Photo; Tom LichtenheldThis is my interview with Tom Lichtenheld.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Two choices: Clown, or illustrator for National Geographic. My current job is a little bit of each, so I reached my goal.

What other jobs have you had? Hamburger maker, sign painter, set designer, graphic artist, art director.

What situations or people influenced you to start illustrating? Situation: My nephew asked me to draw him a picture of a pirate, so I drew an entire book for him, which got published. People: William Steig, Lane Smith, Bob Barrie.

What’s the hardest part of your job ? 1. Coming up with an idea good enough to be turned into a book, because great ideas are elusive. 2. Making my artwork bend to my commands, because I have minimal talent and no professional training. 3. Being my own IT department, because I’m not 14 years old.

What’s the best part of your job? 1. Coming up with an idea good enough to be turned into a book, because occasionally it actually happens. 2. Tapping into my childhood in order to draw childhood situations, because it’s a place I love going back to. 3. Hearing from kids, parents, teachers and librarians who tell me about my books making connections with children.

What was the best thing about illustrating this book? Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author, had the idea pretty much worked out, but it was fun working with her to fix the parts that weren’t quite right.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered when illustrating this book? You can get a lot of expression out of a character who only has eyes and a mouth.

What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? Amy and I did a sales-meeting presentation where we explained the art of collaboration while playing ping-pong onstage.

What was your last great belly-laugh? When I came up with a homonym joke about the difference between mousse and moose. I actually sat at my computer, alone, laughing out loud.

What are your favourite products? bicycle, coffeemaker, The New York Times, wacom tablet, pan pastels, deco blue prismacolor pencil (obsolete), a brand spankin’ new number16 watercolor brush, iphone, epson workforce 1100 printer, crossword puzzles, sneakers, Mi-Teintes paper, public radio, New Yorker covers, Apple Keynote, Pentel brush pen, cheap sketchbooks, public libraries, foamcore, foreign picture books, lists.

Do you collect anything? Half the things on the above list.

What is something that most people might be surprised to know about you? I don’t have children.

What else would you like to illustrate a book about? The essence of childhood.

What are you working on next? ‘This Is A Moose’, written by Richard T. Morris and published by Little, Brown, just came out and is getting great reviews, so that’s exciting. ‘One Big Pair of Underwear’ comes out this fall, written by Laura Gehl and published by Beach Lane. It’s a counting book with a wonderfully unique device that I think kids are going to love. I’m just finishing artwork for ‘Stick and Stone’, written by Beth Ferry, published by Houghton Mifflin, which comes out next year.

Read my review of ‘Exclamation Mark’ here.

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