A bestselling children's author is kicking off his national book tour at Bookmark's Festival of Books and Authors in Winston-Salem this week. Dav Pilkey is the illustrator and writer of the popular Captain Underpants and Dog Man series. It's been over 20 years since the first of Pilkey's illustrated chapter books became a hit, turning the "waistband warrior" into a hero. Pilkey spoke with WFDD's Bethany Chafin.

Interview Highlights

On Pilkey's early comic book days:

In second grade my comics were very very simple, usually just one or two pages, and sometimes I would staple them together. I was getting in so much trouble in school, and I was so disruptive that my teacher actually moved a desk out into the hallway for me, and I would keep the desk filled with papers and pencils, just kind of expecting to get into trouble. And when I was out there I would just let my imagination, you know, just kind of go crazy. And as soon as I would finish something I would share it with my friends.

On his protagonists, George Beard and Harold Hutchins:

Author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. Photo credit: Kai Suzuki, Image courtesy: Scholastic

Harold and George are two boys who are very much like me. They have ADHD. They have have some challenges in school. They're very silly. They love to make comics just like I did. So they're kind of based on me when I was a kid. They have this creative friendship. They love to write and draw. And I think it's their friendship that helps them get through the hard times.

On what Pilkey would tell his second-grade self:

You know, this is going to seem kind of strange, but it would have really helped me to know that there were successful people out there who had some of the same challenges that I did. And I didn't know that as a kid. When I was a kid there was a very popular television show called Happy Days, and there was a guy called The Fonz. Everybody had a Fonz T-shirt when I was a kid. He was the coolest guy, and he [Henry Winkler] had dyslexia, and I didn't know that. And I wish I had known that because ... I sometimes I felt like I was the only one. So I think if I could go back, I would tell my second grade self, "Hey, Fonzie has dyslexia. You're going to be OK."

Pilkey's latest graphic novel was published in August. Image courtesy: Scholastic

On how "reading without judgment" was encouraged during Pilkey's youth:

A lot of the judgment came from my teachers because I was having trouble reading, but I always kind of had my nose in a book. I was either reading MAD Magazine or reading a joke book or reading a collection of comics, and they would take those away from me. They would say, well that's not real literature. ... So when I would come home from school I would be a little discouraged sometimes. And I think my mom picked up on that, and she felt, instead of focusing on what I was reading, she thought it was more important that I was reading, so she took me to the library and let me pick out whatever I wanted. ... As long as I was home I could read whatever I wanted, and that's what changed everything for me.

On what he's learned from his fans over the years:

I've really gotten a lot of inspiration from my fans. To be honest, you know, being a writer and illustrator can be kind of a lonely job. You're in your studio for sometimes 12 to 15 hours a day. And so going out on the road and meeting kids is incredibly inspirational. And I see a lot of kids on the road that remind me of myself when I was a kid. It's really nice because in a way I feel like I'm making books for the kid I used to be. And so when I see these kids on the road who are identifying with my books and who are really getting into my stories it inspires me to keep going and to keep thinking of new ideas.

(Ed.: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.