3 Questions and 3 Sentence Starters with Steven Weinberg

Hi, Steven Weinberg! Thank you for dropping by to celebrate Fred and the Lumberjack? How are you going to celebrate Fred and the Lumberjack’s book birthday on September 12?

Steven Weinberg: I plan on sleeping in till about 4 AM and being woken up by my brand new daughter who will be anywhere from four weeks to a few days old. I bet she’ll cry because she’ll be so damn excited it’s the book’s birthday! Or, because her eyeballs have not matured enough to take in all the colors and she’s thrilled to see a lumberjack that’s a girl like her but so frustrated that she can’t actually focus on it. Or maybe because she wants milk. I’m not sure if I’m mentally able to plan beyond that moment.

Why should everyone look under Fred and the Lumberjack’s dust jacket?

Steven Weinberg: Frankly, I think everyone should look under every dust jacket! My fellow illustrators and art directors are in the midst of the best kind of arms race where we keep on trying to make book cases cooler and cooler and cooler.

In this case, I thought it’d be fun to take one of the visual themes of the book: a mildly outrageous amount of red buffalo plaid, and run wild with it. So the book’s case is hand-painted red buffalo plaid. No words. No chainsaws. Just. Plaid.

I really love how tactile kids’ books are. And I really love the image of a kid walking around with a kids’ book she/he feels like is THEIRS. Often this happens once the book has been read about fifty plus times and things are starting to break down. Pages are ripped, dust jackets are long gone, etc. And imagining this scene of a kid potentially dragging around a well-worn copy of my book, I want them to feel like the book is not just containing the story, but actually part of it. Which is kinda the magic of books. Hence all the plaid!

Why are you standing in the middle of a creek? (I had to ask!)

Steven Weinberg: Ha ha! Very good question. Aren’t all author photos like this?

This book came out of the move my wife Casey Scieszka and I made from Brooklyn to the Catskills about four years ago. We said goodbye to bagels, takeout Chinese, and our favorite bookstores, and moved to the end of a dead-end road in the countryside to open a small hotel called the Spruceton Inn: a Catskills Bed and Bar

This new life up in the woods, with a literal beaver as a neighbor, a friend’s 3-year old daughter fearlessly helping us renovate, and lot of time dedicated to chopping wood, inspired this book. Really, every little bit of living up here did. For example, all of the backgrounds in the book are scenes that I see every day around my studio. And basically whenever I’d get stuck with something not feeling right in the story or the pictures, I’d go to the creek behind my house. (Full honesty: usually to fish.) But always to think.
I guess I wanted to show how I work!

Illustration Credit: Steven Weinberg

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are dangerous, in all the best ways. They make life-long readers who think critically about every little thing put in front of them. And those are the kind of people who make the world a better place.

School libraries are the best place in school. (Sorry, teachers!) I always loved the independence I was given there. On the best days, I’d walk through the doors and finally someone was finally treating ME (the kid who would regularly lose his jacket in the winter and talked way too fast) like a grown up. I could take out any book I wanted, work at my own pace, or just draw. I loved it.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why my dog’s name is Waldo? It’s because Where’s Waldo? is probably my favorite kids’ book ever. I should probably also add that it is a HORRIBLE name for a dog who is inclined to run away. I think you know where I’m going with this.

Look for Fred and the Lumberjack on September 12. 


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