David Biedrzycki (pronounced… well, see below) grew up on 1960s TV shows, worked in advertising for a lot of years, and then became a children’s book author and illustrator. His published work includes the Ace Lacewing: Bug Detective series, the Me and My Dragon books, and a couple of books about Santa. His latest is called Breaking News: Bear Alert. David was kind enough to answer some questions about how he got his start in children’s books, how dragons are like dogs, and how to pronounce his surname.
BookTrib: First off, how do you pronounce your last name? Whenever I read to my 5-year-old, he wants me to read EVERYTHING, including the author’s/illustrator’s name. We’ve been having fun guessing, but I want to be able to tell him “I asked David, and he said it’s…”
David Biedrzycki: I visited an American school in Tokyo several years ago. The two girls in this picture and their mom put together a little something to help students remember how to pronounce my name. It was spot on.
BT: You mention on the dust jacket of Me and My Dragon that you never had a dragon as a kid, but you did have a dog. I certainly picked up on the dog comparison. Was that at all intentional?
DB: My overall intention for the story was taking my childhood experiences of caring for a dog, but imagining the dog as a dragon. He’s like a dog trapped in a dragon’s body. He likes to ride shotgun, chases after the mailman, licks the boy’s face when he puts a collar on him, and helps the boy finish what he doesn’t like on his dinner plate. Right there, that’s what my dogs did!
BT: The first time I read Bear Alert to my son, I was tired and just read the words on the page (the text runs along the bottom like a news ticker) and we finished rather quickly. My son could tell I was a bit puzzled and told me, “It’s like a comic book!” So we read it again, this time pausing to describe, ask questions and discuss the action happening on each page. I also kept laughing at all of the bear puns scattered throughout. Have you considered either including a note for tired parents that tells them to slow down and discuss each page with their child, or including an answer key indicating all of the bear pun “Easter eggs?”
DB: That’s probably not a bad idea—maybe a link to my website for parents. The first book I illustrated I didn’t hide anything. I saw a kid pick up the book and read it very quickly, not ever stopping to look at the details in the art I spent hours creating. Since then all of my books have something hidden on each page, plus other puns and details you have to look at again and again to see.
BT: What were your influences as a kid, the things that inspired you—either your style of illustration or ideas and creativity in general? What inspires you now?
DB: I grew up in the 60s. What a decade! The space race was on and that captured my imagination. Star Trek and Lost in Space were my favorite shows. I even liked The Jetsons. I thought by the time I was in my 50s I’d be commanding my own starship and cruising the outer reaches of the universe. Things didn’t quite work out that way.
My style and creativity change from decade to decade. Right now what’s really important to me is taking an idea and telling it in a unique way. A picture book involves not only a lot of sketching, but also a lot of thinking. An idea is only an idea until it’s down on paper—that’s when the fun begins.
BT: One last question, on a more personal note. The fact that you mention broccoli gives you gas in Me and My Dragon may be the thing that finally gets my 5-year-old to finally try it. I’ll keep you posted.
DB: Actually it’s Brussels sprouts that give me gas. They were just easier to draw than broccoli.