Comic Books: Dav Pilkey on ‘Dog Man’ & ‘Captain Underpants’ (Q&A w/ event details)

Dav Pilkey will present his most recent children’s book, Dog Man, at the Fairfield University Bookstore this Saturday, October 22nd. Buy your copy at the bookstore and be guaranteed to meet the author; admission to the book signing is by ticket only. Please note: the first 100 people to purchase Dog Man and receive a ticket will be able to attend a special presentation by Dav Pilkey at 3:00 p.m. on the day of his visit. While seating at this presentation is limited, everyone with a ticket will meet Dav at the book signing portion of the event. Location: 1499 Post Rd.

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Today, I am honored to be in the company of beloved storyteller Dav Pilkey.

Dav is the author and illustrator, most recently, of Dog Man (GRAPHIX); a second book, Dog Man Unleashed, will follow in December. Winner of the prestigious Caldecott Honor Award for The Paperboy, Dav originated the popular Captain Underpants and Dumb Bunnies series. He has also received the California Young Reader Medal for Dog Breath. Dav currently divides his time between Bainbridge Island, WA and Minami Izu, Japan.

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Author Dav Pilkey. (Photo credit: Kai Suzuki.)

Praise for Dog Man:

“Pilkey … has again fired an arrow of joy straight at the fevered childhood psyche of millions of readers. An utter, unfettered delight.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A riotously funny and original addition for all elementary school collections.”—School Library Journal (starred review)

“Readers (of any age) will be giggling from start to finish.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

From the publisher:

New from the creator of Captain Underpants, it’s Dog Man, the #1 New York Times bestselling, crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and ALL HERO!

George and Harold have created a new hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers. When Greg the police dog and his cop companion are injured on the job, a life-saving surgery changes the course of history, and Dog Man is born. With the head of a dog and the body of a human, this heroic hound has a real nose for justice. But can he resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty?

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Now, Dav Pilkey delights and entertains …

John Valeri: What inspired you to write the first Captain Underpants book – and to what do you credit the series’ continued success?

Dav Pilkey: I used to make comic books about Captain Underpants when I was a kid.   The comics went over pretty well with my classmates back then, so I had hoped the idea would appeal to kids today.

I think kids relate to the kid characters in the series, especially how they use their creativity and imagination to solve problems.

JV: Tell us about the relationship between written words and imagery. How do they enhance one another – and what is your generative process like?

DP: In most of the books I’ve done lately, the words and the pictures are equally important.  They each tell a different part of the story. I tend to think in both words and pictures, so creating comics seems like a very organic way to tell stories.

JV: Though your books are fun (and funny), there’s serious subtext. What are the themes that appeal to you – and how can humor be used as a tool to help to convey those messages?

DP: The themes that appear most often in my books revolve around characters who are misfits in one sense or another, and how their supposed flaws and challenges can sometimes be advantageous.

These are themes that mean a lot to me because I learned differently as a kid.  I had ADHD and dyslexia (I still do), and although they were sources of stress in my childhood, I think they’ve been beneficial to me as an adult.  They helped me when it comes to my writing, because they make me mindful of the wide variety of readers in my audience, and influence my approach to storytelling.

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JV: In what ways can reading be a means for families to connect – and how do you see your books as offering opportunities for engagement?

DP: When kids are allowed to freely choose their own reading material, and read for pleasure, it has substantial benefits—especially if it becomes a habit.  Kids do better in school, and they have more confidence.

I try to put a lot of content in my books that will appeal to kids AND to grownups.  There are lots of jokes that will go over the kids’ heads, but their parents and/or grandparents will hopefully find amusing.  I also hope this will encourage kids and grownups to read the books together.

JV: What creative works have influenced you most – and do you have any advice or suggestions to offer parents of reluctant readers to help foster an appreciation of books?

DP: I find myself inspired by a wide variety of things, from MAD Magazine to Walt Whitman.  Right now I’m working on Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties (the third book in the new Dog Man series), which was greatly inspired by Charles Dickens.  Fans of classic literature will definitely see some similarities between the scoundrel Petey the Cat, and Sydney Carton.

My best advice for parents of reluctant readers is to do what MY parents did.  Let their kids choose whatever reading material appeals to them, and read for FUN.  Make it a habit.  It doesn’t matter if their choices aren’t educational, or below their reading level— or even if they’re reading the same books over and over again.  Studies show that even so-called “junk reading” is incredibly beneficial to kids, as long as it becomes a habit.  This often (as in my case) leads to bigger and better choices as time goes on.   Reading for fun changes everything.

JV: In your opinion, what is the role of the bookstore within its community – and how do author events help to solidify the reader/writer/bookseller relationship?

DP: Bookstores have the potential to be the life and heart of the community, and we’ve certainly visited places where this was true.  Author events hearken back to the days of Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain, when a popular night on the town included a lecture or a reading at a theater or a community center.  Bookstores connect their community to ideas, which creates an environment of communication and empathy.

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With thanks to Dave Pilkey for his generosity of time and thought and to Charisse Meloto, Vice President, Publicity Brand Strategy, Scholastic Inc., for making this interview possible.

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