Before I had the manual dexterity to draw I entertained people with my Groucho Marx impersonation. Once I was old enough to control how a pencil makes marks on a piece of paper, I diverted my creative energy from Groucho impersonating to drawing.
I always loved to draw. On rainy days I would spend hours doodling — crazy cars, monsters, fighting machines, goofy people — that kind of stuff. In the fifth grade I illustrated a book report on James Fenimore Cooper’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Although it didn’t quite come out as well as N.C. Wyeth’s version, I was very proud when my teacher decided it was of high enough artistic merit to be passed around for the entire class to see! That first experience of illustrating really inspired me.
Soon my love for doodling grew into a serious ambition to be an artist. After high school I attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia where I was awarded the Lewis S. Ware Memorial Travel Scholarship.
After college I embarked on the most challenging and rewarding adventure of my life… being a husband and father of four wonderful children. My career path took a few detours that didn’t always involve working at a job that required writing or making art, but I never stopped writing, drawing, and dreaming. I think it was the experience of fatherhood — and all the picture books I read to my children — that made me start dreaming of being a picture book illustrator and author. In 2001 I began writing children’s stories and working on a picture book portfolio. For many years the only thing I had to show for all this work was a pile of rejection letters a foot-and-a-half high.
In 2008 my dream came true with the publication of my first book, WOOLBUR. It was written by Leslie Helakoski and I did the illustrations. WOOLBUR was a 2008 Book Sense Hot Pick, a Great Lake Book Award finalist, and The Gift of Literacy Oregon Book Choice. It was also nominated for state book awards in Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Nevada, Florida (Honor Book), South Carolina, Nebraska, North Carolina, Arizona, and Washington.
The second book I illustrated, TURKEY TROUBLE, by Wendi Silvano got off to a great start. It sold out of the first printing before even being released and is still very popular, especially around Thanksgiving. The hardcover edition has sold over 50,000 copies and counting. It was selected as an International Reading Association – Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice title for 2010.
In October of 2009 SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! was published by Simon and Schuster. I love all my books in different ways, but SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! holds a special place in my heart. It was my authorial debut, and the story is about one of my favorite activities: sledding with my children! In addition to the hardcover version, in 2016 it was picked up by Scholastics Book Clubs. It’s also available as a book on tape and as an eBook.
LOOKING FOR THE EASY LIFE by Walter Dean Myers came out in 2011. Of all my books, I probably worked hardest on this one. It’s by far my most controversial book. It was a great honor to illustrate for Mr. Myers.
My fifth book, THE EMPEROR’S COOL CLOTHES, came out in the Fall of 2011. The Emperor can never find the perfect outfit until he meets the Rogue brothers, who can make clothes so special that only the coolest people can see them. But what happens when no one in the emperor’s court can see the clothes-and the emperor can’t either? Is no one cool enough or perhaps…there are no clothes to see? This is a funny adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale. This one also made it into Scholastic Book Clubs and is available as an ebook.
My second collaboration with Wendi Silvano TURKEY CLAUS, came out in 2012. Turkey is in trouble. Again. Can Santa save the day? It’s an adventure full of disguises and surprises. It might be the best of the ‘Turkey’ books!
2013 saw the publication of COYOTE, a story I both wrote and illustrated. COYOTE is based on the real events of the morning I learned of my brother Chase’s unexpected death — a morning when I actually saw and rode with a coyote — then returned home to learn that Chase was gone. Retold through the eyes of a child, COYOTE is a gentle and lyrical picture book dealing with the subject of loss. It is my hope that COYOTE will help children talk about loss and to show how art can be used to help heal the hurt of losing someone you love. In Chase’s memory, my wife Krista and I will donate our share of the proceeds to causes that support the families of Newtown. In 2014 we made our first contribution to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation.
TURKEY TRICK OR TREAT my third collaboration with Wendi Silvano was released on August 11th, 2015. Check out my Page 7 1/2 for a behind the scenes peek at the work in progress. Now I think this one might be the best of the ‘Turkey’ books!
As of this writing, I am in the beginning stages of work on my second collaboration with Leslie Helakoski: WOOLBUR GETS READY FOR SCHOOL, which is scheduled for a release date of 2018.
And, as always, more stories are brewing. Stay tuned.
I live and work in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with my family, two cats and one dog. In addition to writing and
illustrating, I love to visit schools.