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Timothy Basil Ering has illustrated numerous books for children of all ages, and he is the illustrator and author of the popular picture books "Necks Out for Adventure!" and "The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone," which has been adapted for the stage. Ering is also the illustrator of the Newbery Award-winning "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo. It has been published in many languages and was made into a motion picture. He also recently illustrated "Finn Throws a Fit!" by David Elliott and he is the illustrator of Marilyn Nelson's "Snook Alone" (Candlewick). He is a contributing illustrator of the serialized story called "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure," available exclusively on the Library of Congress website at Ering lives in Massachusetts.

Previous National Book Festival Appearances

The Scoop

From the 2010 National Book Festival

Most recently, you illustrated Snook Alone. What sparked your imagination for your illustrations?

Travel. My love of fishing and adventure has led many times to travel to really wild places to catch really cool fish. When I was in the Navy, I sailed on a huge aircraft carrier to places very far away, even Africa. And then later with my dad, on a 30-foot sailboat, we sailed to awesome islands all over the Caribbean. It was from all these memories of exploring islands and trudging through mangroves and snorkeling gorgeous and wild reefs that I drew from. Also. Loving memories of our family dog Caesar from childhood were big inspirations. He was our best buddy and I miss him very much just as Snook missed Abba Jacob in the story.

Can you tell us about your experience illustrating for the Exquisite Corpse Adventure?

I loved the diversity of styles of both the writing and the illustrations. It was exciting to be able to create illustrations for completely different authors that were all a part of creating one big adventure story. I challenged myself to try to create a different approach to each episode I illustrated. Different degrees of rendering forms, color, etc.

You have both written and illustrated many children’s books. Do you have any special favorites among them?

It’s so hard to pick favorites because each and every project was special in some way or another. For example, I illustrated my first book - The Diary of Victor Frankenstein - while on a 5-month adventure in sailboat. Frog Belly Rat Bone was my 1st book that I both wrote and illustrated. The Tale of Despereaux was just such darn good writing by Kate DiCamillo, Necks Out For Adventure was inspired by something I love to do where I grew up on Cape Cod, Marilyn Nelson’s beautiful words for Snook Alone gave me the opportunity to convey emotions with drawing and painting mediums and recall my own experiences with a dog, island travel, etc, etc… Every book has something that makes it a favorite to me.

What challenges do you face in your writing/illustrating process? How do you overcome them?

Interruptions! Sometimes I just have to burn the mid-night oil and work when everyone is sleeping. Not feeling creative is also a roadblock. That’s when I try to go out and do the things I love to do like fishing, museum visits, long walks in the woods, surfing or archery. These things help to replenish the creative well.

What tips or advice can you share with young students who hope to start writing or illustrating?

Write or illustrate all the time, all the time, all the time. It will lead to something very cool.

Can you suggest a fun drawing topic to get them started?

Drawing from life is always great. Going to the zoo with a sketchbook gives you a fantastic opportunity to draw all kinds of interesting animals (and people)!

What is your list of favorite children or teen books?

  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • Call of the Wild
  • White Fang

How do you decide on themes for your books?

I think about all the valuable things that I have learned in life that my parents taught me, school, sports, the US Navy, any lesson that helped me become a good person.

How important is research in the development of your books? Can you explain the process as well?

I work a lot from memory, but for an assignment like I had for Our White House - Looking In, Looking Out, where I illustrated a time in which Abe Lincoln opened up the East Room of the White House for Union Soldiers to sleep, research was very important. I researched uniforms, the East Room, the Civil War, and Abe Lincoln.

What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?

Shut off that TV, have moments for story time! Be animated when you read to kids!! Use different voices for different characters and point out interesting details in illustrations.

Can you tell us about any new books that you will be working on during the coming year?

I’m currently working on illustrating another wonderful manuscript by Marilyn Nelson and also trying to write and illustrate another picture book of my own.

If you weren’t creating children’s books, what do you think you would be doing?

Hmmm… probably some sort of fish and wildlife research that took me to totally awesome wilderness places around the world. Both hot and cold, mountains or oceans.

Do you have a website where young people can learn more about you and your work?


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Snook Alone

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