Q & A with Author/Illustrator Steve Jenkins

h1 January 31st, 2008 by Eisha and Jules

Just a quick note to say that over at the Cybils blog today you will find a Q & A that 7-Imp conducted for the Cybils with acclaimed author/illustrator Steve Jenkins. This Monday we here at 7-Imp will feature the entire interview — the extended edition, if you will. Shoo, go read! Enjoy.

(Thanks to Steve for this illustration from last year’s Living Color. See many more here at 7-Imp, including some new ones from forthcoming books, if you didn’t already see them last Sunday when he stopped by).

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10 comments to “Q & A with Author/Illustrator Steve Jenkins”

  1. Ever since I read Living Color, I can’t stop telling people about the pink fairy armadillo. I mean, seriously, how have we all gone this long without knowing such a thing exists as a pink fairy armadillo?


  2. Me again. I just finished reading the interview, which is awesome. I read this part five times:

    “The relationship of scale and form in the natural world. For example, strength increases as the square (cross-sectional area) of linear dimension, but volume (weight) increases as the cube. This has all kinds of implications for animals and the way they live.”

    And I still don’t quite understand it, so he really needs to write that book.


  3. Adrienne, YES! For you, it’s the pink fairy armadillo. For me, it’s that male hooded seal who totally INFLATES the sac of loose skin in his nostril. A-freakin’-mazing!

    My almost-four-year-old daughter LOVES his books, Adrienne. Even at age two, she was fascinated with that wonderful Actual Size book, and she’d walk around talking about the “eye of the squid that lives in the ocean.” When we got Living Color from the library last week, she wanted to sit down IMMEDIATELY and have me read it to her. Children that age are so fascinated with: Who eats what? Who’s the prey? Who’s the predator? Well, she is anyway. Ah, the food chain.

    I think Actual Size was such a brilliant idea I wish I’d written it. Wait. I have no artistic talents or talents as an author. But still . . . one can dream.

    And she’s fascinated with dinosaurs now, and I’ve still never seen Prehistoric Actual Size myself, so we’re going to go pick that up at the library today. She might just pass out from excitement.


  4. Adrienne – yes, the scale thing . . . it’s simple in one way, but one can quickly get tangled up trying to explain it. Obviously I can”t talk about squares and cubes in a book for a 6-year-old. So it’s going to be an interesting problem. But here’s an example of why it’s so fascinating. Why, a kid might ask, aren’t there giant spiders, like the one in Harry Potter? Well, the effect of that strength to weight ratio (square to cube) means that if the length of, say, a bird spider (the largest spider, about a foot across) is doubled, its legs will be 4 times as strong. But it will weigh 8 times as much. If we make the spider 10 times longer (or taller), it will be 100 times as strong but 1,000 times as heavy. So its legs will just collapse. Such a creature would never be able to move.

    I just read a really interesting — at least in the context of a blog about books — variation of this effect. It has to do with the sag in a bookshelf. The amount of sag in a shelf increases as the cube of the length of the shelf. If a 2-foot shelf sags one-half inch, making it a 4-foot shelf will result in a sag of 4 inches. But that’s without any books. Since the weight of the books doubles, the shelf sag actually increases as the 4th power of its length. Now our shelf is sagging 8 inches – not good.

    I’d like to go on, but I’d better stop.

    The shelf example is from ” Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People” by Steven Vogel and Kathryn K. Davis.


  5. Steve, *Now* I get it. I find myself tremendously comforted by the thought that spiders can only get so big. (This reminds me of the turkeys I’ve been reading about in Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that are bred to have these huge breasts and eventually get so fat their legs can no longer support their weight.) And, of course, I’ve observed the bookshelf phenomenon when trying to create bookshelves out of planks and cinder blocks in my house.

    Jules, I read Actual Size in my preschool storytimes, and the kids love it. At the end, I have them all come up and one at a time compare the size of their hands to the gorilla’s, which is really fun.


  6. Thanks for posting this link, Jules and Eisha. I really look forward to the “extended” version of the Steve Jenkins on Monday. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I really appreciate your interview styles and how you mix with the professional with the personal with humor and insight. Will we get the Pivot questionaire, too?


  7. Hi, Alkelda. Thanks for the compliments. Yup, Pivot will be there.

    It really was a pleasure to get his responses. Do you know I’ve had a on a to-do for the loooongest time to try to find out if we could get some art work from him for a Sunday feature, and now in one month, we got that and two different versions of one interview? Exciting. I’m so glad he’s making books.


  8. That was a truly informative interview. I am just dazzled by IN LIVING COLOR. I love what Steve Jenkins does with the art of collage and with children’s nonfiction books. Being a lover of nonfiction myself, I’m happy to see that there are more high quality nonfiction books for children–especially younger children–being published today than in the early years of my teaching.

    Does Steve have a background in science, was science his avocation–or was it his children’s book projects that inspired his fascination with the subject?

    In my experience as an elementary school librarian for three years, I found that my students read a lot more nonfiction than fiction. I don’t know if that’s true of most elementary schools.

    P.S. Steve also illustrated one of my favorite ABC books–INTO THE A, B, SEA, which was written by Deborah Lee Rose.


  9. Elaine, I don’t mean to sound all commercial-like, as in “tune in on Monday to find out” . . . but, in the extended version of the interview, which will be here Monday at 7-Imp, he answers your question about his training/background.

    I also find myself feeling grateful that he makes such high-quality nonfiction books. Or just books period, ’cause, just like there’s a handful of bad nonfiction books made, same goes for fiction.


  10. Thanks, Jules! I will “tune” in on Monday. I enjoy reading nonfiction. I minored in science when I was studying to become a teacher.


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