About Me I was born in Washington DC and grew up a few miles away in Falls Church, Virginia. My father was a photographer. When I was little, he took hundreds of photographs of me. My mom liked to make costumes for me on Halloween. She and my father read to me every evening, and I learned the words in books by heart long before I could read them myself. Later, they encouraged me to memorize poems from Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
I wrote and illustrated my first books (comic books) when I was seven. Sometimes I wrote my school reports in rhyme. I also wrote plays and performed them with my friends. Our favorites were tales of Robin Hood, and the Greek myths.
Nursery Tales Around the World, illustrated by Stefano Vitale. Named one of the best books of the 20th century.
The summer after fourth grade I decided to read all the kids’ books in the brand new Falls Church Public Library. I started in the fiction section but I got bogged down by the time I reached the letter D. There were just too many books that were not right for me! The librarian suggested that I switch to the 398 section—the folklore and fairy tales. I loved those books so much that many years later I went to UCLA to get a Ph.D. in Folklore. Some of my books are collections of folklore and folktales.
Before I became an author, I worked as a children’s librarian, and then a children’s entertainer—a puppeteer. I traveled all over the USA, putting on shows with hand puppets and shadow puppets. I also worked on a television show and I visited schools to teach children how to write scripts, make puppets, rehearse, and perform for an audience.
I began creating picture books after I heard a talk by picture book author-illustrator Uri Shulevitz. He told us that a picture book is a small theater. “Right!” I said to myself. “A puppet theater is also a small theater. I know a lot about small theaters, and I should write a picture book!” I did, and it became the first of thirty-five I’ve had published—THE ELEPHANT'S WRESTLING MATCH, illustrated by Brian Pinckney. (It's out of print, but you can read it here, and listen to it here.)
My newest picture book is THE GREAT DICTIONARY CAPER, illustrated by Eric Comstock.This is the story of how the words escape from Noah Webster's Dictionary and run away to LexiCon in Hollyword. They have fun putting on an onomatopoeia parade and getting together with other words like themselves—the action verbs, the anagrams, the archaic words, the rhymers. In the end, when their antics spin out of control, Webster has to coax them back into alphabetical order.
What am I working on now? A prequel to WILD ABOUT BOOKSillustrated (of course) by Marc Brown.
I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband Bob and our dog, Keiko, the book-loving poodle. Keiko is a black-and-white standard poodle. We named her for a splendid orca who once lived at the Oregon Coast Aquarium (Keiko the poodle has an orca-like swoosh on her side). Here is Keiko in the snow at one of her favorite little free libraries.