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Kids' Q&A

Daniel Kirk

Describe your new book.
My newest book is called Library Mouse. It's about a little fellow named Sam with big ears, gray fur and a tail that lives in a hole beneath a library shelf. He spends every night reading books in the library, and though he never leaves the children's room, he discovers a world of adventure in books that thrills and fascinates him. Sam wonders what it would be like to write and illustrate books of his own. He begins making up stories, creating little mouse-sized books, then putting them on the library shelves. When the people in the library find his homemade books they want to know who Sam is, and how he makes such wonderful books. Sam is shy, yet he finds a way to encourage all the children to try making books of their own. Writing and drawing pictures can be a lot of fun!

I wrote and illustrated the story of Library Mouse. It took about six drafts to get the narrative right, and four months to paint the pictures. It was a pleasure to create my characters and tell my own story, meant to inspire people to be creative. Expressing myself creatively is one of the greatest joys in my life, and I think everyone has a creative side, just waiting to be explored.

  1. Library Mouse
    $9.00 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    Library Mouse

    Daniel Kirk

  2. Cat Power!

    Cat Power!

    Daniel Kirk

  3. Rex Tabby: Cat Detective
  4. Dogs Rule! with CD (Audio)
    $10.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
In Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books, the two characters have a very special friendship. Frog and Toad are always thinking about each other, worrying about each other's feelings, finding fun things to do together, making the most of their experiences. There's an honesty, a spaciousness, a simple magic in their world and in their friendship that's really special to me. I wouldn't want to jump in between Frog and Toad, however. There's only room for two in that relationship!

Describe your most memorable teacher.
My high school art teacher, Mr. Mazzarella, inspired me to become an artist; but he had a funny way of teaching. For example, on the very first day of class we were looking forward to meeting our new teacher. When we filed into our seats and waited for our art lesson, Mr. Mazzarella sat at his desk. For the entire period he just sat there staring at us, and he never uttered a single word. Though at the time we thought he was pretty strange, we later realized that Mr. Mazzarella was trying to get us to see that as artists, we would need to take the initiative, to fill up blank space with our own creativity, to make something out of nothing. He always found methods to get us to stand up for ourselves and find what was inside us that we needed to express through our art. If not for Mr. Mazzarella, I don't think I would have studied art. I might have been a musician or a historian instead!

What was your favorite story as a child?
I had a Little Golden book I loved called Mr. Bear's House. It's about a bear that convinces all the animals in the woods to help him build a house of his own. My dad read me this book a thousand times when I was very little! Later I fell in love with Dr. Seuss, and Bartholomew and the Oobleck became my favorite book. I thought it was really funny that the illustrations were all in black and white, except for the oobleck, which was a bright shade of green.

What do you do for relaxation?
I don't really believe in relaxation unless it's creative. I like to think of life as walking a tightrope, poised and controlled yet at peace, in a way, always full of energy and ready to respond to whatever happens. On a tightrope, it's all about balance and attention.

I love reading, watching movies and going to museums, but I do everything with a part of my mind directed at how I can turn what I experience into something creative of my own. I also love to cook, because I love to eat, and I play guitar because I love writing songs. Being active, not passive, is very important to me.

What is your favorite literary first line?
A while back I made an effort to read all I could find of the classic children's book authors of the 1950's and '60's, and discover what made them special. One of my favorite book-beginnings is by Margaret Wise Brown, in a book called Sailor Dog, and it goes like this:

Born at sea in the teeth of a gale, the sailor was a dog. Scuppers was his name.

I find these lines exhilarating for their construction and language. It's fun to imagine the teeth of a gale, and what they might look like. Accompanied by a great Garth Williams illustration, these lines are a super way to start a story!

Tell us about your pets.
My daughter was sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn, browsing through her e-mail, when a stranger passing by stopped to ask a question. She wondered if the big white bunny nibbling grass at my daughter's feet was her pet. There was indeed a large white rabbit sitting beneath the bench, and there was no owner in sight. My daughter called my wife and I to ask what she should do. If the bunny stayed in the park, it might get eaten by a dog, or hit by a car, so we recommended to our daughter that she take the rabbit to her apartment temporarily, and place notes up around the park to find the owner.

After a week no one had called to report a missing rabbit, so the bunny moved out to New Jersey to live with us. We spent a long time thinking of names that would suit a large rabbit found in a park. Though she looks rather like a loaf of Italian Ciabatta bread when she is sitting by her food bowl, Ciabatta seemed a little complicated for a name. So we call our rabbit Bun Bun, and as long as we feed her cranberries and almonds with her carrots, she doesn't seem to mind that we haven't yet found a more imaginative name.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
I had an idea that I should write a baseball story, though I am not a big baseball fan; I just felt it would be good practice for me. So I read Michael Chabon's book Summerland to see how Chabon combined fantasy and baseball. I found a line in the first chapter that made me understand why people might find baseball so inspiring:

... he had never forgotten, to this day, the way it felt to stand on the top of that small, neat hill of brown dirt, in the middle of a green field, holding onto a little piece of something that could fly.

In context, the ending of this sentence makes the reader look at a common baseball in a new way. An honorable achievement!

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
Recently I read a battered old copy of Stuart Little that my wife had owned as a child. I pulled the book off the shelf of my own library — I've got thousands of kid's books in my studio. I use them for reference and inspiration, and I have thousands more stored away in boxes, that simply won't fit on my bookshelves. I am currently working on a story about a mouse and a bird that are friends, so I went back to Stuart Little to make sure that my story and the one in the book weren't too similar. Luckily for me, they weren't. But while I was reading, I was impressed with the simplicity, the warmth and the very personal way of storytelling that made Stuart Little a classic. Books like this aren't written any more! spacer

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