Not everyone can say their literary career started in the fourth grade with a book
called Billy's Booger. It was about, well… you know.
William Joyce has always been highly original, writing and drawing what he finds interesting
at the time. "I don't ever sit down and go, 'I'm going to do a children's book,'" he said in an exclusive interview.
"To me, it's just a book that's cool for short people and tall people. I'm just kind
of doing what I like to do."
Joyce's books often put a fanciful twist on the ordinary. George Shrinks, which is also a PBS
Kids show, is about everyday events that become magnified because George is only a few inches tall. With a sense of
fun, George figures out smart and inventive ways to use his toys, pulleys, levers, and so on to get his bed made
or to capture some bugs. Challenges become opportunities for adventure.
In books like George Shrinks and Rolie Polie Olie, William Joyce shows how much he
appreciates the "frisky intelligence" in kids. But he also respects their capacity for understanding the sorrowful side of
life and doesn't shy from including it in books such as The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs.
"Children are a lot more honest about sorrow and death than grown-ups tend to be and they're
more accepting of it," he explained. "I mean children are resilient beyond what we ever give them credit for
and they learn to abide very quickly and to adapt. And so The Leaf Men is a very subtle attempt at bringing up
some of those issues.
"I've had grown-ups tell me, 'I don't quite understand what this book is about,' but every kid
that's ever read it sort of instinctually knows that this is about a grandmother growing old and maybe soon to die and
how she's dealt with loss in her own life. And they get it and they're cool with it. But it's grown-ups who sometimes have a hard
time getting the subtle things. One of the cool things about writing books that are perceived as being for children is
that oftentimes the grown-up audience really ends up being less sophisticated about what I'm up to than the kids themselves."
William Joyce credits many of his teachers back home in Louisiana for launching his career. "I had some
great, sweet, funny, happy, joyful, loving teachers that I still keep in contact with, dedicated books to them, stuff
like that. If I hadn't had those teachers encouraging me I wouldn't be doing this. It makes all the difference in the
Click here to read about another children's book author and illustrator,