I grew up in Nyack, New York, just up the street from the Hudson River. In our house, there was always an art project going on.
My early drawings were very animated: a lot of stuff zipping around, airplanes, racing cars, football players. No surprise my first published drawing was a pack of rats running along a highway (The Rat Race). I did that for the New York Times Op Ed page when I was still in high school.
I went to college at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City. I studied painting, sculpture, and filmmaking, but what I loved doing most—in my spare time—was drawing cartoons and comic strips.
When I graduated, I hauled my pile of doodles into the offices of a bunch of editors, with the wild notion that somebody might publish them. When that failed, I wrote a story for kids to go with my pictures (If Snow Falls). It was two sentences long (which counts, by the way). Frances Foster, a wonderful editor at Random House, saw something in that book and signed me up.
The next book, Ellsworth, was about a dog who teaches economics at a university. When he gets home, he throws off his clothes and acts like a dog, which is fine, until some fellow teachers discover this, and he loses his job. Somebody told me that Ellsworth was a story about “being yourself.” I never realized it had a moral.
Books in order of publication:
IF SNOW FALLS – 1982
ELLSWORTH – 1983
LUDLOW LAUGHS – 1985
THE INCREDIBLE PAINTING OF FELIX CLOUSSEAU – 1988
GO HANG A SALAMI! I’M A LASAGNA HOG! And Other Palindromes – 1991
THE RETURN OF FREDDY LEGRAND – 1992
FLAPSTICK – 1993
SO MANY DYNAMOS! And Other Palindromes – 1994
DMITRI THE ASTRONAUT – 1995
WHO ORDERED THE JUMBO SHRIMP? And Other Oxymorons – 1998
SIT ON A POTATO PAN, OTIS! More Palindromes – 1999
ELVIS LIVES! And Other Anagrams – 2000
PALINDROMANIA! – 2002
Z GOES HOME – 2003
TERRIFIC – 2005
SMART FELLER FART SMELLER And Other Spoonerisms – 2006
NOTHING – 2007
THE RETIRED KID – 2008
ORANGUTAN TONGS Poems to Tangle Your Tongue – 2009
MR. PUTNEY’S QUACKING DOG – 2010
MY RHINOCEROS – 2011
THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN – 2012
LITTLE SANTA – 2013
IT’S ONLY STANLEY – 2015
LION LESSONS – 2016
LIFE ON MARS – 2017
THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK – 2018
I WANT A DOG – 2019
OTTO A Palindrama – 2021