Upcoming Oh My Gosh, Stories! Guest Peter Brown tackles our most divisive, controversial and topical
interview yet... You can meet Peter Saturday, October 8th at Books Inc.
Chestnut Street to celebrate the release of his newest picture book, YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND!
1.) It is
often said that all books are in some way a self-portrait of the writer. Is it
safe to assume that you most closely identify with a pink-tutu-clad bear named
Well, I’ve never worn a tutu, but I do sometimes think there is a
dancer within me, struggling to break free. However, I'd say I identify more
with Lucy's personality than anything else. She's a very emotional cub, she
overreacts, she's melodramatic, and she says whatever she's thinking, often times
without considering the effect her words will have on others. I think most
adults admire the way children (and bear cubs) just say whatever it is that
crosses their minds. Many of us wish we could get away with being a bit freer
with our words. But over the years, most of us learn to think (and sometimes
overthink) before we speak.
was the least successful tact you ever took in trying to make a friend?
During the summer between 7th and 8th grade a boy, we’ll call him
Gary, moved to my town. I was the first kid he met, and we ended up hanging out
quite a bit.
The thing is, I could tell Gary was
very "cool." He said cool things, he had a cool haircut, and he even
had a cool way of walking. It was clear that once school started in September,
he would become one of the popular kids. But since it was still summer break,
and Gary hadn't met anyone else from school, he just assumed that I was one of
the popular kids, and I wasn't about to tell him otherwise. Don't get me wrong,
I had a healthy social life, and was friends with plenty of the cool kids, but
I certainly wasn't part of their clique. So I spent the summer with Gary,
pretending to be cool.
Finally, the school year started,
and Gary soon realized that I wasn't who he thought I was...I wasn't one of the
popular kids. Our friendship didn't last very long. But over the following
years, I slowly learned that Gary was actually incredibly boring, which isn't
cool at all. So I guess he wasn't who I thought he was, either. In the end, I
was happy my friendship with Gary didn’t work out. I went on to make plenty of
great, weird, interesting friends…and those are the coolest kinds of friends.
you, what is the best part about having friends?
I think the best part of having
friends is what I learn from them. Some of my friends are experts at
interesting things, like filmmaking or cooking, and so they might teach me
about influential French film directors, or where to buy the freshest fruits
and vegetables. Other friends grew up in interesting countries, like Norway and
Ecuador, and so I get to hear what it's like to live in exotic places. And some
of my friends are really good at being themselves, they have fun wherever they
are, and they teach me how to enjoy life even more than I already do. All of my
friends have something valuable teach me, and hopefully, I have something to
teach them as well.
Lucy books, Children Make Terrible Pets and YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! both utilize
layout that’s if not inspired by, at least reminiscent of comic books. Did you
read a lot of comics as a kid/do you read comics now?
Comics and graphic novels are such a
dominant force in popular culture that it'd be impossible NOT to be influenced
by them in some way. I've always respected comic book artists, but as a kid I
associated comics with muscle-bound superheroes. Those characters never
captured my interest and so I didn’t begin exploring the universe of comics
until I was in university.
These days, graphic novels are everywhere, on every subject, and
many of them are absolutely brilliant, so I read them more now then ever
before. I’m always looking for different ways to tell visual stories, and I
regularly refer to legendary comic artists like Windsor McKay and Tove Jansson,
and new stars like Sara Varon and David Mazzucchelli.
is this forest where there are ostriches and elephants and kids and bears and
giraffes and frogs and monkeys and bunnies and birds and skunks and kangaroos
and beavers and can you please give us travel directions there? And also, is it
safe to bring a picnic?
Ha! Well, I've actually wrestled
quite a bit with the rules of Lucy’s world. At one point, the Lucy stories were
going to take place in a very realistic world. In that version, Lucy still
wouldn't have understood humans, but she also wouldn't have worn a tutu or had
furniture or had any other fun human things. It would almost be like a true
story of a bear who’d found a boy in the woods. That more realistic version
really appealed to me in some ways, but it began presenting problems like: Why
isn't the boy terrified of being abducted by bears? Where are his parents? Why is
Squeaker a pet instead of a lunch? Those issues were distractions from the real
story I wanted to tell.
So I decided to place the story in a
fun, safe, silly world where a bear could wear a tutu, and have furniture, and
understand what a "pet" is. One thing led to another, and before long
almost anything was possible in Lucy's world. This allowed me to really develop
Lucy's true personality, and these books are all about Lucy’s personality.
you were an animal, you would be a...
I would be a bird, because I can't
even imagine how amazing it would be to fly any time I want, with a simple flap
of my wings. But I'd always be worried that some bobcat or eagle would attack
me and ruin an otherwise wondrous existence. So I guess I'd want to be a big predatory
bird, so I wouldn't have any natural enemies. In that case I'd have to hunt to
survive, and I'm not a fan of hunting, but if that's what it takes to be a
happy bird, so be it.