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Interview with 'Doug Unplugged' picture book author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino

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Dan Yaccarino is an acclaimed author and illustrator of many children’s books including 'Doug Unplugged', 'Unlovable' and 'The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau'; the creator and producer of the animated series the Parents Choice Award-winning Oswald and the Emmy-winning Willa's Wild Life, as well as the character designer behind the Emmy-winning The Backyardigans. His books have won a host of prestigious awards including the New York Times Best Illustrated award, an ALA Notable designation, a Parents Choice Award, and the Bologna Ragazzi. Dan lives with his family in New York City.

For what age audience do you write?

I mostly write and illustrate picture books, but I have a middle grade novel coming out next year. There have been quite a few robots and outer space themes in my picture books, but I've written and illustrated about all sorts of things like animals and people. However, the middle grade novel is most definitely science fiction, but also (I'm hoping) very funny. I guess there's humor running through most things I do because I love reading humor and I'd like to think I'm a pretty funny guy. Just don't ask my kids. They don't think I'm funny at all.

Henry: I'm a fan of 'Boy + BOT', and now I know that was the start of your sci-fi writing journey! Don't worry - no kid thinks their Dad is funny. We have to work hard to even avoid being considered embarrassing.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is a picture book called DOUG UNPLUGGED. It's about a little robot who unplugs from his giant educational computer and goes out into the world to learn about things using his senses. I just finished up a sequel called DOUG UNPLUGS ON THE FARM. I'm not anti technology, but I feel strongly about kids (and adults) taking some time out of their day away from computers. I advocate balance.

Henry: My young co-author sons would argue that they DO achieve balance: some time on Vine, some on Instagram, some on YouTube, some on Netflix, and some on the Xbox. Sigh.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

My hope is that they'll start to think about the idea that there are other ways to experience and learn about the world other than from a screen.

Henry: Wait, what? Note to readers: Dan is on Twitter, but has a grand total of four tweets under his belt. He has clearly mastered the art of being unplugged.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I sometimes find it difficult during the early stages when the idea is still unformed. I played with the idea of DOUG UNPLUGGED for at least a year before I had something I was happy enough with to show my editor. I knew I wanted to write a book about unplugging and I also knew I wanted a robot to be the main character, but I had quite figuring out how to fit the two things together.

Click to read the complete interview at Henry Herz's blog on fantasy and science fiction books for kids.

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