Hooray, today is a happy day because we are sharing an interview with the lovely Ame Dyckman, children’s book author (have you read BOY + BOT? You must, you must!), library lover, and rad haircut owner. Enjoy (I mean, how could you not?)! ~ Laura

Ame Dyckman, children's book author.

Ame Dyckman, children’s book author.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and the sort of work you do now?

I was an Army Brat, so my family was always moving:  Texas, Indiana, California, Alaska, Kansas, Maine… and probably a few states I’ve forgotten.  I learned to make friends quickly, to never feed celery to a moose (it makes them angry), and to locate the local library right away!

I was always That Kid With Their Nose in a Book.  Consequently, I ran into a lot of stuff.  (Once, the backside of another moose.  True story.  I seem to have bad luck with moose.)

While my shins healed, I read even more:  friendship stories like Frog and Toad and George and Martha, fairy tales and world myths and Aesop’s Fables, all of Maurice Sendak’s and Roald Dahl’s work… everything I could!

Once, I tried to get library cards in both my real name (Amelia) and nickname.  Can’t blame a reader for trying!

My first taste of writing success came in fourth grade.  My stories of The Punchbowls (animate, sneaker-wearing punchbowls who caused mischief) were far from high literature, but they made my classmates laugh, and their laughter was a beautiful sound. (Okay, except for Chris Xerxa’s laugh. He sounded like a donkey, the poor kid. Hope he outgrew it.)

But that’s when I knew what I wanted to do as an adult. I wanted to write short, funny stories that made people laugh.

It took a long time. I grew up (chronologically), went to college, got married, moved to New Jersey, and had my own kiddo who—HOORAY!—loves books as much as I do.

BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman, with illustrations by Dan Yaccarino.

BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman, with illustrations by Dan Yaccarino.

I had a series of jobs, both serious (academic assistant) and not so much (costumed character). I was a substitute preschool teacher for a year (loved it, but I caught 52 colds and pinkeye twice), designed window displays, and even helped Wegmans supermarket develop their Ultimate Brownie. (I know!  I still can’t believe that gig, either!)

But now, I’m finally doing what I always wanted to do:  writing short, funny stories that make people—the best people, little people—laugh.

Being a picture book author is better than dressing like Daffy Duck.  It’s even better than getting paid to eat brownies.

For me, it’s the best job/career/lifestyle there is.  And I feel so very lucky to be doing it.

Tell us about your relationship to libraries. What was it while you were growing up, and what is it today?

Libraries were—are!—incredibly important to me.  (She wrote, from her favorite public library.)  As we moved so frequently, my family had to be very selective about the items we brought with us from place-to-place. While we were lucky to have lots of books at home, my book appetite always craved more. Libraries were—are!—an absolute banquet of books, and a vital community connection no matter where we happened/happen to be.

Do you remember the first library you ever visited? What sticks in your mind about this library now?

I don’t recall the first library I visited, but the first library I remember making a “WOW!” impact was my third grade school library in Maine. The library was in the basement of a built-in-the-1920s brick schoolhouse, and descending those old stone stairs always made me feel like I was entering a magical place.

"Tea Party Rules," Ame's next book, is due out in October 2013. The illustrations are by K.G. Campbell.

“Tea Party Rules,” Ame’s next book, is due out in October 2013. The illustrations are by K.G. Campbell.

And I was. Not only did we have an amazing selection of books, our library also had something really genius:  a Found.

It wasn’t a Lost and Found. (The Lost and Found was the funky cardboard box under the desk in the Office, rumored to contain a kid’s baloney sandwich from 1979.)

It was simply a Found.

Our library’s Found was a collection of items that folks (kids and grown-ups) at our school had found—and found interesting.

Sometimes, like the enormous lobster claw that took up half the table, it was immediately apparent why the finder found their found object so fascinating.

But sometimes, like the nondescript bottle cap or gray rock or odd bit of string, it required more than an initial glance to see what the finder had seen in it.

The Found helped me look at my entire world a little more closely. And so has every library I’ve visited since.

The Lawrence Branch in Lawrence, NJ.

The Lawrence Branch in Lawrence, NJ.

Librarians are always looking for advice and feedback. What, if anything, would you say that libraries and library staff could do to serve artists and writers like yourself even better?

I’m spoiled by my wonderful local libraries, especially the Lawrence, NJ Headquarters Branch that transfers in the mountains of books I request each week for research and fun. (YAY, Lawrence Branch!) I couldn’t do this without them!

I adore our fabulous New Books shelves that are always stocked with just-released titles, but I’d love to see Retro Recommendations shelves too, giving a nod to the great (and little-known but great) titles of our past.

As an artist/writer, what would your ideal library look or be like?

My ideal library would have pneumatic tubes. I wish there was a network of high-speed pneumatic tubes connecting my library to all the branches in my library system. (Because even though interlibrary transfers only take a day or two—and I’m extremely grateful for this—there’s still no longer wait in the universe than the I Wanna Read That Book Now Wait!)

And of course, the more super-comfy chairs in a library, the better. I think more people would kick back and read longer in their library with more super-comfy chairs.

Like I’m doing right now.  Keep an eye out for moose for me, will ya?

Ame Dyckman loves books.  Sometimes she’ll stop reading them long enough to write one of her own:

  • BOY + BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf; 2012)
  • TEA PARTY RULES, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking; October 3, 2013)
  • WOLFIE AND DOT (working title), illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; 2014)
  • And more news soon!

Ame lives in Lawrenceville, NJ, with her family, pets—but no moose!—and book collection. You can visit Ame at amedyckman.com or follow her on Twitter (@AmeDyckman), where she Tweets picture book reviews and a good deal of whatever pops into her head.

Pin It