Dav Pilkey - Author
Dav Pilkey, former "bad" student and detention king, has found his calling with writing and illustrating fun books. The heroes of Dav's books include Captain Underpants, Dogzilla, Kat Kong, the Dumb Bunnies, and Ricky Ricotta. His books are loved by kids everywhere — even those who thought they didn't like reading.
RIF: You weren't exactly the teacher's pet as a student. Have any former teachers apologized for not being supportive?
Dav Pilkey: No. I think they're still mad at me.
RIF: If you could go back to elementary school, what would your ideal teacher be like?
DP: If I could go back? Ugh! I think I’d rather wait in line at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for 10 years. Even though elementary school was a bad experience for me, I wouldn’t change a thing. Who knows? If I’d had teachers who were kind and supportive and nurturing, I wouldn’t have had anyone to rebel against, and I probably wouldn’t have created Captain Underpants.
RIF: Who would make a good real-life Captain Underpants?
DP: I think Richard Simmons would make a great Captain Underpants. He already has super powers, but he needs to lose the afro and gain about ninety pounds.
RIF: What was the most trouble you ever got in at school?
DP: Once in high school, we had this really bad science teacher who I felt was incompetent. He couldn’t get through five minutes of class without consulting his answer book. So one afternoon, to prove a point, I sneaked into his classroom and hid his answer book. I proved my point all right (our next class was like a train wreck), but I got busted ... and it wasn’t pretty.
RIF: Did you ever get in trouble at home?
DP: Sure. Doesn’t every kid? My parents were strict, but I always felt loved and safe. My parents knew I was having a hard time in school, so I think they tried to balance that by being very supportive of my creativity. I was quite fortunate to have such an understanding mom and dad.
RIF: You get your ideas from daydreaming. What are your favorite daydreaming conditions?
DP: Walking my dog is my favorite ... but I can daydream almost anywhere. I’m very good at it.
RIF: What's your favorite holiday? Do you dress up for Halloween?
DP: As a kid, I always loved Christmas the best (of course), but as an adult, my favorite holiday has become Halloween. I love Halloween because I always fly back to Ohio (where I grew up) and spend time with my nephews and niece. We carve pumpkins and go trick-or-treating. It’s so much fun. Sometimes I even wear a costume. Next year I’m going to be “Edward Sillystringhands.”
RIF: Where did you pick up your love of puns? Did your parents share your sense of humor growing up?
DP: Yeah, my dad was a bit of a pun-master. He’s the one who came up with the name “Hally-Tosis” for our dog, Hally, who had really bad breath. (“Hally Tosis” sounds like the word “halitosis”, which means “bad breath”). I took his silly joke and turned it into a book called Dog Breath.
RIF: What would you tell a kid who has lots of imagination, but doesn't do well in school?
DP: Just do the best you can in school, and don’t worry about it so much. School will be OVER some day, but your imagination will be with you forever. Knowledge can only get you so far in the real world. But with imagination, there are no limits.
RIF: You didn't like reading as a kid. When did you start to look at books as something that could be fun?
DP: When I was a kid, reading always seemed like “homework.” Even when we got to pick what we wanted to read, it still seemed like a chore because we had write book reports, and the teachers always had to approve the books we picked out. I always wanted to pick out “joke books”, but my teacher scoffed at those. Since I couldn’t find anything else I wanted to read, she would get frustrated and say “Here! You’re a boy. Take this sports book and get out of here!” (I hated sports as a kid, so you can imagine how I felt about those books).
I first started enjoying books when our school began to work with Scholastic Book Clubs. Every month we’d get a little newsprint order form with lots of colorful pictures of books, and for some reason, those books seemed like candy to me. I’d spend my own money on books, believe it or not, and when the books got shipped to my classroom, I couldn’t WAIT to start reading. And yes, all I ever bought were joke books and silly cartoon books… but look where it got me!
I think that was the first time I discovered that reading could be fun, as long as I got to read what I wanted to read, and now what I was supposed to read.
Get in touch with Dav!