Thanks so much to Candlewick Press for asking us to join the I'm My Own Dog blog tour. They're giving away a copy of the book, and David Ezra Stein answered some questions for us! Read on and enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget (US, ends 11/14).
About the book
Many dogs have human owners. Not this dog. He fetches his own slippers, curls up at his own feet, and gives himself a good scratch. But there is one spot, in the middle of his back, that he just can’t reach. So one day, he lets a human scratch it. And the poor little fella follows him home. What can the dog do but get a leash to lead the guy around with? Dog lovers of all ages will revel in the humorous role-reversal as this dog teaches his human all the skills he needs to be a faithful companion.
About the author
David Ezra Stein is the creator of many award-winning picture books, including Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, Because Amelia Smiled, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York.
Find out more about him at www.davidezra.com.
Q & A with David Ezra Stein
Alethea at RNSL: I loved I'm My Own Dog. Do you have (or have you previously had) a pet like this? How did you develop the alternative view he takes on ownership?
David Ezra Stein: Hi Alethea! Thanks; I have had quite a few pets in my life. When I was a kid I was allergic, so I had mainly guinea pigs, fish, and a snake. I think all my books, and especially the characters, come from my own emotions and my relationship to the demands that life makes on me. When I wrote this book, I was feeling a desire to be true to myself, and suddenly I became aware of the voice of this dog character. He began telling me about himself. I wrote it down. Then I followed through by figuring out what the rest of his life would be like. I realized he would eventually need someone else, and that’s where the man came in.
RNSL: This book is quite hilarious. What do you think developed your particular sense of humor?
DES: Oh, thank you so much. I guess I had funny parents and also, I think I had a rough time in childhood in some ways, and humor is always what got me through, and gave me a sense of power. If you can laugh, you can survive. I was attracted to humor and gobbled it up wherever I could. Sesame Street was a big influence. In the ‘80s we had so many really funny movies. For example, Spaceballs absolutely blew my mind as a kid. I was rolling in the aisle of the movie theater, getting popcorn stuck to my clothes. Commercials were also little haikus of humor. Calvin & Hobbes comic books were a huge inspiration.
RNSL: You have a great, loose, flowy style of illustration. Can you tell us a bit about how you started drawing and creating art?
DES: I tried almost every medium as a kid. My parents were both artists. I scribbled right onto the pages of books I liked. To be part of the art. I was always attracted to ink: the blackness against the white paper, and the way it flows. Even though I am a city guy, I have had an affinity for the natural world all my life. I used to go out painting with my mother at about age 10 and try to capture the beauty of old houses and gardens. It’s always been a value of mine to be a fine artist, like Van Gogh or Matisse. In college I got into drawing out on the spot again, which is wonderful to do in New York City. I could do that every day. I still do it whenever I can. Now I bring watercolor, too, another flowy medium, as you say.
RNSL: You both write and illustrate your stories. Do you prefer one mode over the other, and why or why not?
DES: They are both ways of getting an idea down. Especially in the early stages of a book. I can’t do just one. I love going to the painting stage, though. There is a delightful wordlessness about it, like music. It says things that can’t be said in words.
RNSL: I have two cats, who aren't so much independent (they still need me to open the food cans) but who sometimes behave as if I am quite an inferior, hairless, clumsy feline. My husband is often considered the better cat in the household (he is warm and a bit furry, and excels at paper ball games). Do you think you will do a story for cat lovers sometime in the future? (In a very roundabout way, I'm asking what you're working on next.)
DES: Ha, ha! Sounds like you might have a book in there, yourself! Yes, I am open to doing a cat book. I love cats, actually, and have rescued a couple. They are so interesting and weird, as well. Uncanny would be the word. For now, I have a frog book coming next summer, called Tad and Dad. It’s about a little tadpole who jumps into Dad’s lily pad every night. Think co-sleeping with frogs.
RNSL: Thanks for answering my questions, David! I'm off to draft that picture book...
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