Today, I am doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do ever since I can remember—creating funny stories and sharing them with as many people as possible. I’ve always wanted to tell stories in my own way. When I was in elementary school, I wrote a lot of my reports in rhyme, and illustrated them with cartoons. I also put on plays with my friends—in class, at summer camp, and in my backyard. We wrote the scripts together. Our favorites were tales of Robin Hood, and the Greek myths.
The summer after fourth grade, I failed to complete my goal of reading all the kids’ books in the public library. I started in the fiction section with the authors whose names began with the letter A, but there were just too many books that were not right for me. The librarian advised me to switch to the 398 section, the folklore and fairy tales. I loved those books so much that later on, I got a PhD in folklore.
Before I became an author, I was a children’s librarian, and then a children’s entertainer—a puppeteer. I traveled all over the US, putting on shows with hand puppets and shadow puppets. I also worked on a television show, and I visited schools to teach children how to write scripts, make puppets, rehearse, and perform for an audience. I began creating picture books after I heard a talk by the illustrator Uri Shulevitz. He said that a picture book is a small theater. “A puppet theater,” I said to myself. “I could write a picture book!” I did, and it was the first of thirty-five picture books I’ve written, including E-I-E-I-O! How Old Macdonald Got His Farm with a Little Help From a Hen.
I live in Eugene, Oregon, with my husband, Bob, and our dog, Keiko, a black-and-white standard poodle. Bob is principal of the Village School, and Keiko is an active member of the neighborhood squirrel patrol. When I’m not conjuring up stories and rhymes, I like to hike, cook, and grow vegetables in my garden. I still love to read, of course, and I wish there were more hours in the day so that I could devour even more books.
About My Work:
For me, the most important part of writing is choosing the best subject. It has to be something kids are interested in (parents, too), and the whole idea of the book must be exciting enough to keep me going when the writing becomes difficult. I always think a lot about the children and adults who will read my books out loud. The words have to be fun to say. Even if the words don’t rhyme, they must bounce off the pages. I’m not happy unless kids can’t wait to turn those pages and find out what happens next.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I am afraid of the monsters in movies and on television.
2. I can whistle really, really loud.
3. I am allergic to every furry pet, except poodles.