Somehow I missed out on Leslie Patricelli’s genius when the girls were toddlers. I filed Alice’s enthusiastic review of a trio of Patricelli board books away in my (very faulty) memory, meaning to pick up a few of them for the DLM. Then I was contacted by Provato Marketing with the opportunity to interview Ms. Patricelli, and my memory was jolted. Of course I wanted to interview her! Then I began searching in earnest for a book or two by Patricelli to share with the DLM; I mean, I couldn’t very well interview her if I had never read one of her books myself, could I? Believe it or not, none of my local libraries that I searched own any of her books. This is somewhat understandable, I guess, given that many (most? all?) of her books are published as board books and not all libraries carry those. Then I went to Target, thinking I had seen some of her stuff there. Nope. Nothing. I finally went to our only local bookstore, a small chain store currently in its, and I quote, “transitional location” while awaiting a brand new building. I don’t know if it’s because they’re in a smaller space, but I could only find one copy of one her books in all the board books they had for sale. I say all of that not at all to denigrate Ms. Patricelli’s books–quite the contrary, actually. I love her fun little books, and I think that the fact that they’re somewhat hard to come by in my neck o’ the woods is a shame. Anyway, I ended up with Quiet LOUD, and I love it, the DLM loves it, and most surprisingly, my little-big-girl who’s almost six LOVES it. I think it has to be read with just the right attitude and voice inflection–I mean, how could you not rare back and let ‘er rip on the loud words with illustrations like that?
My interview with Ms. Patricelli, conducted via email, is the most fun interview I’ve had yet. I hope you enjoy it!
Hope Is the Word: Hi, Leslie! I am really excited about this opportunity to interview you! I have to admit that I’m new to the world of your terrific little board books, but I rectified the situation by by going out and purchasing a copy of Quiet LOUD and sharing it with my sixteen month old son. It was a hit, and my five year old daughter couldn’t resist it, either. (I should’ve listened long ago when I read such great recommendations of your books by some of my bloggy friends!) I think surely that you must be inspired by living in a household of active children. Just how did you get started writing these wonderful baby
and toddler books?
Hi, Thank you for the interview!
I wrote Yummy Yucky when my son, Beck, who is now twelve, was just one and sticking everything in his mouth. I kept following him around saying, “Yucky!” I also heard myself
saying, “Yummy!” when I was trying to get him to eat his mashed sweet potatoes or smooshed up peas! I walked around with the book idea in my head for a few months and when I finally had a little time (on vacation!) I sat down and sketched the whole thing out. Many of those original sketches made their way into the final book. On the same vacation, I decided to try a few more opposite books. Eventually, I sketched out Quiet LOUD and Big Little to go along with Yummy Yucky. I submitted the board books as a trio and – lucky me – Candlewick Press picked them up!
And that is making a long story short, because I had wanted to be a children’s book author long before I had children. But for me, it took having a child to observe to make my ideas relevant.
Hope Is the Word: Although writing a book and having it published has to be one of the most gratifying of all accomplishments, I have to think that having a book published that you both wrote and illustrated might just bump the satisfaction level up a notch. Tell us about your artistic background. Obviously, picture books are just as dependent on the illustrations as the text, so did the writing come first for you or the drawing?
My artistic background started when I could hold a pencil! I have enjoyed drawing, and especially making myself and other people laugh with my drawings, for as long as I can remember. I always had a knack for seeing things in a funny way and drawing cartoons. My school notes were covered with illustrations. One time in college I got a taste of fame when my geology teacher added a drawing that I had done on the back of test into his next lecture. It was a drawing of a “rock exposure”. I drew a rock holding open it’s overcoat, exposing itself. The entire lecture hall laughed, which I thoroughly enjoyed!
Hope Is the Word: What is the writing process like for you?
It varies from book to book, but the best part for me is always when I start laying down the idea for the first time. I love the feeling of taking an idea from my head and developing it, whether it’s through drawing or writing, and whether it’s done in pencil in my sketchbook or in a word processor in my computer.
My simple board books are usually created in a sketching frenzy mixing really bad drawings and equally bad writing in my sketchbook. But when I look through it later, I can find some gems. I compile those and go from there. When I work on a more wordy book, such as my latest book, Be Quiet, Mike!, which is my first rhyming book about a monkey who is born to drum, I start out writing then do the illustrations to fit the story. I like working both ways – writing first, or drawing first. However it happens is fine with me – as long as something happens!
Hope Is the Word: Tell us about a typical day of work for you. How do you manage a busy household of three children, a husband, and several pets in addition to your work? (I’ve been looking at your website!)
Manage is not really the word I would use. More like survive! I work when my kids are at school usually. When it’s deadline time, I work all the time. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to avoid the crunch at the end of a book. Once I start doing the paintings, the rest of my life falls by the wayside! Luckily, my husband works from home, too, so he takes over when I can’t. And my kids are old enough now that they can not only take
care of themselves, but help me with my job, too!
Hope Is the Word: I noticed that your newest book is about puppies. Do you plan to continue your baby books, or will you continue to branch out into more subjects and characters?
Actually, the book you are referring to is The Patterson Puppies and the Rainy Day Beach Party, which I am very proud of, but I have had several books come out since then,
including The Patterson Puppies and the Midnight Monster Party, and my board books, Tubby and Potty. (My website is unfortunately four books behind, but I’m working on that!) For more up to date information on my books, please become a fan on
My newest book, which I mentioned before, is Be Quiet, Mike!, about a monkey drummer. Be Quiet, Mike! is based on my own experience of living with two drummers. My husband, Jason, is a drummer by profession, and my son, Beck, was pretty much
born drumming – just like Mike. Many of the situations in the book where Mike is making noise with objects came directly from experience with my son. My favorite is Mike’s “Binky Beat” which my son did one day in the car when he was two. I have the video of Beck’s Binky Beat up on YouTube. Check it out!
Besides being a fun book to read and getting kids shouting “Be Quiet!” really loudly, Monkey Mikes inventiveness in the story will hopefully inspire kids to follow their passion and use their creativity to do so.
Also … ‘Be Quiet, Mike!’ has a song to go with the text! The song was composed by Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew, the lead singer of the Presidents of the United States of America), and my husband, Jason Vontver. Caspar Babypants lends his kid-
friendly voice to bring the text alive, and my husband mirrors Mike’s drum sounds on drums and anything else he can make noise with. The song is available on iTunes and
My studio is downstairs in our house in what should be a big rec room for our kids, but instead is half music studio, half art studio. In other words, the drums are right next to me while I’m working! I can often be found working in industrial earmuffs to protect my ears!
Hope Is the Word: Do you have plans to write books in any other genres?
Yes, I do. I am working on my first middle-grade novel. The working title is, Barf! And Other Rizzling Tales. It’s about a girl named Lily and her experience moving to a new school in fourth grade, meeting her new best friend, and their many misadventures together. It’s based on my own fourth grade experience so I am having a blast remember and re-imagining one of my favorite years in school. Also, I have a book coming out this spring that is a follow up to my book Higher! Higher!
. The new book is called Faster! Faster! and instead of being pushed on a swing by her Daddy and going higher and higher, the little girl is riding on her daddy’s back and going faster and faster! There are lots of exciting animals – it was my favorite book to paint so far!
Hope Is the Word: Who is your favorite children’s author? Children’s illustrator?
Sometimes people comment that it’s hard to find a good picture book and say things like, “There’s so much junk out there.” I have no idea what they are talking about! I think there are so many good books to choose from, with so many incredible illustrators, I find myself drooling as I walk through the children’s section of a bookstore! Really, there are amazing books for children, some of them are great stories, some are works of art and most are both. And to make a long answer short, I have way too many favorite authors and illustrators to answer that question!
Hope Is the Word: Thank you so much, Leslie, for taking the time to answer my questions! Your books are definitely at the top of my baby boy’s Christmas wish list!
You’re welcome! Thanks for the interview!