We are so excited to have gotten the chance to hear from acclaimed children’s author, Barney Saltzberg, on the creative process behind his latest book, A Little Bit of Oomph
CW: How did you become interested in books and literature?
Barney: My mom was an educator. She was a reading and study skills counselor at UCLA. My dad was a shoe leather salesman. I grew up in Los Angeles and in Hollywood there was a bookstore my parents would take me to on Friday nights. They would leave me in the children’s section and there was something about the smell of the books and the feel of the paper that made me feel like I would fall into a different world every time I opened a book. At the end of the evening they would let me choose a book to take home. My parents read a lot and there were always books in the house. I took for granted growing up in a house full of books. My mom didn’t believe in coloring books but would give me blank books that I could fill out myself.
CW: Everyone knows your amazing book Beautiful Oops. Tell us about the difference it’s made with educators.
Barney: I get more letters talking about how the perfectionists in the world loosen up and will go proudly up to a teacher and say, ‘look, I made a beautiful oops.’ To take the sting out of [making mistakes] has been really marvelous and to see how it’s impacted kids. (AND adults!)
CW: Tell us about your new book, A Little Bit of Oomph. How did you get started?
Barney: It changed dramatically from what I started with to what I ended up with. When I talk to children, one thing I will do is show them 2 + 2 and explain that if this was art, 2 + 2 could equal banana. I play with things and push them to see where they can go. While working on 2+2, and seeing what effort goes in to working on concepts, I realized I am always adding a little extra oomph in to everything I do, and ultimately the book changed to, A Little Bit of Oomph!
CW: Oomph is very typographical and full of interactive pop-ups and creative paper work. What inspired you to create that way?
Barney: I learned about a style of what I refer to as “thinking with your hands.” I am a different type of learner. I could not have written Oops and Oomph on paper. I had to sit in a room with things and start tearing and painting and folding. That triggers a different part of the brain and a different part of the thinking and problem solving process. I’m married to a lawyer and she always said, ‘how do you write something if you don’t know how it will end?’ I have to start and see how it will happen. Things unfolded literally and figuratively as I was working. I see things like faces in regular patterns like numbers and textures, so it was sort of just an extension of the way my brain works.
CW: Talk to us about the art medium you used in A Little Bit of Oomph.
Barney: I used acrylic paint [and it] is really forgiving, which I love. With acrylic paint you can paint on top of paint and scrape away and smear and it dries really fast. I wanted Oops to be messy and acrylic paint seemed to be the perfect medium. I just finished a book Friday where I painted on paper towels to create a texture for a dragon. I was cleaning my brushes on the towel and realized, “that looks like scales!”
CW: We know that Oops is all about the freedom to make mistakes. What is the takeaway lesson in A Little Bit of Oomph?
Barney: Nowadays everything is so immediate – you take a picture and kids want to see the back of your phone right away – the idea that you work on something a little extra is sort of being lost in a lot of things and I wanted to plant that seed that it’s ok to spend a little more time doing something. And I always say to kids, most of us tried to walk and we fell over. If we hadn’t put time into learning something new, we would still be crawling!
Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to 50 books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the bestselling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over one million copies in print. Additionally, he’s recorded four albums of music for children.
Learn more about Barney Saltzberg at www.barneysaltzberg.com
Learn more about how Oops is encouraging creativity and making a difference in classrooms around the country here!