The best children’s books are the ones that parents love to read to their kids, don’t you think? No matter what time of day or how many chores seem to be in the way, there are a few books that beg you to take a break and put an instant smile on your face. Those are exactly the kind of books that Hervé Tullet makes. Just watch:
Q: How would you describe your childhood?
A: I grew up in Paris. My childhood was boring, and I was a bit afraid of the world around me. My parents were from Normandy, and they didn’t explore the city so much; we lived quite exclusively in our neighborhood just like they had in their small village in Normandy. So I started exploring on my own, step by step, the city of Paris.
Q: When did you understand that you were meant to be a writer and an artist? And when did the world first learn it, too?
A: Maybe at school. Around age 16, I discovered books and what they were made of: rebellion, ideas, politics, artistic drives…Surrealism, Jean Paul Sartre, poetry…
I began to draw at this time, without any purpose, and I didn’t know that I was expressing myself. Then I attended an art school and began to work in advertising as an art director. I had a baby and I decided to run as an illustrator. I quickly discovered how fun it was to create and invent books. That was over 20 years ago! Sixty books later and counting…
Q: Where do you work best?
A: I’m always thinking and finding new ideas, so I can work everywhere; I just need a pen and a notebook.
Q: Your text is always so casual and friendly! How many languages do you speak?
A: I try to speak English, but I’m still learning. With my books, I can “talk” everywhere, from Korea to Italy and Russia. There have been times when I’ve spoken directly to children in other countries without any help from a translator. Amazing, I tell you!
Q: I’ve seen adults play along with Press Here with pure joy, and The Coloring Book easily draws in such a wide range of ages. How do you make your art so identifiable and fun to both young and old? It is such a trick!
A: Books need to be shared by everyone. All ages. There is not a specific world for just children, with lovely little stuff filling it, so the best book idea for me is the one where everyone can play together.
I have many ideas at the same time, but sometimes one blooms and I just know that this is the one I must focus on because of its simplicity. Because I found the right stuff for both a child and an adult to enjoy.
Q: The first artist who inspired you…
Q: The first book that broke your heart or moved you in some way…
A: Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni.
Q: A perfect day includes…
A: A new idea, discovering a new musician, and starting to read a so-good book!
Q: What’s next for you?
A: New books, some great sessions are coming soon with schools, and a lot of travel.
Thank you so much, Hervé! We’ll have to meet in Normandy sometime soon, perhaps at Mont Saint-Michel. Friends, aren’t you loving hearing about these wildly creative authors who came from fairly ordinary and quiet childhoods? I think I’ve always assumed they bloomed in imagination gardens, haven’t you?
P.S. If you want to be charmed even more, here’s Mr. Tullet discussing Doodle Cook. Have you ever made a scribble sandwich or a thousand-layer cake? Now’s your chance. And don’t you just love his accent?
Author image via Phaidon.