Meet Eric Rohman continued from yesterday, part of our new weekend contemporary author's series...
VKBMKL: I love that many of your books feature anthropomorphic characters and star animals. My son fell in love with creatures before anything else, as I feel many children do if given the chance. In particular, he’s clung to birds so, of course, he loved your Caldecott-honor winning Time Flies. Is there a personal reason why you turn to animals for inspiration?
ERIC: I have always had a fondness for animals. I had childhood pets, spent a great deal of my time crawling through swamps, turning over logs and watching the sky for any living thing. When I got older, I had the idea of becoming a marine biologist (in Illinois), a zookeeper or a veterinarian. So it makes some sense that animals find their way into my books. Then again, perhaps I make picture books because it allows me to write stories about animals. I mean, what other art form uses animals as characters as much as kids' books?
VKBMKL: Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to draw for children?
ERIC: I have always made pictures that told stories. Not landscapes or portraits, but narrative pictures. When I had the chance to teach kids I knew they were the audience I wanted to work for.
VKBMKL: A few of your books have a spooky undertone, like the delightful Bone Dog and your previous Pumpkinhead. I believe children are naturally drawn to the strange and sometimes macabre, particularly when it is presented with a softer edge, like your books.
What kinds of reactions have you gotten from children about Bone Dog, the story of a friendship that transcends death?
ERIC: Children are such a great audience because they are willing to suspend reality and go along for the ride. With Bone Dog, some adults have commented that it may be too scary for kids--without actually realizing that kids do not share this thought. Kids are willing to suspend disbelief, but they know that it’s still a book.
Besides, I do not leave the reader with the “scary” part but in the end have tried to make them laugh and feel something about Gus and Ella’s friendship.
VKBMKL: You talk about the theme of loss and longing in other interviews, particularly when talking about Bone Dog. For me, what makes people look back so fondly on a children’s book is that nostalgic loss. That feeling of remembering the wonders of childhood and always hoping to return to it, even though you can’t go home again. Is there anything from your childhood that you pine for?
ERIC: I think I feel that way about many things, but as an adult I approach my longing and nostalgia with wariness. When we look back we see what we want to see and so I have a healthy mistrust of memory. Having said that, I tap into memory in every book. I can’t say the events are true, but the feelings are. There is sometimes a difference between fact and truth.
VKBMKL: I often wonder about 40, 50, even 100 years from now, when the world has gone totally digital (ha!) and like-minded people are still scouring the bookshelves looking for lost treasures. When someone picks up Time Flies what’s something you hope they’ll see in it?
ERIC:The books I care most about inspire me to make more books and so I hope that the my books will encourage kids to tell their own stories.
Thanks again for joining us Eric! If you wanna learn more about Eric and his work, read his books A Kitten Tale or The Last Song or read the Seven Impossible Things interview or visit his website. Happy Sunday all!
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