"I grew up on a small farm in Southern Michigan, one of seven children. With three boys and four girls, we put on shows, had a band, formed clubs and had almost enough kids to have a baseball team. We had creeks to wade in and fields to roam. The woods were filled with wild flowers and mushrooms. Summers seemed endless.
“My earliest memory of wanting to be an artist is the smell of crayons. Ours were kept in an old cigar box. They were broken, chewed, and well used. You couldn’t even recognize the different colors, so you had to test each color by drawing on the cigar box lid. Oh, the smell when you opened that lid … ahhh … and a nice sheet of manila construction paper … my life’s requirements were met!
“In second grade, something great happened. We were drawing pictures of Santa’s sleigh. I worked hard on my drawing. To my surprise, my teacher, Mrs. Stanley, put only my picture up on the bulletin board because it was so good. That's when I decided to be an artist. And I did! In The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash, a teacher takes the kids on a class trip. I named her Mrs. Stanley!
“When I was twelve, another wonderful thing happened. That Christmas, my dad made me the best present ever...a professional drawing board! I was speechless and didn't even thank him. So, when I became an author and illustrator, I thanked him in a special way by writing and illustrating Apple Tree Christmas for him.
“We had the usual farm animals as well as some unusual wild animals because my mother was good at bringing up orphans. We had a little red fox named Rascal with a broken paw, tiny twin raccoons named Nip and Tuck, a hawk with a broken wing, a baby badger who liked to sleep in a bread loaf pan, and four baby skunks who thought my older brother was their mother!