mr. Quackers will be back! The follow-up to Moo Moo in a Tutu is called What’s Cooking Moo Moo? and will be published in Winter 2018. This time Moo Moo and Mr.Quackers team up and open a restaurant together with a few unexpected missteps along the way. It’s quite a feast that will leave readers quacking up.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process.  

My process can vary depending on what medium I’m working in, but for the most part it’s pretty straightforward. For Moo Moo in Tutu, I started by making sketches of the first visual impressions I had based on the manuscript. Next, I organized these into storyboards to see it all together, and then made a dummy book incorporating everything into the standard 32-page structure of a picture book. In doing so, I tried to find the best way to give emphasis to key moments and keep the page turns fun and exciting. Anything that wasn’t necessary, I cut.

Once the dummy book was settled, I started making the finished illustrations. I worked directly from the rough sketches on a light box and drew everything with brush and ink. I tightened things up so that they read clearly while also trying to keep the raw energy of the rough sketches. Instead of drawing each composition out in its entirety, I broke them down into fragments. Although it sounds complicated, this allowed me to ignore my mistakes because I could just redraw a piece of something if I needed to. After I had finished collecting the fragments for each composition, I scanned everything into the computer and pieced the images together in Photoshop. From there, I added color digitally and made some final tweaks and that was that.

Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve been drawing ever since I read my first Garfield book around the age of seven. It was a big revelation when I discovered how to copy the character because I could make it my own. I was living on a dairy farm and there wasn’t much to do besides milking cows, so drawing and reading comics was a welcome outlet. In middle school I got into stuff like Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes, and started making my own comic strips (basically Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes rip-offs). In high school my interest turned to the superhero stuff and my drawings got jacked up with bulging muscles and skintight attire. My seminal work from the period is a seven-page comic called The Samurai Schnoz and His Ninja Nose, the story about a not-too-bright Samurai with a big nose that has mystical ninja powers (imagine Opus the penguin meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets Groo the Wanderer).

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Deadlines are a lot of fun, but I would have to say that connecting with readers gets the prize. I love the opportunity to engage kids and see their reactions.

What inspires your creativity?

A bad sense of humor and a love for pictures.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I used be in 4-H as a kid and showed sheep. I was actually pretty good at it (got the ribbons to prove it) until one day a bear paid our sheep a visit and that was the end of my sheep-showing career.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would continue teaching and paint full-time.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I have three more installments of Tom O’Donnell’s Hamstersaurus Rex middle grade series (HarperCollins) on the way, and Snappsy the Alligator And His Best Friend Forever Probably by Julie Falatko is coming out in Fall 2017 (Viking), followed by What’s Cooking Moo Moo? in Winter 2018 (Balzer+Bray).



Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Thank you everybody for stopping by! Feel free to visit me anytime at I’m always happy to hear your thoughts and feedback.