Steven Kellogg has loved picture books ever since he was a child; the illustrations of Beatrix Potter and N.C. Wyeth were his early favorites. He grew up in Connecticut, drawing constantly and telling stories to his younger sisters. He has written or illustrated, or both, nearly 90 books for children and young people. The most recent book he has illustrated is "The Pied Piper's Magic" (2009).
Previous National Book Festival Appearances
From the 2008 National Book Festival
What sparked your imagination for your newest illustrated writing “The Presidential Pet” in Our White House: Looking In and Looking Out?
As an animal lover and a person who enjoys noticing the diverse ways that people integrate their pets into their lives, I thought it would be interesting to explore our presidents’ variety of pet choices. And then I thought it would be fun to extend the idea of the competitive natures of politicians by presenting the presidents and their animal surrogates in a situation where they were competing for a Best In Show trophy!
What challenges do you face in your writing and drawing process? How do you overcome them? Do you find one more difficult than the other (writing vs. drawing)?
In the writing and drawing process where the goal is to produce a picture book where the visual and the verbal elements intertwine to tell the story, I try to blend the themes that each voice enunciates so that the entire book is as interesting and absorbing as possible.
What artists have inspired you? Are you often inspired by your everyday surroundings or dreams?
I am inspired by many artists: N.C.Wyeth, Aurthur Rackham, Rockwell Kent, and Maurice Sendak to name a few. I am also inspired by my love of nature in all its complex and fascinating variety.
What tips or advice can you share with young students who hope to start writing/illustrating?
Anyone interested in a career as an author/illustrator should practice the core skills of writing and drawing as much as possible, and also observe nature intensely, and analyze and enjoy the writing and artwork of wonderful artists from the past and the present.
Can you suggest a fun writing or drawing topic to get them started?
I think it is helpful to keep a journal, develop a correspondence with friends, and work in a sketchbook as you travel through each day.
How do you decide on themes for your books?
Themes for books suggest themselves in diverse ways, and I try to pay attention to which are the most insistent and compelling in deciding where to commit all the energy and time that a book requires.
What is your list of favorite children or teen books?
My list of favorite books is very long. A few picture book titles are:
- The Amazing Bone by William Steig
- The Judge written by Harve Zemach and illustrated by Margot Zemach
- The Maggie B written and illustrated by Irene Hass
Books where the text carries more of the story are:
- King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis
- Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson illustrated by N.C.Wyeth
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
If you were not writing and drawing, what do you think you would be doing?
If I were not an author/illustrator, I would be a teacher.
What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?
Parents should read aloud to their children every day. They should accompany their kids to the library and explore the shelves with them in search of books they will enjoy reading together. Parents should put a home library of favorite books together over a period of time so that their kids will be able to read them and look at them over and over again – and someday share them with their own kids.