- The Gift of Nothing has such a fantastic message about giving – what do you think kids can do to help spread that message?
- There are a few messages in The Gift of Nothing for both children and their parents. One of these is to enjoy time spent with friends and family. Giving of yourself is the most wonderful thing you can do.
- Mooch comes to appreciate the simple things in life in Just Like Heaven, what do you hope kids will learn from his experience?
- I am hoping that kids and their parents will understand that every moment is precious. By being fully in the present, they can experience “heaven on earth”, especially if they have a dog like Earl for a friend!
- In Hug Time, why did you pick Jules as the kitten on a mission to spread hugs to the world?
- I wanted to write a book starring Jules (aka ‘Shtinky Puddin’). He is my animal and environmental advocate in my comic strip MUTTS. Jules has a big heart, and he is trying to make the world a better place. Children naturally have open hearts, and I thought they would relate to Jules and his mission.
I am hoping that everyone who reads the book will know how special a hug is, and that all life is fragile. I’d like everyone to appreciate and celebrate the natural world.
- Art is your first non-Mutts picture book – where did you get the idea for this book?
- Art is somewhat autobiographical. I have been making art for as long as I can remember. My parents met in art school, so being creative was always encouraged in my home. I had wanted to be a cartoonist since I was about five years old.
The magic in creating art is that the child-like wonder you experience never ends. In Art I wanted to celebrate the joy of creating, and to instill the desire of making art in others.
- Which of your characters do you feel closest to? Is there one that is “you” in animal form?
- I love all my characters for different reasons. I probably feel closest to Earl, who is based on my own Jack Russell Terrier, Earl.
All the characters in Mutts have aspects of my own personality. I have to admit that I do look a bit like Ozzie.
- If you were an animal, what kind of animal do you think you would you be and why?
- As a cartoonist, I feel I am most like a dog. Cartoonists and dogs like our routines, enjoy our “work”, have our favorite places where we hang out all day, and occasionally go for walks. Above all, we try to make people happy.
- You’re very involved with animal protection agencies – do you have suggestions on how kids can help support animal welfare?
- The first and most important thing we all can do is to be kind to all living creatures. Kids can help by talking to their parents, teachers and friends about things that can make the world a better place. They can start projects at home (and in schools and town) to make people more aware. For example, you can collect pet food and supplies (blankets, towels, toys, cleaning products) from your community and donate them to your local animal shelter. You can also become a vegetarian.
- Do you have a favorite pizza topping?
- I like my pizza plain.
- Did you read a lot of books as a kid? Which were your favorites?
- As a kid I treasured my Peanuts comic strip collections. I also loved the surrealism of Dr. Seuss, and the zen-like simplicity of Winnie the Pooh. The love I felt from those books I try to recreate in my own children’s books.
- What was your favorite subject in school?
- Art was my favorite subject, but I enjoyed math as well.
- What do you like to do besides writing and illustrating the Mutts comic strip?
- Of course, I love creating children’s books. A lot of my free time is spent volunteering, and I am on several charity boards, including The Humane Society of the United Stares.
I also like reading, being outdoors, listening to music and playing drums.
- How long have you been illustrating and what other projects have you worked on?
- I’ve been doodling for as long as I could hold a pencil, and I became a professional illustrator right out of college. I’ve done illustrations for many magazines including The New York Times, Forbes, Time, Sports Illustrated, and People. I’ve created posters for Toys for Tots and the American Library Association. I have also done some animated TV commercials, and have my Mutts art on the New Jersey ‘Animal Friendly’ license plate.
- How can I learn to be an illustrator?
- As my mentor and friend Charles Schulz used to say, “Keep drawing those funny pictures.” And I’ll add to that “Draw, draw, draw, and then draw some more!”