Aug 14, 2010

Blog Tour: David Ezra Stein

I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to host David Ezra Stein during his blog tour for his newly released book Interrupting Chicken. Having been an elementary school librarian for the past few years I was very familiar with Mr. Stein's work--his book Leaves is one of my favorites. I got my copy of Interrupting Chicken and just adored it! It will become my new go-to present for new moms and dads. It is a perfect bedtime book for everyone. David was very gracious to answer a few questions for me. This was my first author interview--what an excellent author/illustrator to start with!

Do you have your own "interrupting chicken"? If so, what is his/her/their favorite bedtime story? If not what was your growing up?

I do have a little chicken at home. He is only 8 1/2 months old (so he came after the Chicken book was finished), but he already enjoys board books such as Where's Spot and Truck Duck. He also loves to interrupt, especially when Mommy and Daddy are talking, or when Mommy is on the phone, or whenever he senses the spotlight has momentarily shifted away from him!

He has already begun to influence my writing, as you will see in the next few years—I have a couple of books in the works about dads and sons that I wouldn't have written before I had a son of my own. The depth of feeling has increased.

Most of the time you can tell who has illustrated a book by the pictures, but your styles really seem to vary. Monster Hug looks so different from Leaves and both of them look so different from Interrupting Chicken. Do you write the story first, then find a tone for the pictures, or do you have an image in mind, then write the story?

Interrupting Chicken was a lot of fun to do. I really stretched my wings on this one. I expanded the scope of the art to include looser and tighter styles in the same book. I delved into realms of light and shadow. I feel like it called on more of the full range of what I can do.

To me, telling the story is the most important thing. I almost always write and do gestural sketches first, then work on finding the visual "voice" (style) that is right for that story.

I am inspired to keep developing as an artist. In fact, I can't help it: I'm an explorer by nature. Some of my heroes, like Leo and Diane Dillon and Paul Zelinsky, have shown me that it is possible to be one person (or team) who does many things well.

That said, Leaves and Pouch! have a nice loose style to them that I'll continue to use for my nature books.

Did you always have your own stories to tell or were you an illustrator who couldn't get assigned the "right" book?

Having ideas and writing stories has always been part of what I do. I began drawing sooner (about age 3), but only by a few years. I use to tell stories into the tape recorder around age 6. In the end of college, I began preparing stories specifically for the children's book market. So when I got my foot in an editor's door, I had a notebook of ideas waiting to go. Most of them did not make it, but a few did. And I keep writing more.

Was illustrating always your goal or did you have other artistic endeavors you aspired to?

When I started art school, I wanted to be a painter, like Degas. My father wanted me to do graphic design. I split the difference and chose illustration. The training ended up dovetailing perfectly with my desire to tell stories. Thanks, Dad!

Will we see the little red chicken and her Papa in any other books?

It would be fun to bring back Papa and Chicken. They have to want to come back though. We will see if they pop up unexpectedly in the next few years!

Check out the trailer for the book:

Thanks so much to Candlewick Press and David Ezra Stein. Go get your own copy for your own little interrupting chickens!

Check out the rest of David's tour:
Aug. 9 – Picture Book Review
Aug. 10 – Katie’s Literature Lounge
Aug. 11 – Readaholic
Aug. 12 – Two Writing Teachers
Aug. 13 – Not Just for Kids
Aug. 14 – Milk and Cookies, Comfort Reading (you are here!)
Aug. 15 – Bookworm’s Dinner
Aug. 16 - Where the Best Books Are
Aug. 17 – KidsLit review


  1. Great interview, Jana! I love Monster Hug and will look for this book when I order for Fall. Loved hearing his process and that he started telling stories into a recorder at six! Thanks for inviting me over.

  2. Wow, this is an awesome interview, Jana. And this book looks SO FUN. I think my two little ones would love it.