Mark Teague - Illustrator
Mark Teague is the illustrator of more than 20 picture books for young children, and has also written and illustrated several books. Although he's never had formal training in art or writing, his books are well-loved by children, especially Dear Mrs. LaRue and One Halloween Night.
RIF: Your books feature adventurous, slightly mischievous characters. Were you like that as a kid?
Mark Teague: I think so. A lot of the stories, especially the early ones, were taken from my own experiences as a kid. They’re only loosely based on that, because they get pretty bizarre. The Secret Shortcut is based on things I did with my best friend. Pigsty is based on my housekeeping ability.
RIF: Do you get any inspiration from your two young daughters (ages 9 and 4)? Do they like to draw, too?
MT: My daughters keep it fresh for me. They provide all kinds of inspiration. They’re very funny and we have a good time. I read to my daughters all the time.
My younger daughter is really into picture books. Both girls provide good criticism for whatever project I’m working on. My older daughter has a really good eye. She started giving me advice when she was really little. At first I just thought it was cute, but then I saw she was right.
RIF: What made you want to be an illustrator?
MT: It was natural. I didn’t really think about it. I was always drawing as a kid. I got pretty good at it after a while. It was always sort of a part of me. I didn’t think of it as a career until I got started after college.
RIF: What advice do you have for kids who want to be authors or illustrators?
MT: Practice is everything. You should read a lot. I think that both writing and illustrating come from a love of books. That was the natural first thing for me. For as long as I remember, I just loved books.
RIF: What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
MT: My first favorite picture book was Where the Wild Things Are. It wasn’t even my book, it was my brother’s friend’s book. I liked to go to his house just so I could stare at that book. I always liked Dr. Seuss and Babar. My mom took us to the library every week and we’d come home with a whole handful of books.
RIF: What is your favorite book that you've written?
MT: Dear Mrs. LaRue is my favorite. I had a lot of fun with the character of the dog, and writing from his point of view was something very different. It was a very different approach to storytelling.
RIF: Is Ike from Dear Mrs. LaRue based on a real dog?
MT: Two dogs were the biggest inspirations for that character, a dog I had named Earl and my brother’s dog, named Ali. Earl was selectively smart when it came to getting what he wanted – mostly food, which was his biggest passion. Ali was a doggie genius. He was full of tricks and sneaky, sort of like Ike.
RIF: Do you have any pets now?
MT: We’re going to look at a puppy this week – a Boston terrier. We also have a couple cats and a bunch of chickens. My older daughter has a frog.
My cats are almost always in our books, sometimes as the villains, like Mrs. Hibbins’ cats in “Dear Mrs. LaRue.” I actually really like cats. I have to do justice to them at some point.
RIF: There's a sequel to Dear Mrs. LaRue coming out this fall. What's it about?
MT: It’s called Detective LaRue: Notes from the Investigation. Mrs. Hibbins’ cats are missing and Ike is the prime suspect. He has to become the detective to solve the mystery and clear his name.