What's Cooking with Tim Miller
Here at the store, we almost always have a picture book circulating around our staff. Sometimes they make us think, like Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel. Sometimes they make us cry, like Love by Matt de la Peña. And sometimes they make us snort coffee through our noses and run to the back room, howling with laughter. Author and illustrator Tim Miller specializes in that last category. His books are zany, funny, and full of heart. He's a big hit with young readers, too—we're teaming up with Tim to visit a few Houston-area schools on April 3, and we can't wait to see their reactions to What's Cooking, Moo Moo?, his laugh-out-loud latest. Before we yuk it up with the youngsters, we caught up with Tim for a quick Q&A. Read on!
Your picture books are so much fun! Where do you find those madcap adventures in your head?
Thank you, I really appreciate that! My ideas for stories come in part from spending a lot of time in my head daydreaming and liking to have a good laugh at things. In making my books I’ve been interested in sharing that sense of lightheartedness with the audience because I want give the reader an opportunity to lose themselves in it and find simple enjoyment there. That resonates with me because that’s what books did for me as a young reader.
Moo Moo in a Tutu and What’s Cooking, Moo Moo? are directly inspired by my experience teaching. I used to take on the personality of Moo Moo to engage my students. I would play games of opposites with them where I would pretend to answer things incorrectly to get them to save the day and set things straight much like Mr. Quackers does. In making these books I wanted to create a similar kind of dynamic in the exchange between the audience and characters.
Tell us a little about your new book, What’s Cooking, Moo Moo? What inspired Moo Moo to open a 5-star restaurant?
What’s Cooking, Moo Moo? is a story about an adventurous cow named Moo Moo who gets carried away by her dream to open a restaurant, and her best friend Mr. Quackers, a loyal duck who does what he can to help Moo Moo succeed. When Moo Moo’s signature dish, the Moo Moo Special, fails to live up to expectations, Mr. Quackers comes to the rescue and whips up a specialty dish of his own, Quackers’s Delight, that the customers will never forget—thanks to his top-secret ingredient.
You have a BFA in cartooning from the School of Visual Arts. Did you always know you wanted to create picture books?
To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this. When I first went to art school I was really interested in doing comic books. I took one children’s book class while I was there, but I didn’t feel like it was the right thing for me. It wasn’t until about 15 years later when I was an art teacher that I started thinking about it. I worked at an art museum, and part of my job was engaging students in conversations about different works of art in the galleries. The impact of seeing children open up to works of art and the level of perception they displayed in deciphering their encounters, got me thinking about how exciting it would be to engage along similar lines through picture books. That’s really where it took off for me.
What’s one piece of advice you like to offer to kids who are interested in becoming illustrators?
You have to make mistakes in order to figure out what the right answers are.
What’s next for you?
I just finished illustrating a book by debut author Elliot Kalan called Horse Meets Dog that I’m really excited about. It comes out this fall from Balzer + Bray. I also just started working on the fourth book in the Hamstersaurus Rex middle grade series by Tom O’Donnell called Hamstersaurus Rex Vs. Cutepocolypse, which is hysterical.
What are you reading?
I just started reading The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez.