texas book festival
Talking with children's author Bob Shea: Dinosaur vs the Texas Book Festival
This year, the biggest stories at the Texas Book Festival are happening at the children’s tents. From the potato chip science (full of saturated facts!) to Lisa m-fing Loeb’s Silly Sing-a-Long, the kids’ tents are brangin’ it hard.
One of the most exciting stories is the return of Bob Shea after his very exciting appearance at last year’s Literary Death Match. Shea’s Dinosaur vs. franchise are adorable, beautiful, brilliant and hilarious blasts of color and creativity in 10 or so pages. We had the opportunity to talk to him about his panels at the festival and really important stuff, like Twitter.
You’ve said before that you write for your son, but your books have a definite nod to the parents who are reading the story. Is that because of your son’s sense of humor or do you write for parents just as much as children?
I try to write for adults as well as children, but not exclusively for adults. I definitely want kids to enjoy them, because a lot of times you read a book and think, “This is just for the grownups.” So I try to make sure that everything’s from a kid’s point of view. Because all the potty stuff, parents understand it because they’ve been through it. It’s nothing adult like “hey it’s a political joke!” It’s more like parents would understand it as opposed to just kids, but kids understand it because it’s their life.
There are a lot of videos on your website and youtube channel where your illustrations are animated. Are you also an animator, or who does your animation?
Oh a lot of people do the animation. The PBS Kids animation was done by a lot of different people when I was doing work for PBS. I would direct the animation I would illustrate it and direct it. The new socks animation was actually done by an Austin artist, Jared Chapman.
I’m not familiar, tell me a little about Chapman.
Uh, he’s my best friend.
Oh, great! Good to know!
And he’s a flash animator, and he agreed to help me out. I wish the story was a little more dramatic. Actually it’s a nice story because he posted something online when my book was coming out. Like he posted an image from New Socks my first book, and then I emailed him like “hey that was really nice, man, thanks for doing that!” and we started emailing back and forth. I found out he was an animator and we’ve been online friends ever since. I’ve only met him 3 times, I’m excited because I’m coming down to Austin, I’m going to hang out with him over the weekend and it was really nice. He’s a good guy, and you should follow him on twitter, he’s very funny.
Just casually. The reason I write kids’ books now is because I’m a graphic designer. I love children's books, I love the form, I just love them. And I met one of my heroes Lane Smith at a conference and I had a bunch of samples of humor essays I’d written and I gave them to him and he started emailing me. Then I sent him a book I was working on and he got me started in this business. I’ve always been writing comedy, I used to work at Comedy Central as a print designer, but they would let me basically do whatever I wanted so I would write the piece and design it and it was all very jokey.
So you have your panel in the kids’ tent, are you involved in anything else at the Book Festival?
I’m doing 2 kids’ events this year, I’m on stage Saturday doing my own thing, which Jared I think is actually going to join me. And then on Sunday I’m doing a thing with a bunch of other authors and we’re going to write books with the kids. I’m going to do a drawing dance party.