Three-time Caldecott Award-winning illustrator and creator of the poster image for the first annual Philadelphia Book Festival , David Wiesner recently took a few minutes to sit down with us and discuss three of our favorite topics: books, libraries, and Philadelphia.
You contributed the poster image for the first annual Philadelphia Book Festival. What inspired you to offer your talents to this project?
I have a long association with Philadelphia. I have lived here for many years. My wife went to medical school here. And in particular I have long been friends with many librarians in the Philadelphia library system. I was thrilled to be asked to be part of promoting books and Philadelphia!
What role have libraries played in your life?
As a kid I loved to walk a mile or so to the Bound Brook, New Jersey public library. It was great to just sit in the children’s room amid all those books. I particularly liked to look at the covers of the books. I think that was my first response-if I liked the cover, I’d read the book. It wasn’t a guarantee of something I’d like, but when I was young I didn’t have any other decision-making criteria.
When I was a little older I used to go in the stacks and poke around. It was back there that I found the Time Life series of books on art. I could sit and look at those volumes all day, getting lost in all those amazing paintings.
As a child, what was your favorite illustrated book?
A Giant Golden Book by Alice and Martin Provensen, The Provensen Animal Book. It has an amazing variety of stories and pictures-stories from one to four pages, poems, puzzles, funny stories, factual stories. I loved this range of material. And I particularly recall my reactions to much of the art. It wasn’t until I had been in the business for some time, and I came across more of the Provensens’ work, that I made the connection-these were the people who made that book my family had! Fortunately, one of my sisters still had our copy. I had it rebound and actually got Alice Provensen to sign it.
Excluding your own work, what are the three illustrated books every child should read?
I can’t pick THE three. That is an impossible task. I will pick three that I always respond to: Time Of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey; Space Case, by Edward and James Marshall; and Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney.
If you couldn’t be an author and illustrator, what other job would you like to have?
There was a time when I would have said disc jockey, but the kind of DJ I would have wanted to be doesn’t really exist anymore-that late night FM, free-form kind of thing. I would have loved to have been involved in music in some fashion. Sadly, I do not play an instrument.
If you could float off into any literary world, where would you go?
Hmmm. I think at the moment I would pick Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I’ve been reading a lot of those books, and that is one crazy place.
Signed copies of David Wiesner's poster will be for sale at the first annual Philadelphia Book Festival tomorrow and Sunday, April 22nd, while supplies last.