Children’s book author, illustrator, songwriter, and singer Barney Saltzberg has no trouble coming up with ideas for stories. His frequent visits to schools and other venues, talking to and performing his music for children—not to mention invaluable experience as dad and carpool chauffeur—afford him plenty of opportunities for collecting the real-life anecdotes that find their way into his books and songs.
Such was the case with the delightful picture book Crazy Hair Day. “I was talking to some students at a school one morning before the bell rang, and a boy came up to us with his hair dyed orange and blue and with big spikes,” the author-illustrator recalls. “Somebody looked at him and said, ‘Crazy Hair Day is tomorrow!’ The boy looked horrified, blurted out something, then ran the other way. I felt terrible for this boy and wondered how it could possibly turn around into a better situation.”
While mulling over the possibilities, Barney Saltzberg remembered some articles he’d read about students who shaved their heads in solidarity to support a friend who had lost his hair during chemotherapy. “I was so impressed with how students, on their own, could have a positive impact on a friend who was going through a hard time. I wanted Crazy Hair Day to show how Stanley might come to terms with feeling so out of place and realize he still belonged to a larger group of friends, even though he looked different. Of course, I didn’t want to hit anyone over the head with a ‘message,’ so I tried to plant the seeds through humor.”
Barney Saltzberg penned a creative companion to Crazy Hair Day, which also stars the irrepressible Stanley Birdbaum. This time, Stanley is one happy hamster when it’s his turn to be star of the week! Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned. About Star of the Week, Barney Saltzberg says, “I have found that making squiggle drawings is a great way to take people who don’t necessarily think that they can draw and watch them start making art! It’s a nonthreatening way to open the door to drawing. As for Stanley, once he had a pen in his hand, it was satisfying to see how he turned what seemed like a potentially disastrous moment into something positive.”
Barney Saltzberg lives with his family in southern California.