I was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1963, which back then was a quiet college town, surrounded by old farmland slowly giving way to housing developments. I spent a lot of time building dams and forts in the woods across the street with my best friend, inventing things, and writing and drawing with my older sister. My friend and I were also young entrepreneurs, selling greeting cards door-to-door (we earned a set of walkie-talkies!), or managing roadside lemonade-and-sticker stands.
At various times during my childhood, my sister and I had newts, gerbils and rabbits as pets. When I was in fifth grade, an author and illustrator visited my school, and I was amazed that a person could have a job writing and drawing. I wished it could be my job! But I didn’t think I was good enough at either writing or drawing to even try.
I had always liked to draw, though, and kept doing it just for fun. During high school, I also painted with oil paints and made stained glass windows. I actually sold some stained glass, too—another taste of self-employment. I went to Brown University after high school, where I studied Psychology and British and American Literature. I began to think about what I really wanted to do for a career, and what I really wanted was something that involved art. So after graduation from college in 1985, I moved to Boston to study drawing and painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (also known as the Boston Museum School).
At the Museum School, I started getting paintings in exhibitions and won a few prizes, and then was able to get political illustrations published in the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe.
Suddenly I had a career as an editorial and political illustrator, working with a lot of magazines and newspapers. In 1989, I illustrated my first book, Flatfoot Fox and the Case of the Missing Eye, with Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston.
Since then, I’ve illustrated almost thirty books, including my 2019 Caldecott Honor-winning THE ROUGH PATCH, which also won a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award, Got to Get to Bear’s! and my NY Times-bestselling bat series ( Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, Bats at the Ballgame, and Bats in the Band). My first two written-and-illustrated titles were Hamlet and the Enormous Chinese Dragon Kite (1994), and Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle (2001).
One of my great joys as a grown author and illustrator is to be able to visit elementary schools around the country, working with young writers and illustrators as they create their own stories (see Schools). It feels as though it's all come full-circle.
I now live in a seaside town in Massachusetts with my wife, my daughter, and two cats. My hobbies are bicycling, woodworking, and tending a big vegetable garden behind the house. I’m very interested in old-fashioned food preparation, too, and sometimes try making my own kimchi, sauerkraut, cheese, and other things (including a vinegar-laced drink called switchel, which I kind of liked but which everybody else in my family thought was really nasty).
I also read a lot, which I think is important—it keeps my imagination going, and leaves me feeling much more relaxed than television does!