One of the luckiest and best things that have happened in my life is meeting Kate Hall in 1978 and marrying her. Not only has she been a wonderful and loving companion and a great mother to our daughter, Leigh, she is also a funny, imaginative writer of children’s books.
At first I resisted illustrating the texts she wrote because of a very early, not-so-great experience I had in children’s books. But along with helping to raise Leigh and read books to her (and the inevitable competitive urge to try my hand at the category) and the attraction that Kate’s witty and slightly acerbic stories had for me,
I began to collaborate with her. Our first book, The Noisy Giants Tea Party, was, as they say, a succès d'estime
— Maurice Sendak loved it more than the parents shopping at Barnes and Noble. I had influenced the story of the Noisy Giants with my own and my daughter’s anxieties about nighttime noises but I realized after the
commercial failure of the book that I could participate as a kind of in-house editor for Kate’s writing but I should leave the stories to her lively and basically upbeat sensibility.
What made it possible for me to enjoy illustrating Kate’s writing was that her optimism was leavened with a sharp edge of ironic naughtiness. Also, for our next book she found a subject, a garbage truck, that in its vehicular toughness (no kid’s book cuteness) suited us both. I Stink!, a monologue by a garbage truck, was a great success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies over the years, becoming a kind of classic and, with our other truck books that followed, inspiring the animated series on Amazon, The Stinky and Dirty Show. The series now numbers eleven books, the last about a pickup truck, I’m Tough!
We have produced other, more romantic non-vehicle books, like the two inspired by our daughter’s study of ballet, Nutracker Noel and Noel, the First and our latest, a commemoration of our beloved, now deceased, French bulldogs, As Warm As The Sun.
Among the titles on the list, two of my favorites are Hey, Pipsqueak! and Papa’s Song; the latter gave me the chance to paint some river landscapes that are like deep, memory landscapes for me.