Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Flight Before Christmas

I thought I'd repost this for anyone who missed it back during the Thirty Poets Thirty Days event in April. Happy Holidays!

The Flight Before Christmas

'Tis the flight before Christmas. Our aircraft today
is a Boeing C-25 JingleBus sleigh.
At this time I would like to say "welcome aboard"
and please ask for all luggage and toys to be stored
in the space by your feet or the overhead sack.
Use caution untying the sack when you pack
as the toys may have shifted about during flight.
Santa gets a bit…dazed by the end of the night.
It's hardly surprising for someone who stares
for twelve hours at eight tiny reinderrières.
Plus the eggnog. Our point is, expect a rough ride,
but in two thousand years not one passenger’s died.
In the likely event of a freefall or dive
there’s an oxygen mask that will keep you alive.
We ask that you first find a mask for yourself–
put it on and pull tight before helping an elf.
Get your safety belt buckled, and keep it that way–
no standing or stretching at all in the sleigh.
Not a soul should be stirring, not even the mice.
Our pilot is quite the flotation device!
If we land in the water, hold onto him tight.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The San Francisco Panorama

Things are going to be pretty dead around here for the next few weeks, but before I leave I wanted to post about something that arrived on my doorstep today–my contributor's copy of the San Francisco Panorama. It's a one-time-only newspaper that was sold on the streets of SF a few days ago. But it's also issue 33 of the McSweeney's Quarterly, and as such it will also be sold for sixteen dollars in bookstores nationwide and through the McSweeney's Store.

This thing is a packed, Sunday-sized newspaper with original reporting, fiction by George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, Stephen King on sports, David Chang on ramen, comics by Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Art Spiegelman, and many more--and a children's games page, called the Rear End, edited by my friend Mac Barnett. He asked some of his favorite writers and illustrators to contribute--Jon Scieszka, Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, Kevin Cornell, Jenny Traig, and Jon Adams--and he and I co-created our own feature called HOW TO SNEAK. So here's that. Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hey You Guys!

My mustache is gone but you can still support and get a get a sweet piece of art to boot at the Hey You Guys charity auction. The auction is live now, and bidding has already started. Prices are still pretty low, though. You could currently grab my portrait of Andre the Giant as Fezzik (lower right) for 54 dollars.

Pictured, clockwise from top left, are works by Israel Sanchez, Dan Santat, me, and Shaunna Peterson.

Why not visit the auction site and see what else they have?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mustache 2009 Wrap-Up

Mustache 2009 from Adam Rex on Vimeo.

Specifically, thanks to Gary and Chris Abbate, Mr. Israel Sanchez, Karen Taha, Michelle, Sarah Slocum, Cathleen McCoy, Anonymous, Joan Sandin, Jessica Olzak-McDonald, Ms Sacha Adorno, Anonymous, David Wiesner, Donna Bray, Nina Crittenden, Darrell Toland, Jacob Johnston, and Chelle Jenkins. And anyone I missed, either now or in an earlier post. Did I miss anyone?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Andre the Giant Has a Portrait

The second annual Hey You Guys charity event is set for December 5th at the Rialto Theater in South Pasedena, CA. There will be an auction of art inspired by family movies of the 80's, and a screening of Ghostbusters. All proceeds benefit Donors Choose, which is incidentally the charity for which I've been growing this damn mustache. So I've painted a little 5x7 portrait of Andre the Giant as Fezzik from The Princess Bride.

If anyone out there attends the event, let me know.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Halfway There

The month is half over, and I'm just two weeks from getting to shave this thing off my face. I think we can all agree it looks like a pair of doormats for my nose. My nose is a duplex in this metaphor.
Anyway, so far we've raised $655, and helped to fully fund two projects. The teachers have written back:
Dear Michelle, Chelle, Andrea and Kathie,
...Thank you so much for reaching out to a group of students whom you've never even met. Please know that in troubled economic times such as these, when educational budgets fall short, it's generous people like you that help us teachers raise up and educate a future generation of leaders, doctors, writers, teachers, etc.
Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
With gratitude,
Mrs. N.

Dear Michelle, Andrea, Sarah, Kelly DiPucchio and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
Thank you for believing in education. Your donation is a tangible reminder to me that there are people "out there" who believe in what I do with my students day after day. Words cannot express what a boost that is for me as a teacher.
...Students from years to come will benefit from having this classroom set of books available to all teachers on our campus.
Your generation is a gift to me as a teacher, to my current students and to students yet-to-come.
With gratitude,
Mrs. A.

Mac, Andrea, and Fox Family,
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Your donations come at a time when I needed the pick-me-up. This week our copy machine was either not working or the paper kept getting jammed, so teacher creativity and frustration took in to play. It's difficult to teach without necessary tools. I so appreciate your donations...

Claudia there hasn't had her needs fully funded yet. Maybe we can help her out? Hers is the project "To See, Or Not To See!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Seven Impossible Thing Before Breakfast

Jules over at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast posts a very nice review of my book with Mac Barnett, Guess Again!. But maybe the important thing to you people out there who don't think I post enough non-mustache-related pictures is that she includes an illustration from said book which I have not shown here on my blog. Well, except as this tiny little thumbnail on the left. Want to see it bigger? Follow the link.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cuddly as a Cactus, Charming as an Eel

And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart mustache grew three sizes that day. And then, the true meaning of Christmas Movember came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches mustaches, plus two!

Sorry I freaked out a few days ago. Since Saturday you and my mustache raised $469.30 for underfunded schoolkids, and we helped to fully fund one of the class projects. Thanks to Don from Arizona, Mac from California, the Fox family from Arizona, Andrea from California, Kelly DiPucchio, Ms. Sarah Rocklin, and big thanks to Michelle from Ely, Minnesota.

Let's keep it going!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I browbeat someone into donating 25 dollars! Thanks, Dad!
So here's another interior illustration from Brixton Brothers #1: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity.

Yes! Steve thought. I look more like a sailor than anyone in this place!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Dark, Mustache-Shaped Cloud on the Horizon

I seem to have hit a snarl with my charitable mustache. As I mentioned previously, last year mustache pledges from you, my readers, contributed $1,165 dollars to underfunded schools. Teachers at those schools received the supplies they asked for, and everyone was happy. I have so far received no new pledges this year. I've been trying to consider arguments as to why someone would not want to donate, and I present these arguments below, with my responses:

I can't see that donation sidebar you keep talking about. A friend told me the same thing. His adblocker was....well, blocking it. Here's the link.

I don't believe the children are our future. Are you kidding me? The children are totally our future. Whitney Houston and I have disagreed on a lot of things (Bobby Brown, cocaine), but we agree on this.

You look like you're doing fine. That sidebar says you've raised over a thousand dollars. That sidebar says we raised over a thousand dollars LAST year. We've yet to raise anything this year. And that money from last year (which helped Philadelphia area students) doesn't mean a thing to the Tucson kids I'm trying to sponsor now.

I don't care about Tucson. I'd rather help kids in my own back yard. If they're literally in your back yard then they're probably your kids. Do they look familiar? If not, they may only need a glass of water and directions. Or maybe you mean metaphorically in your back yard. If so, follow the sidebar link to my giving page. At the bottom of the page is a link to "Search Projects," which you can use to find classrooms in your area.

That mustache looks really fantastic, yet you make it seem like this big hardship. Thank you, but I think it looks terrible. I suspect my wife, who is superficially quite supportive, also thinks it looks terrible. It makes me feel self-conscious and weird. And so, like a walk-a-thon or selling cheese logs door-to-door, it's something unpleasant I'm willing to do for a good cause. If you can think of something more unpleasant and you have a major credit card, name it. Maybe we can work something out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mustache for Kids

EDIT: A friend told me he could not see the donation sidebar on the right due to his adblocker. If you can't see it either, this is the link.

It's that time of year again. During the great month of Movember I and many other men across the globe will selflessly grow mustaches for charity. And look at this picture. I'm not even growing, like, a cool handlebar mustache. I'm growing a Magnum P.I.

So far it's more of a Steve Buscemi.

It's at about this point in the process that I always feel like I've made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE. Please help me stay strong by donating through the sidebar to the right. Your money will help teachers at underfunded schools get the supplies they need.

Last year we raised $1,165. I think we can do even better this year.

The Days of Wine and Cookies

You may know I went on a book tour recently at the behest of Simon and Schuster, and the publisher apparently thought they needed to express their gratitude in some fashion apart from paying for all my food, drink, lodging, and travel for two and a half weeks. So today the UPS man brought me wine and a batch of cookies featuring frosting photos of the Four Guys.

It's quite an existential hall of mirrors, eating a cookie with your face on it. Now I understand how people who look like gingerbread men feel, all the time.

The wine bottle sports a label showing us Guys raising the flag in a manner that's totally not disrespectful to our nation's veterans. Anyway, the bottle was an odd choice, as none of the Guys are big wine drinkers.


Regardless, thanks, S&S! I got all this just in time for breakfast.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Amazon Vine

Recently, Betsy Bird of the School Library Journal blog Fuse #8 posted a critique of the "Vine Program" of customer reviews. For those of you who are unaware of the program, here's how Amazon describes it:

Amazon Vine™ is a program that enables a select group of Amazon customers to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make educated purchase decisions. Customers are invited to become Amazon Vine™ Voices based on the trust they have earned in the Amazon community for writing accurate and insightful reviews. Amazon provides Amazon Vine™ members with free copies of products that have been submitted to the program by vendors. Amazon does not influence the opinions of Amazon Vine™ members, nor do we modify or edit their reviews.

Hardly seems problematic on its face, and I believe that the majority of Vine reviewers are indeed probably "accurate and insightful." But I appreciated Betsy's critique, particularly this quote. Parenthetical notation is mine:

Guess Again! (my book with Mac Barnett) is the straight picture book equivalent of a fractured fairytale, upsetting a reader's expectations, making it hee-larious to kids around the 5-8 year-old age range (I agree with Betsy's age recommendation here, though in the interest of honesty I should point out that the publisher markets it as 4-8). But the Vine program sent the books out to folks with small children who were then shocked SHOCKED when they discovered it wasn't for their tiniest of tiny tots. That would be fine, but then they felt obligated to leave tepid reviews in spite of the fact that they knew perfectly well that their kids weren't the intended audience.

Betsy's post has generated about ten times the comments she could normally expect, and these are mostly from Vine reviewers who feel she's being unfair. I originally thought I should stay out of it, since my book is one of the two examples she uses to explain her position. But that's cowardly.

Amazon reviews (and, presumably, customer reviews in general) have always had a problem with people buying books under false pretenses and then trashing those books for not meeting their ill-informed expectations. The trouble with Vine is that it seems to be institutionalizing these mistakes.

Literally all of the 19 middling-to-poor (3 stars or less) reviews of Guess Again are by Vine reviewers. Of these, a full seven, by my count, base their low rating on the fact that the book failed to appeal to a person for whom it was never intended. In most cases the reviewer was a parent of a 2 or 3-year-old. In one baffling case, the reviewer acknowledged that Guess Again! is a kids' book but explained, "...I am adult and not a 5 year old."

These people are essentially assuming that all clothing is one-size-fits-all, and then grumbling when a grade school uniform is too large for their toddler and too small for their husband.

I hope readers will understand that I do not mind poor reviews if they're thoughtfully written. Kirkus called my novel The True Meaning of Smekday "Inspired but problematic." They felt I'd missed my mark but at least acknowledged that I'd aimed high, and I preferred that review to some which were quite positive but described the book as nothing but a zany romp.

Anyway, the point is probably moot for a number of reasons. Poorly considered customer reviews are unlikely to go away, and they probably have less of an impact on sales than I think–I'm told, despite everything, that Guess Again! is doing all right.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trash Day a Third Time

This week I thought I'd clean out all the old stories I have no intention to use anymore and put them out by the curb. This one is actually a painting from an old story–the first picture book I ever wrote and dummied up in its entirety. It was called Red, and it was sort of a postmodern urban retelling of the classic tale Little Red Riding Hood. I wrote and worked on this in the mid-nineties, and if you remember the picture book market around that time you'll know that the last thing the world needed was another postmodern retelling of a classic story. Needless to say, Red was never published, but I always liked the slow bus I designed for this scene:

I claimed above that I'm pushing all this old stuff to the curb, but the truth is I've recycled this bus design before, in my book Tree Ring Circus.

I hate wasting stuff.

4 Guys Tour Wrap-Up

Nice article over at Publisher's Weekly today about my recent tour with Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and David Shannon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trash Day Again

This week I thought I'd clean out all the old stories I have no intention to use anymore and put them out by the curb. Today's selection is NOT FOR CHILDREN.

A while back I thought it might be a fun writing exercise to use the subject lines of various spam emails I received as a jumping-off point for very short fiction. Then I went on to write only two such pieces. This is one of them AND IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.

Re: bookcase Are you ignoring me? dandelion

Dear Dandelion,

Of course I'm not ignoring you. I've just had a lot on my mind. I'm sorry things haven't been easy lately--I don't know why they haven't. But I thank you for asking me directly. I think we really need to clear the air here in the study, and I'm not talking about the cat boxes.

Although, seriously: could you scoop those? The cats aren't even aiming for the box anymore.

You say you look at me now and see nothing but row after row of books, and every spine turned against you. Be fair---I'm a bookcase. You knew that when you met me. When you met me that summer Sunday at Ikea.

It was like something from a movie: a blond, firm-shelved bookcase named Billy catches the eye of the young Dandelion, who aches to fill the emptiness of her first off-campus apartment. I know I'm not high class. I know I was a bit of a do-it-yourself project in the beginning, but all you saw was potential. Do you remember installing the optional glass and wood veneer frame hinged doors? With help from your roommate who smells like garlic all the time? I remember the first time you opened my doors. You used to open them all the time.

I guess that's it. I just don't feel like you've needed me much lately. I know you're busy, with school and all. Hell, it could be worse. I could be with someone who doesn't even have books. I could be nothing but someone's entertainment center, holding up a fucking TV right now. And I know nobody's going to want sloppy seconds with a cheap piece of ash pressboard from Ikea. You could probably put me out on the street right now and I wouldn't be able to give myself away. I'm yours.

Look, we'll get through this. I'm sorry I've been so distant. I only ask that you give me a dusting now and then. Maybe a good polishing on our anniversary.



Monday, October 26, 2009

Trash Day

This week I thought I'd clean out all the old stories I have no intention to use anymore and put them out by the curb. Here's one, on a topic about which I had no business writing, given that I have no kids of my own.


It was the two hundredth day of the two thousandth year when the orange lightning crashed and Minotaur Baby was born.
He came out backwards, so his head was Very Surprising. The doctor wrapped him in a blanket of breathtaking blueness, and handed him to Father.
“Oh,” said Father, looking down into Baby’s inky eyes. “He doesn’t look like I thought he would.”
“They never do,” said Mother.
“It’s just...” said Father, “I didn’t realize we’d have a Minotaur Baby.”
“No one ever does,” Mother said.

They brought the Great and Heroic Minotaur Baby home to the castle. They fed him milk and honeyed peaches, and burped his strong back. They put him to bed, but he would not sleep, and he mooed for forty days and nights.
His moo was like a beautiful car alarm.
“It’s hard,” said Father, “when you have a Minotaur Baby.”
Mother nodded. “No one has ever had it so hard.”

On his second birthday, Minotaur Baby magically transformed into Monkey Monkey Baby. With two heads he could cry and ask questions at the same time. He could Talk and Talk. With the speed of a rabbit and cunning of a fox, he could knock over lamps and put a sandwich in the stereo. Swift, clever Monkey Monkey Baby.
“Sometimes...” said father, “...sometimes I wish our baby was still a Minotaur Baby.”
Mother nodded, and cleaned up the pudding.

Years passed, and Monkey Monkey Baby turned into Perfectly Normal Boy. Boy played sports and liked to draw. He learned a great many things in school. Sometimes he was bull-headed, and sometimes he got into monkey business, but mostly he was normal. Perfectly Normal Boy.
"It'll all be easy from now on,” said Father. Mother agreed, and they both nodded and smiled, because they had never done this before.

On his sixteenth birthday, Perfectly Normal Boy began changing into 300 Pound Werewolf. He grew hair where there had been no hair before. He could be mean and moody, and didn’t like being around Mother and Father. He liked to howl, and he liked to run in packs of other Werewolves. Sometimes he was still Perfectly Normal, but mostly he was a 300 Pound Werewolf.
When he was eighteen, and his parents could stand it no longer, 300 Pound Werewolf went to live in another town. Mother and Father made sure he knew how to get there. And they made sure he knew how to get back, too.

While he was away, he stopped turning into a Werewolf. He grew and grew, and became a Giant. He was strong as a forest and smart as a library. And he was Homesick.
As he drove home to visit Mother and Father, he wondered what they’d talk about. He was so different from them, after all.

But his parents were giants, too. He hadn’t remembered.

“I’m sorry I used to be a werewolf sometimes,” said the Giant.
“That’s okay,” said Mother. “We always loved you.”
“Even when I was a two-headed monkey?” asked the Giant.
“Even when,” Father said.

One day the Giant fell in love with a beautiful Giantess, and they got married. Soon, there was a baby on the way.
“I hope he has your eyes,” said the Giant to his wife.
“I hope he has your smile,” said the Giantess to her husband.
And they hoped and they hoped.
But they had a Minotaur Baby anyway.

Frequently Asked Questions 5

When did you start drawing?

This is in sort of the same category as “Where do you get your ideas?”–it’s one of those questions everyone asks, maybe without really knowing why. From now on when someone asks “When did you start drawing?” I expect I’ll steal Shaun Tan’s excellent answer:

“When did you stop?”

Nearly all kids draw for fun, and their drawings tell stories. We all start out as illustrators, and we all start at about the same age–as soon as we can work a crayon. Most people quit at about the same time too, in their tween years somewhere. I don’t know why people stop–are they distracted by organized sports or hobbies or the opposite sex? Do they stop simply because they aren’t good enough, and in these years we all abandon those activities at which we don’t already excel? I’m asking.

Anyway, Tan’s is the only response that makes sense for a question to which we all already know the answer. It makes sense because it answers the secret question inside the question–“Why can you draw when I can’t?” Because you stopped and I didn’t. This is also why I can’t play guitar or throw a Frisbee.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ends

Just saw Gogol Bordello for the second time last night. Is there any better live act? They're like human muppets. It's like Animal left Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem to front his own band.


Previously I shared some art and sketches from The Brixton Brothers #1: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by me. One of my favorite things about the bound book, however, is the endpapers. Click to enlarge.

It's my intention that each successive Brixton Brothers book with have a new endpaper vignette.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Animal Act 2

More combination animals. Once again, these were drawn on tour on big pads of paper with Sharpies, based on animal suggestions taken from the audience. Then the kids usually named their creature, and I usually suggested it should be their new school mascot.
Reaction to this suggestion of mine was varied. Some kids embraced the idea (probably understanding that it was a joke and that in a day or two everyone would forget all about it), other kids folded their arms and essentially said, "No, we're satisfied being the Wildcats actually, thanks."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SLC Puppets

Oh wow. Courtesy of Ben Esch I just found out about this Salt Lake City Library puppet adaptation of my picture book, Pssst! Consider going to YouTube and watching it in high quality, I think it's worth it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Animal Act

I thought I'd share some drawings I made throughout California and Arizona.

It's become a regular shtick of mine to ask audiences of kids for animal suggestions and then combine said animals into a hideous chimera for their amusement. Then I frequently invite the kids to name it. Here are a few. I'll show more later.

A girl named the fellow below "Chow Chow." It's on the tag.

No name for the last one, but notable for being the only time I've been asked to draw a bearded dragon. Mac had to pull up a little jpeg of one on his iPhone for reference.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Photo From My Recent Tour

From left to right: Me, some guy I don't know, Spike Jonze, Max Records with a box on his head, Daniel Handler, some guy I don't know wearing a crown.
Photo from Angela Petrella, who got it from someone else.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tucson Appearances

Just a quick note to warn anyone who was planning to come to my UofA appearance this morning that it's been cancelled. But Mac and I will still be at the Borders on Broadway at 2pm.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Half Minute Horrors

Halloween is coming, and there's a great new book out to celebrate the season–Half Minute Horrors. I can say it's a great new book without conceit because, even though I have a one-page comic in it, a whole lot of other people have stories and comics as well. Just look at some of these other people: Neil Gaiman, Brett Helquist, Margaret Atwood, Lemony Snicket, Lane Smith, R.L. Stine, James Patterson...and to say that the list goes on and on is something of an understatement here.

And it's a great book because it's published in partnership with First Book, a nonprofit that puts books in the hands of children from low-income families.

Go look for yourself at There you can read some of the stories, learn more about the book, and LEAVE A SHORT STORY OF YOUR OWN FOR OTHERS TO READ.

My contribution to Half Minute Horrors is an illustrated version of this.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Mystery of the Unfinished Cover

Thought I'd share some of the preliminary sketches I completed for The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, which is officially published today!

Even though Amazon has been shipping it for weeks.

As you can possibly see, we were toying around with another figure here–a female librarian either commanding the commandos or trying to fell Steve Brixton with a dart gun. I thought it was getting too busy and pushed to remove her. Hope I made the right decision.

Another Tour Reminder

Adam will be appearing with David Shannon, Mac Barnett, and Ambassador Jon Scieszka at Yellow Book Road today at 4pm:

Yellow Book Road
7200 Parkway Dr. Suite 118
La Mesa, CA 91942

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Tour Video...

...over at Guys With Books, our official tour blog.

Event in La Jolla

Adam will be appearing with Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and David Shannon at Warwick's Monday, October 5th at 5pm.

7812 Girard Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kind of Last Minute Tour Reminder

Adam and the other three guys will be at the Leroy Haynes Center at 233 Baseline Road in La Verne, California at 1pm today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Inexplicable Tour Moment #1

So we're doing a 4 Guys event at a school which will remain nameless, and right before things get underway we find a pair of glasses on the stage. As the only bespectacled Guy on the tour I am especially concerned.

After our presentation I approach a teacher as he leads his class out of the auditorium. This teacher looks as if he's changing very slowly from Antonio Banderas into Keith Richards, and I've caught him at a sort uncomfortable middle stage where he hasn't the charms of either. But I tell him I've found a pair of lost glasses, and he looks at me for a good long moment. Then he looks at the glasses, and back to me again.

"Do you want me to crush them?" he asks.

Under different circumstances a question like this might have thrown me, but I've already completed a few school visits and am already in the sort of headspace required to roll with the often Dadaist questions of six and seven year-olds.

"No, actually," I answer, "I thought there might be some sort of lost and found."

Antonio Richards grunts and nods, as if reluctantly acknowledging this mysterious troubadour and his unfamiliar but equally valid non-glasses-crushing ways. He thanks me and takes the glasses, and ten minutes later I'm wondering if the whole episode really happened, and whether it might make for a decent blog post.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Brixton Brother(s)

On this tour Mac and I have started talking about Mac's forthcoming mystery novel, which I illustrated: The Brixton Brothers #1: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity. I'll be posting some art from the interiors in the coming weeks, as the book is officially released on October 6.

But yesterday we got word of a great review posted by Betsy Bird at her School Library Journal blog, Fuse#8. She really gets how funny and amazing Mac's novel is, and she posts a cavalcade of videos and supporting links, too. You know, the sort of thing I'd do myself if I weren't so lazy.

Anyway, here's the novel's cover, sans type. Painted in Photoshop on a Wacom, natch. Click to make big.

Another Tour Reminder

Mac Barnett, Jon Scieszka, David Shannon, and I will all be here tomorrow:

*All Four Guys
Crescenta Valley High School
Robot Zot/ Guess Again party!
Crescenta Valley High School Auditorium (entrance on Ramsdale)
2900 Community Avenue, La Crescenta, CA 91214

If you want to find out what all four of us guys are getting up to on the tour, visit our official tour blog, GUYS WITH BOOKS.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Tour Reminder

Hi, just a reminder that Mac Barnett and I will be visiting the Mission Inn Book Conference in Riverside, CA tomorrow, September 26th. Then it's off to Los Angeles to meet up with Jon Scieszka and David Shannon.

If you want to find out what all four of us guys are getting up to on the tour, visit our official tour blog, GUYS WITH BOOKS.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions 4

Where do you get your ideas?

I guess all creative types get this question, to such an extent that it’s become a cliché. Kids don’t know it’s a cliché, though, so I try to answer it as best I can: I get my ideas in the same way you get yours–they’re a product of everything I’ve ever seen and heard and thought and felt. They’re influenced by books I read, things I watch, conversations I’ve had or even just overheard. I think the trick is not in worrying about your next idea so much as just having your arms open to it when it arrives. It’ll come around the mountain when it comes.

I believe there are unspoken questions that people are really asking when they ask “Where do you get your ideas,” however. I think the adults in particular are usually asking, “How come you can write a book and I can’t?”

Usually the answer is simply, “Because I’ve tried and you haven’t.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by people who want to know how they can become a writer for kids too, and I ask,

“What have you written?”

and they answer,

“Nothing yet,”

and I have to tell them

“Well, try writing a little more than that.”

To those who have already tried to write and think they’ve failed, you might be interested to know that I didn’t finish the first story I tried to write either, or even the fifteenth. Maybe that’ll help, I don’t know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big Fall Tour

Later this week I leave for the start of a big fall tour, in which Mac Barnett and I (and, at many appearances, Jon Scieszka and David Shannon, too) will be traveling and attending events throughout California and Arizona.

I'll be posting reminders and updates about specific events as their time draws near, but here's an overview of the public appearances:


Mac and I will be visiting the Mission Inn Book Conference in Riverside, CA

*All Four Guys
Crescenta Valley High School
Robot Zot/ Guess Again party!
Crescenta Valley High School Auditorium (entrance on Ramsdale)
2900 Community Avenue, La Crescenta, CA 91214


Mac, Jon, David, and I will visit
9301 Tampa Avenue
Northridge, CA 91324

Mac, Jon, David, and I will visit another
125 West Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360


Mac, Jon, and I will visit a
Barnes & Noble
6050 El Cerrito Plaza
El Cerrito, CA 94530


Mac and I will visit
Copperfield’s Bookstore
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA 94952


Mac, Jon, David, and I will visit the
Leroy Haynes Center (sales through Mrs. Nelson’s Bookstore)
233 Baseline Road
La Verne, CA 91750



Mac, Jon, David, and I will have an In-store signing at
7812 Girard Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037


Mac, Jon, David, and I will take part in
Office Max Day/ A Day Made Better donation
Location: 1844 South 40th Street
San Diego, CA 92113


Mac and I will appear at
Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 South McClintock
Tempe, AZ 85283


Mac and I will appear at
Barnes & Noble
21001 N. Tatum Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85050


Mac and I will appear at
University of Arizona WALK (Wildcats Advocating Reading and Literacy) reading
*On the first Saturday of each month, typically 100-150 parents and their young children (2-5 years old) for Storybook Character Hour. *

Mac and I will visit a
5870 East Broadway Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85711

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Think Your Cover Concept's Approved? Guess Again.

My new book, Guess Again!, written by Mac Barnett, is now on sale. Check out these previous posts to learn more about it.

Finding the right cover for Guess Again! turned out to be more challenging than anyone expected, and a while back I thought I might, on this day, begin a multi-post series describing that process. But I don't think I have the strength. So I'm just dumping nearly every cover sketch I submitted to Mac and our editor in one ungainly post.

We always intended to have some sort of surprise associated with the cover–some funny dissonance between what you thought you were looking at and what you discovered once the cover was opened. So most of these are presented in pairs–cover on the left, inside page on the right.

I welcome questions, as even I have a hard time understanding what some of these were about anymore.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eliot Calls Our Bluff

You may already be familiar with my book Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, written by Mac Barnett, in which a boy's parents send away for a blue whale and give it to him as a punishment. Under the book's jacket we printed instructions for how to send away for you own blue whale. Recently Mac Barnett received this letter:

Keep checking your mailbox, Eliot.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Early Work 4

Yet another example of my early work–my first picture book, if you will, dictated and illustrated when I was five. Presented with editorial comments.
Click to enlarge.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions 3

Oh, you’re an author? Would I know any of your books?

Well, that depends. My audience is primarily children. Do you have any children? If you don’t have children then chances are the only kids’ books you can name are Where the Wild Things Are (didn’t write it) and a few by Dr. Seuss (not him). In fact, I dread this question because even if you have children chances are good that you’ve never heard of any of my books, so you’re not going to recognize their titles, and then you’re going to get that embarrassed look on your face like you’ve caught me in a lie, like I’ve just claimed to be an actor when what I really am is a tour guide at Old Tucson and second understudy to Rum Tum Tugger in a community theater production of Cats.

But that’s fine, go ahead and insist that I tell you some of my book titles. Preface this by telling me that you’ll probably know them because you “read everything.” What you undoubtedly mean is that you read a lot, or possibly that you read a significant portion of the bestseller list. I’m pretty sure you don’t actually “read everything” because even if you restricted yourself to mass-market American adult fiction you’d still have to read a novel every thirty-five minutes.

I swear I’m going to start doing this to other people: “Oh wow, you’re an accounts manager for a medical equipment manufacturer? I love medquip manfac! I know all the companies–which one’s yours?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guess Again!

He steals carrots from the neighbor's yard.
His hair is soft, his teeth are hard.
His floppy ears are long and funny.
Can you guess who? That's right! My

Grandpa Ned.

From Guess Again!, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex. Available September 15th.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions 2

Can I get you a water?

No. Thank you, but no. This is my fault–I have a bottle of water already, and I should have put it in plain view. I understand from past appearances that if I don’t put my water in plain view you or someone else on your staff will continue to offer me some every couple of minutes until I either leave or say yes. You’re just trying to be hospitable, I know. You want to do something for me. An author in your library/bookstore/school is an apparition that’s equal parts magical and awkward, like a whale on a beach. And, like a beached whale, I am presumed to be vulnerable and in need of constant hydration.

I didn’t like how much bottled water I was drinking, so I bought this reusable bottle. Yes, it is shaped like a flask but no, it’s still water. The flask shape just happens to fit the pouches of my bag and if necessary, of course, my hip pocket. But isn’t it playful? Seeing this flask out in the open and so close to your children? It says that I’m one of you, that I do not spend every moment of my days in a child’s garden of verses–that I’m less Fred Rogers and more Shel Silverstein, but without all the whoring.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions 1

Is there anything special you need during your visit?

I’m usually thankful for an easel and a big pad of paper. If the event in question is the sort of thing at which I could show slides, I like to have a digital projector on hand. Sometimes I’m asked about less practical things, however. Sometimes I’m asked if I have any sort of weird, non-negotiable contract riders like a certain thread count to my hotel sheets or a single ostrich feather for book-signing.

I got on this topic once with a library that was hosting me for a reading and signing on Dr. Seuss’s birthday. I no longer remember if I was just trying to be funny and broached the subject on my own, or if maybe the library started it by asking if I needed a bowl of all-green M&Ms or a bowl of everything but green M&Ms or whatever. How did green M&Ms become the yardstick of celebrity dressing-room excess? I Google it and find the legend attributed to Van Halen on one website and Aerosmith on another. Probably neither is true. Anyway, to the library I believe I answered that color was immaterial but that I wanted M&Ms with the “m” on each candy to be replaced with the Greek letter “pi”, and also a dozen live doves.

These kinds of events are generally booked weeks or even months in advance, so by the evening of Dr. Seuss’s birthday I’d forgotten all about the conversation. They anticipated this and had a copy of our last email exchange attached to the bags of custom M&Ms they gave me. It seems Mars Incorporated could not, at the time, put the letter “pi” on an M&M, but they could print “3.14…” They could print it on each and every green oblate spheroid.

It was all a very nice gesture, but it made me sensitive to where these sorts of careless jokes can lead. So now I just ask for the doves.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Book

Who's on Captain Gluebeard's shoulder?
Gold is gold. That feather's golder.
Got a guess? It's time to share it.
It's Polly! She's the pirate's


From Guess Again!, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex. Available September 15th.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mail Call 2: They Make the Totally Difference Quality Taste

Got a package recently from Team Boov (previously) in Florida. They actually sent this stuff to me a while ago, but they unknowingly sent it to my old address, so I hope they all decide to check up on my blog eventually and see this post.

Included was a "really classy shirt," an artistic interpretation of a Boov in Philly, and a flyer for what they presume to be a Boovish restaurant. I give my full endorsement to all of these claims.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty is 3

And to celebrate they've put up a lot of art. Those of you who've visited CNLT before know that it's a blog kept by four kids of various ages (Elijah, Lily, Gracie, and Isaac) and their dad (Aaron Zenz), as a place for the kids' art. A fair amount of the art they post is inspired by books they read, so for the blog's third birthday Aaron thought it would be fun to ask some illustrators to create images inspired by the kids' art. CNLT fan art.
I'm proud to say those kids have posted pictures inspired by at least one of my books in the past. I've already blogged about it before. But I thought it would be overly self-indulgent of me to create fan art of their fan art of one of my books. Because what if one of them decided then to create fan art of the fan art of the fan art, and then the universe collapsed into an infinitely dense referential singularity. So I chose this one instead, by Gracie:

Click here to see more.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Early Work 3

Another bit of early work–another Santa, even, drawn two years after the last one. Again presented with editorial comments.
Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alaska Again

Okay, so I know you don't come here looking for photos of my recent trip to Alaska. Or maybe you do. If you do, go here.

But I don't want to drop the subject entirely without showing a group who came to see an evening teen/adult program I presented. They arrived wearing homemade Boov t-shirts and brought me one as well.

I present them here, along with some of the librarians who made my trip possible.
Click to enlarge.

And for those of you who're wondering when I'm going to get back to posting some art, here are some people I sketched while sitting in a Seward, Alaska coffee shop called The Sea Bean: