Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to 50 books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the bestselling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over 800,000 copies in print. Additionally, he’s recorded four CDs of music for children. Barney has been working with the United States State Department as a part of the Cultural Exchange Program and has traveled to China and Russia to speak about the creative process. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three dogs.
Meet Barney at Fairytale Town the weekend of September 27 & 28 at the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival! Barney will read Beautiful Oops! and his latest book, Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep, and sign copies of his books.
Beautiful Oops! is an inspiring read about creativity and how “oops” can transform into something wonderful. Where do you find inspiration for your books?
I travel around the world speaking about the creative process. In my PowerPoint, I show two images which were created from mistakes. Paw prints on a painting turned to clouds and a coffee stain turned into a monster. Educators kept asking if I could teach how I do that. I tore a piece of paper one day in my studio and it looked like the mouth of an alligator. I knew at that moment that a book was born!
Tell us about your latest book, Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep?
The US State department has sent me to Russia and China to speak about creativity. When we were in China, my wife took a 24-hour trip to the city of Chengdu, where the pandas are. She took photographs of a panda in a tree who was having trouble falling asleep. Based on her photos, I made a picture book.
Do you have any tips for parents wanting to encourage their children to unleash their imaginations?
Down time. Down time from any screen. Down time from soccer, ballet, etc. Buy a sketchbook and
have some art supplies. I would not critique your child’s work. Do not ‘show’ them how to draw
anything. Children need to play and use their imagination and often times, we, as parents get too
involved. That telegraphs to a child that they are either doing something incorrectly or that their work somehow doesn’t meet their parents approval. This is a definite imagination shutoff. Another way to jump-start creativity is to play with your children. Pretend play is a great way to activate that creative muscle. Another idea is to make a squiggle on a sheet of paper and let your child flip it around until they see something they want to draw, using the squiggle as a starting point. There are no ‘wrong’ answers here. Everything you draw is perfect. VERY liberating. Hopefully, that ability to improvise and use one’s imagination is a starting point for more to come.
If you could be any fairytale character, who would you be? Why?
I have never thought about this before. It’s not really a fairytale, but the classic story of The Little Engine That Could would be my inspiration, so I would have to say I’m the little engine. Two reasons. I’m not that big and I never give up. I think I can, I think I can, seems to be my motto!