FLR: In addition to growing up with five brothers, what experiences and/or people in your life motivated you to read and pursue writing as a career?
JS: My mom read me and my brothers fantastic books like GO, DOG. GO!, Green Eggs and Ham, Caps for Sale, and 5 Chinese Brothers. I loved those stories. And I think that is when I first started thinking about telling stories of my own. I also tell kids that when my brothers and I wrestled in the living room and broke the couch I learned to be a storyteller.
FLR: How did trucks become the main ‘characters’ for your series picture books?
JS: I've always liked trucks. They are big. They are powerful. They are fascinating in their variety. And kids are just hypnotized by trucks. So when I started thinking about writing a series that would really engage the youngest readers, I naturally thought of trucks. Plus, trucks as characters give me a lot of opportunity for stories with smashing and crashing and racing around. And who doesn't love that?
FLR: Your characters and storylines reflect such imaginative and unique scenarios – what were some of the creative sources of inspiration for them?
JS: I based all of the trucks on real 3 and 4 year olds that I know. I visited a pre-K class near me in Brooklyn every week for almost a whole year. And I got every bit of inspiration, and more, from the wonderful way that 3 and 4 year olds see the world. Everything is new to them. Everything is important. Everything is immediate. And most of the world is about playing around.
FLR: How did the concept of Dizzy Izzy and the ice cream truck develop?
JS: Everyone knows that kid who loves to run around and just repeat a saying over and over. And everyone has heard an ice cream truck drive around playing the same song over and over. Izzy is the perfect combination of that kid and that truck. Izzy is also a lot of fun to put in any situation because Izzy always has one thing, and only that one thing in mind. Izzy just wants to know, "Do you want an ice cream? Do you want an ice cream? Do you want an ice cream?"
FLR: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
JS: Vanilla with chocolate sauce. There is something classic and wonderful about that.
FLR: Which book, from all the ones you’ve written, is your favorite and why?
JS: I always like the one I'm working on the most. And right now I'm working on a middle-grade, reader series about three aliens who try to take over the Earth. But they are not too bright, so they decide to disguise themselves as 5th graders. They are Spaceheadz. So the first book is called Spaceheadz Book #1. I'm loving Spaceheadz because it gives me a chance to look at all of the goofy things we make kids do in school through the eyes of someone truly from another planet.
FLR: You’ve done so much to get kids interested in reading. Do you feel there’s more understanding today of the need to let kids read what they want?
JS: Two years ago I was appointed National Ambassador of Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. And that gave me the opportunity to speak to all kinds of people about reading, and to suggest to them that maybe one of the best ways to engage kids in reading is to help them find the reading that interests them. There are so many great books of every kind for kids these days. There is nonfiction, humor, graphic novels, wordless books, mysteries, thrillers, you name it. And I think people are beginning to understand that reading is not about testing. It's about exploring the world.
FLR: What are some of the most unusual and funny fan mail responses or questions you’ve received?
JS: I still get a lot of letters from very literal kindergartners addressed to Mr. A. Wolf. They want to know why Mr. Wolf ate those pigs. And they want to tell him that he is bad, and that he should be in jail. But I think my favorite letter was from a little guy who wrote to say that his class assignment was to write a letter to their favorite author. But since Roald Dahl was dead, he was writing to me. I took it as a compliment. I'm a big Roald Dahl fan myself.
FLR: What books do you have planned for the future?
JS: I'm writing plenty more Trucktown books. Also working on Trucktown animation and Trucktown toys. The Spaceheadz project is going to be a series of 4 books and all kinds of Web sites, blogs, photos, comics, tweets and videos. And I'm also thinking about writing a YA novel.
FLR: Who has inspired you?
JS: I owe most everything I write to my experience of being an elementary school teacher for 10 years. Teaching a little bit of everything from 1st grade to 8th grade, I was privileged to see how smart and funny and passionate and true and crazy and annoying and wonderful kids are. Kids inspired me.
Browse our list of Jon Scieszka titles.