Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dan Yaccarino Author/Illustrator Interview!

     Back in mid-September, I posted a review of The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino.  I was thrilled when Dan Yaccarino HIMSELF e-mailed me that he saw my post and wanted to share the book trailer with me.  
     If you aren't familiar with book trailers, it's like a movie trailer or a movie preview, except it tells you or teases you about a book.  I love this idea for getting kids excited about books and even for a project for students to make their own book trailer for their favorite read.  I love this particular book trailer because it does such a great job of highlighting the artwork in this book and building intrigue about who Jacques Cousteau was as a person.  
     I gladly share this book trailer with you now...and also an interview with Mr. Dan Yaccarino, author and illustrator!

TMT (Teach Mentor Texts): I read in a previous interview that you read comics growing up.  Were you drawn to comics because of the artwork and the stories or did someone influence you to read comics?  
DY (Dan Yaccarino): I loved the images mostly, but I really liked the way the story telling was equally dependent on both the pictures and the words, which is a balance I try to achieve in my picture books.
TMT: Where was your favorite spot to read as a kid?DY: The public library. It was so quiet. I didn't grow up with picture books in my home. I thought the library was the only place they had them. Not until years later did I learn that you could buy them.
TMT: I loved the library growing up and it's still one of my most favorite places!  Are there any books/comics you distinctly remember from your childhood?
DY: Well, I read Mad magazine quite a bit, but when I got a little older, I discovered Tin Tin, which in my opinion is one of the best comics ever created.
TMT: Why?
DY: Well, Mad was funny and gross and silly, which was just perfect for a 12 year old boy and Tin Tin was remarkably clean, well-written and paced and simply beautiful. Everything about it was top notch.
TMT: Tin Tin reminds me of the Archie comics I used to beg my mom for at the grocery store!  I also read that you spent a lot of time drawing when you were young.  Is there a specific place where you did most of your drawing?DY: When I was very young, it was the kitchen table, but when I got older, my parents bought me a drafting table, which I put in my room. I still use the base of it today. I just put a much larger tabletop on it.
TMT: Do you have a routine when it comes to creating your artwork?
DY: Not really, which I know is a very unsatisfying answer. My books can begin as a picture or a fully written story. I've also created complete stories with just a series of images, then add details I couldn't convey in the images with text. The pictures should do most of the heavy lifting in a picture book.
TMT: It is remarkable to me how important the pictures add to a story!  I'm often talking about how the artwork makes the story great.  How did you come to be an illustrator?DY: It was never a decision. It's who I am. I've always drawn pictures and made up stories. I was the kid in class that knew how to draw. It was a foregone conclusion that I would do this as an adult. I never questioned what I would be doing as an adult. I always just knew. I've been told that I'm unusual that way, but I have nothing else to compare it to. Whenever I'd imagined myself as an adult, I'd imagine I'd be an artist of some sort and I never questioned it.
I also knew I was going to be taller and I never questioned that either. It was inevitable.
TMT: You have two young children, how do you as a parent encourage them to be readers?
DY: My wife and I don't need to encourage them. They're great readers! It may have a little to do with the fact that they see us reading for pleasure all the time. Kids do what you do, not what you tell them to do. If you want your child to be a reader, you need to be a reader.
TMT: I love that! "If you want your child to be a reader, you need to be a reader."  I agree 100% and I do that for my own kids and for my students everyday!  What about encouraing them to be artists?
DY: I would never impose my career onto my kids. My father didn't want his children to take over his business and I feel the same way. They must be their own person and find their own way. I'll love them no matter what path they take.
TMT: Painting with watercolors with my grandmother is one of my greatest memories of her.  It wasn't my career path, but I remember spending time with her every time I look at a painting we did together!  Finally, I have never been to New York!  Since you have lived there for over 20 years, if I were to visit (and I hope to someday!) what is one place you would suggest I would have to see/visit and why?DY: I'll take you to Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. It has the best pastrami in the world. The Metropolitan Museum has an incredible exhibit of medieval armor, which should not be missed!
TMT: It would be very cool to visit Katz's Deli, part of When Harry Met Sally was filmed there, right? And I love museums but I'm not sure I've ever seen medieval armor!  Thanks for answering my questions!    
     Dan Yaccarino has accomplished a lot as an author and illustrator!  He would make a great subject for an author/illustrator study for any grade.  You can visit his website,,  to learn more about him and his work.  Here are some of my favorites!
Every FridayUnlovable (Owlet Book)The Birthday Fish
Good Night, Mr. NightLawn to LawnIf I Had a Robot


1 comment:

  1. Dan Yaccarino visited our school yesterday and spoke to our 4th graders about writing and illustrating. He was amazing with the kids and they all left feeling so inspired to pursue what they love to do!

    A.Ramos @ Townsell Elementary