An Evening with Author/Illustrator DAV PILKEY


How does an evening with children’s author Dav Pilkey begin? (well,after waiting in a looooong line wrapping all the way around Headquarters library…)

Waiting for Captain Underpants

Waiting for Captain Underpants

With, of course, a loud “Tra-la-laaaa!” yelled in unison by all the kids (and many of the parents) in the audience. It’s Captain Underpants’ typical call to action.

I had the fun opportunity to be part of this attentive and rambunctious crowd last night at the St. Louis County Library’s Author Event, celebrating the release of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT. (# 12 in the series)

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants



Dav Pilkey, who will have 60 books to his credit with 2016’s THE ADVENTURES OF DOG MAN, has revolutionized reading for boys especially. USA Today called him the “savior of the reluctant reader.” His short, graphic chapter books with their silliness, fast pace, and bathroom humor are a perfect fit for young readers. The kid-friendly author creates his tales based on his own elementary school experiences.

The Adventures of Dog Man

The Adventures of Dog Man

As a child who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia, he understood the power of pictures to tell a story. Even though he often found himself doing hallway detention for drawing in class, he couldn’t resist making more clever comics—to the delight of his fellow students and the dismay of his teachers.

“Underwear is not funny!” said Mr. Pilkey’s second grade teacher. “Grow up!” she cautioned him. “You can’t spend the rest of your life making silly books!”

Drawing favorite characters

Drawing favorite characters

Oh, how little she knew, and how very far Mr. Pilkey has enriched young readers with the delights of his underwear crew.

Some of his other titles include:

The Ricky Ricotta Series 

Dog Breath

Paper Boy

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk

Super Diaper Baby



Nowadays, the author prefers drawing in more natural spots, like along the beach in Japan when visiting his wife’s family. But even there, he still suffers criticism—from some monkeys that is. Mr. Pilkey shared a video of himself at work sketching, while several monkeys attempted to confiscate his pens and offer vocal commentary on his work-in-progress.

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics




At the end of his presentation last night, Mr. Pilkey made a point about perseverance. He showed a picture of a scowling egg and a happy potato in boiling water. “Don’t let adversities overcome you,” he said. “Rather use them to build on. In boiling water, a potato softens but an egg becomes hard.”



Many young readers in the crowd wore red capes, similar to Captain Underpants. On back of the capes was the message, “Reading is Power!” Thanks, Mr. Pilkey, for enhancing children’s literature with your comic characters and delightful illustrations and proving that strong reading muscles really do rock!

Writing and Drawing

I’m in the middle of revising one of my fantasy novels. This one involves fairy tale characters, so there has to be at least one castle, right? And a giant and…yeah, lots of fun characters and settings.

When one of Rich Davis‘ drawing posts came into my mailbox last week, it reminded me how fun the illustrations will be for this story I’m working on. Too bad I’m not a super illustrator like Rich. But with his step-by-step instructions, most anyone can become an artist.

Here’s the link to his “Draw a Castle.”  I hope you’ll give this picture a try–or try one of the other drawing lessons on Rich’s site.

As you can see below, I truly do have a CASTLE in my very own backyard. And a friendly GIANT lives there. He loves to go sledding with the children who drop by. 🙂

More GAP Illustrators and Authors

Here are the last of the Guardian Angel Publishing photos taken at the Borders book signing last weekend.
Author and illustrator of GILLY THE SEASICK FISH, Susann Batson is busy autographing books as author Donna Shepherd looks on. Donna’s latest picture book, BRADYBUG, is illustrated by Kit Grady–the illustrator of two of my Pet Grammar Books, DOGGIE DAY CAMP and HAMSTER HOLIDAYS.

K.C. Snider, illustrator of a variety of books like THE MAGIC VIOLIN by Mayra Calvani, stands next to Marilee Crowe, author of DOWN BY THE SHORE. The beautiful photos in this poetic gem were created by MarySue Roberts, the illustrator for my picture book, GIFTS FROM GOD.

What a fun event, hanging out with such a creative crew.

Illustrators & Highlights Hidden Picture

As promised, here are a couple more photos from the Guardian Angel Publishing events last weekend.

These two pictures show illustrators, Jack Foster and Eugene Ruble, in action.
Jack is demonstrating his drawing techniques for the eager audience. He’s showing them how he developed the characters in Donna Shepherd‘s POODLE AND DOODLE picture book.
Eugene is creating on-the-spot cartoon portraits of lucky kids. Eugene captured each child’s likeness in a flash. And what fun the kids had posing and then seeing themselves come to life in pencil.

All this was happening at the St. Louis Children’s Illustrated Art Museum last Friday.

While we’re on the subject of art, why not pull up this month’s Highlights Magazine Hidden Picture and challenge yourself to see how many objects you can find. Maybe you’ll want to try your own hand at a little illustration as well.

Have fun!

Borders Book Signing

14 authors and illustrators from Guardian Angel Publishing came together on Saturday at the South County Borders in St. Louis for a mega-event. What a fun celebration of children’s literature!

Thanks to publisher Lynda Burch for making it all happen. And thanks to all the amazing authors and illustrators who traveled from across the United States to “meet me in St. Louis.” It was great to get to know them and share our stories.

I’ll share more pictures of the two-day events, but for right now here is a picture of me with two of my Pet Grammar Parade books.

Book Events

A number of Guardian Angel Publishing authors and illustrators will be in St. Louis today and tomorrow.
This afternoon from 1:00-4:00 pm, they will be hosting a series of activities at the Children’s Illustrated Art Museum in Crestwood Mall.
Tomorrow from 11:00-1:00, they will all be signing books at Borders at South County Mall.

Please stop by for a visit if you can.

Fun New Reads

Although it gets rather crazy this time of year, I have been able to read some new picture books. A few I really enjoyed–both for the stories and the illustrations–are listed below:

THE ODD EGG by Emily Gravett/ Simon & Schuster, 2008.
I love the softly drawn animals–who all have an egg, “except for Duck.”
Duck finds a special egg and proceeds to hatch it, despite the hoots from the others.
The book has some fold-and-reveal flaps which young readers will enjoy.
And when Duck’s egg finally does crack, everyone is in for a surprise.
ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon/ illustrated by Marla Frazee/ Beach Lane Books, 2009.
Even though this is not a Christmas book per se, its message is the Christmas message of “hope and peace and love and trust.”
This is a lyrical book, with an unassuming rhyme and easy flow, as writeen by Ms. Scanlon.
I was already a fan of the illustrator, Ms. Frazee–who I’ve had the privilege of meeting.
She creates lush pages, splashed with color and life.
This would be a sweet present to find beneath the tree for most anyone.
YUMMY: EIGHT FAVORITE FAIRY TALES by Lucy Cousins/ Candlewick, 2009.
I’m a fairy tale fan from once upon a time, and this new collection–written and illustrated by Ms. Cousins–presents easy to read stories with bright, bold pictures sure to capture young readers’ interest.
I shared this book with a second grade student, and he thoroughly enjoyed reading three of the eight tales–we ran out of time for more.
Too many young readers are not given adequate exposure to the richness and fun of classic fairy tales. Thanks, Ms. Cousins, for creating this wonderfully magic tale collection.
Reading with the children in your life is the best gift you can give them.
Have fun!

Illustrator Floyd Cooper in St. Charles

I had the great opportunity yesterday to see illustrator, Floyd Cooper, in action at the Missouri SCBWI conference in St. Charles. The award winning illustrator demonstrated his unique style of erasing–using a kneaded eraser to create the underpainting for his works of art. Somehow Mr. Cooper was able to create a quick portrait for us as he talked, the microphone in one hand and the eraser in the other, as he worked with the paper virtually upside down to his perspective. It was amazing, but then he is a Coretta Scott King Award winning illustrator.

He is the illustrator for MEET DANITRA BROWN by Nikki Grimes, whom I met a couple years ago at a writers’ workshop. What an incredible combination of words and art!

Interview with KIT GRADY

Today the talented illustrator for DOGGIE DAY CAMP: VERB AND ADVERB ADVENTURESKIT GRADYis featured in an interview by children’s author, Shari Lyle-Soffe.

Kit shares some insights into her creative world.

by Shari Lyle-Soffe

Shari: Does an illustrator have more than one style of illustrating? How do you decide which style to use in children’s book illustrations?

Kit: I think an illustrator’s style is somewhat consistent once they settle into their illustrative skin,- meaning it is like one’s handwriting and there may be differences, yet it could still be picked out from the handwriting of someone else. But like writing, I Illustrate in different techniques depending on the age of my audience and type of story. Illustrators have many tools to use to create the mood/atmosphere for their books. Line widths, types of lines, colors, realistic styles and /or whimsical approaches are just a few things an artist considers when they are assigned a manuscript.

Shari: What do you wear while you are illustrating?
Kit: I get maybe, too comfortable when I work. Give me a pair of jeans, warm shirt and always my L.L. Bean soft bedroom shoes and I am ready to tackle those awaiting illustrations.
Shari: Where do you like to work?
Kit: When I am sketching or writing, you will find me on the porch watching the squirrels trying to eat all the bird food out of the feeder. But later I will scan those sketches into my computer and work until completed with my drawing tablet on photoshop. From my window in my studio room I have a humming bird feeder so I can watch the humming birds fight with the yellow jackets for their food. It is a wonder I get anything done with all this going on.

Shari: What do you munch on while drawing?

Kit: I usually will be drinking coffee at my desk with a few animal cookies. I try to behave and not nibble all day.

Shari: Tell us about your children’s books.
Kit: I have just completed my 6th children’s book. My first picture book I wrote and illustrated, was for Windswept House Publishers. This book, Jiggsy’s Necklace, may be coming out in an animated form soon. I followed it with an educational leveled reading book by Kaeden Books–Just One More, Mom in 2006. Last year I illustrated two books for private authors and was honored to join the Collier Creative Group. This year I joined Guardian Angel Publishing and have illustrated two books. Flutterbunnies by Mel McIntyre and Doggie Day Camp by Cynthia Reeg. I have a few projects in early stages.
Shari: I have seen your artwork and it is delightful. Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works, and see your illustrations?

Kit: Yes, Please visit me at

Shari: What’s your favorite children’s book of all time?
Kit: Can I have a combination of two? First “The Little Engine that Could” for the determination we all need as writers and illustrators -and “The Velveteen Rabbit” because it is magical.
Shari: What is the best advice on writing/illustration you’ve ever heard?

Kit: Writing, and illustration both need time when their done to rest. When you go back later and revisit you will see it with new eyes.

Shari: Why are picture books so difficult to write?
Kit: Many think children’s books are just adult books dummied down. Which they are not. It is much harder to cut, edit and rework for the shorter word count and still say it just right, to a watchful young audience.

Shari: In closing, what would you like to tell our readers?
Kit: If you are a writer or artist with a dream, continue to study, practice and learn all you can of this wonderful field. Don’t give up.


I’m very pleased and excited to tell you that DOGGIE DAY CAMP: VERB AND ADVERB ADVENTURES, the second book in Guardian Angel Publishing’s The Pet Grammar Parade Series, will be coming out soon. DOGGIE DAY CAMP explores verbs and adverbs with Bubba the dog.

Kit Grady created the amazing illustrations for the book. And like the first book in this series, KITTY KERPLUNKING: PREPOSITION FUN, this book also provides a study guide and lots of great activities. Already the teachers who have seen book love it and plan to use it in their classrooms.

Here is a clip from one review, Doggie Day Camp: Verb and Adverb Adventures is not only an entertaining story, but also an excellent resource to introduce grammar concepts to young readers and reinforce the use of verbs and adverbs to older readers. I’m looking forward to more books in Cynthia Reeg’s grammar series.– Kelly Secrease, 6th Grade Language Arts
Nettleton Intermediate Center
Jonesboro, Ar.