A few weeks ago, I received a number of questions about Redwoods from students at the JFK Elementary School in Winooski, VT. Here are the questions and the answers that I gave them. Thanks for the great questions, JFK Elementary!
1. I liked the book “Redwoods”. Did you actually go to California to study Redwood trees? And did you plan on becoming an author?
I did go to California to visit the redwood forest. Before writing the book, I knew very little about redwoods. I lived in Brooklyn, and had only read about them in magazines and books. After my publisher agreed to publish Redwoods, I booked a camping trip to Jedidiah Smith Park in northern California. My wife and I camped and hiked for three days and I gathered a lot of visual reference for the pictures in the book, taking photos and doing drawings of the trees. It was a really great trip.
2. When did you become interested in writing books? I liked your story it was so cool.
I became interested in book illustration in high school. I had a mentor who was a very good children’s book illustrator, and she showed me what the life of an illustrator was like. I went to Syracuse University to study art, and when I graduated I started to get small jobs illustrating in magazines. I also got a job at a children’s bookstore, and while I was working there I decided I would really like to illustrate children’s books. I didn’t start writing books until a few years later, and after a few failed attempts at writing fiction stories, Redwoods became my first published book that I both wrote and illustrated.
3. Did you go on the computer and study all about the trees? Or did you just know it and for the last time you’re the best and I have read some of your stories and I liked them all.
Much of what I first learned about the trees initially came from the internet. I find that the internet is a good place to start reading about a subject because there is a lot of general information online (often I start my reading about subjects on wikipedia.com). But I have to be careful because information on the internet isn’t always accurate, so most of my research comes from books and periodicals.
4. Is this you in the book “Redwoods”? Did you go on the internet and find out all of the stuff about the trees?
The character in the book is a version of me (the boy looks a little like me when I was a kid). The idea for Redwoods came to me while I was riding the subway and reading about the scientists who study redwoods. As I read, my imagination took me away, and I saw myself climbing into the canopy, so in a way the book is autobiographical.