To say Drew Daywalt is an accomplished author is an understatement. He’s written an astounding range of genres, including escapist fantasy, comedy, animated series, screenplays, and picture books. He has received 65 awards for his children’s writing, including the coveted E.B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Time Magazine Top 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time. When it comes to his picture books, I like to think of him as the king of anthropomorphic perspective.
You’ve probably read his first two picture books: The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015) (both from Philomel), in which Daywalt masterfully created unique voices and stand-out personalities for twelve different colored crayons. In an interview with Kidlit 411, Daywalt shares how he got the idea for his debut picture book THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT:
“I was brainstorming for book ideas in my studio, I was literally staring at a box of crayons on my desk, and couldn’t help but notice how unevenly they were used. Blue and red were nubs, pink was untouched, peach had its wrapper torn off…poor little thing. What if they could say anything they wanted to me? What if they could just let me have it? I bet I’d get an earful. And that’s when it hit me.”
After the success of his early books, Daywalt continued to cast his anthropomorphic magic spell on common inanimate objects most of us overlook on a daily basis. The characters in his more recent, hilarious, fun-to-read-aloud picture books (they’re my go-to books when reading in classrooms!) include a grumpy stuffed bunny and his friend, a “happy-go-lucky” stick. (The Epic Adventures of Huggie and Stick, Penguin Young Readers, 2018). In Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018), Daywalt puts a fresh spin on the “kid stalling to go to bed” narrative by pairing said kid, Roderick, with “Sleepy,” a high-maintenance stuffed animal. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the characters from Daywalt’s imaginative tale The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors in which a rock, a piece of paper, and a pair of scissors (each the hero warriors of their own domain) go on a quest to find a worthy opponent. Daywalt rocked this idea. I mean, who doesn’t love rock, paper, scissors?!?
Here’s the best part of Daywalt’s story (for us, not for him): before his debut picture book spent 322 weeks (to date) on the NYT Best Sellers list, it sat on his agent’s desk for six years collecting rejection letters.
“I didn’t hear from him (his agent) for six years. I’d long given up on it,” Daywalt said. One day in the fall of 2009, the agent called Daywalt and said he’d sold the book. It then took three years to get the book illustrated and published.
Drew Daywalt started out just like you and me: with a passion and talent for writing (since childhood), a dream, perseverance, and lots and lots of patience. Attention fellow aspiring children’s lit authors: stay alert! Stories are everywhere. The idea for your future best-selling children’s book could literally be right under your nose. Just ask Daywalt.
“It’s crazy. It’s an aspiration but you never think it’s going to happen, and when it does happen, it’s surreal,” said Daywalt.