"My Grandma was a pastel artist and, for as long as I can remember, an artist is what I wanted to be too," says children's author and illustrator Leslie Patricelli. "My hobby as a kid was drawing cartoons and writing stories, and I started to consider a career in art in seventh grade. When the multiple choice career test I took resulted in a recommendation that I pursue a career in forestry, I went back and changed all my answers, so that it recommended instead that I pursue graphic design, which was the closest thing to children's book writer or cartoonist on the list."
Today, Leslie Patricelli's legions of fans are evidence that career tests are not always reliable. Her colorful trio of board books about opposites -- YUMMY YUCKY, BIG LITTLE, and QUIET LOUD -- follows a diapered protagonist as he discovers some curious contradictions, such as "ladies are big" while "ladybugs are little." Her inspiration for the series came from her son Beck who, at one year old, "was constantly putting everything into his mouth." Says the author, "I found myself saying 'Yummy!' and 'Yucky!' all the time. I began to draw a baby dramatically expressing his taste or distaste for the things he was eating. The idea of YUMMY YUCKY was born!"
Her other toddler books in the series, BINKY, BLANKIE, NO NO YES YES, BABY HAPPY BABY SAD, and her latest books -- TUBBY AND POTTY, were also based on her parenting experiences. "I am inspired by how passionate toddlers are," she says. "I love the way they are so extremely focused on things, and display such intense emotions. It is easy to see what they care about the most."
Leslie Patricelli's beloved baby character graduated to star in his first full-length picture book, THE BIRTHDAY BOX. She notes "I’ve watched my kids transform boxes into cars, boats, spaceships, hospital beds, dog carriers, snake houses, bass drums, forts, airplanes, sleds, and of course, robots. It's very exciting when a new box comes into our home."
Her book HIGHER! HIGHER! was selected as a Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Honor Book. "I credit my daughter, Tia, for writing this book for me," says Leslie. "I was pushing her on the swing at the park when she was two, she started shouting, 'Higher! Higher!' I noticed how the other kids were saying the same thing. We started pretending that with every push I was sending her higher into the sky until she was in space. I went home with the book almost fully formed in my head."
About her latest series, which includes, THE PATTERSON PUPPIES AND THE RAINY DAY. and THE PATTERSON PUPPIES AND THE MIDNIGHT MONSTER PARTY, Patricelli says, "Although the puppies' individual personalities are based on the personalities of my own kids, the stories for these books were inspired by incidences from my own childhood. When I was four, my friend and I decided to create an ocean in her bedroom by dumping buckets of water on the floor, just like the puppies do in THE PATTERSON PUPPIES AND THE RAINY DAY. I will never forget the feeling of being caught by our parents and torn from our imaginary world to realize that we had done something very wrong! Their was no doubt in my mind that we would succeed at making an ocean. I love how a child's imagination can carry them right out of their present situation into an imaginary world that is so real to them. This is the feeling I tried to capture in the Patterson Puppies books.
"My favorite part of writing books is the moment when a new idea comes into my head," says Leslie. "If I give it my attention, a book will start forming in my mind. At this moment, I most certainly have a smile on my face."
Leslie Patricelli lives in the mountain town of Ketchum Idaho with her husband, Jason, her son, Beck, her daughters, Tia and Tatum, two cats, Oreo and Elvin, two rabbits, Olivia and Chewy and a fluctuating population of guppies. Her husband is a drummer, music engineer, ski instructor, and her on-request editor. Her kids have become her editors, whether she requests it or not!