From dancing monsters to sloppy operas, Keith Graves’ imaginative stories really speak to kids. Follow this children’s author and illustrator’s unique train of thought into the colorful world he creates.
texasmonthly.com: How did you get started writing children’s books?
Keith Graves: When my wife got pregnant with twins, I started having dreams where an old Jewish grandfather with a long striped nose and chicken feet told crazy stories in the voice of Mel Brooks.
texasmonthly.com: Would you consider yourself primarily a children’s illustrator, or an author?
KG: I’m just a person with obsessions. Some days I daydream about monsters and East European rats who want to be Batman’s sidekick, and some days I can’t put a sentence together. But painting or building something is like scratching an itch that I will go crazy if I don’t scratch. Sometimes I’m just someone who stares.
texasmonthly.com: Do all of your books have a common theme?
KG: The theme is something. I don’t know for sure what it is.
texasmonthly.com: Do you try to impart anything to your young readers or are your books just for fun?
KG: They’re just for fun, but they can’t help but be about something.
texasmonthly.com: Why do you think kids respond so well to your work?
KG: I don’t know. Maybe they are experts at having fun no matter what.
texasmonthly.com: Do you think you have a connection to children and an insight into the way young minds work that most adults don’t?
KG: No. I can’t get out of my own mind.
texasmonthly.com: Can you tell us a little bit about your newly-released book Loretta: Ace Pinky Scout?
KG: Loretta is like my daughter Emma—very feminine, yet able to bench press a Volkswagen. She believes everything she needs to know can be found in the Pinky Scout manual. And she’s right.
texasmonthly.com: Some of your work has been made into animation. Have you considered pursuing children’s film?
KG: I have worked with my partner John Williams, who produced Shrek, on many animation projects. My book Pet Boy was purchased by Nickelodeon and is in development there as a feature film. Various other creations of mine are in development with Vanguard Films for features and TV.
texasmonthly.com: What projects are you currently working on?
KG: I just finished Three Nasty Gnarlies, my next picture book due out next fall; I’m writing a goofy novel called The Disgusting Tribes of Planet Plurp (which is in development as a movie); I’m doing some paintings, and playing music.