Meet the Author: Michael Hale
Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading. This week, we meet the author of Bad Monkey Business, Michael Hale.
Bad Monkey Business is the tale of a monkey on a mission, told in rhyme and paired with charming, lively illustrations. You’ll find lots of different animals in the pages of this humorous story–no surprise, since its author was once Creative Director at the Phoenix Zoo! Look forward to an entertaining, energetic, and educational story about an unlikely pair in your Elephant Books package this month.
How did you decide to write your first children’s book?
I am not sure if I decided to write it or if it was something that just came out on it’s own. I originally wrote Bad Monkey Business for my sons. I wanted to make it the best book it could be so I wrote it, revised it and illustrated it many times over. It took 12 years and a big learning curve to finally bring it to life.
Since you both write and illustrate—did you first draw the monkey or write some of the rhymes for Bad Monkey Business?
I usually write and draw at the same time. Since the illustrations have to do half of the storytelling in a picture book, I draw rough images while I write the rough drafts. Then, I refine them together as the story progresses.
The rhyming prose makes this a fun book to read aloud. Did you know this story would be told in rhyming verse from the beginning?
I always wanted to tell this story in rhyme. I wanted it to be fun for both children and the adults who read it. The first lines of this book came to me in rhyme and I stuck to it. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time to write a story that way, especially when you have to revise it over and over again. That is one of the biggest reasons it took so long for me to finish it.
The main character in the book is a monkey that just gets into trouble. Is he based off anyone in particular?
He is not based on any one person but I think that a lot of people can identify with him. I think we all have a little mischievous monkey inside of us.
You dedicated the book to your friends at the zoo. What is your connection to zoo animals?
My friends at the zoo are not just the animals but the people who work there as well. I spent many years working at the Phoenix Zoo. It was a great place to work because I was surrounded by amazing animals and became friends with a lot of great people who have dedicated their lives to taking care of them.
Who were your favorite authors or books when you were a child?
H.A. & Margret Rey who wrote and illustrated the Curious George books. Any book by Dr. Suess. Sir Kevin of Devon written by Adelaide Holl and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard and of course, Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Did you love to read as a child and what would you most recommend to parents who want to develop a love of reading in their children?
I loved reading as a child. Especially picture books. We all remember our favorite books from childhood. I kept mine and as I grew older and became interested in art, I went back to my old picture books again and again for inspiration. They only way I know to develop a love of reading in your children is to read to them. Parents are the key. It is up to parents to expose their children to new stories, new ideas and show them that there are exciting worlds waiting to be discovered inside of every book.
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges or opportunities to address?
I believe that the biggest challenge to getting kids interested in books is finding the time to read to them. Families are very busy these days. Parents as well as children. Finding quality time to spend together and read can be difficult to manage. The good news is that if you carve out the time to do it, there are more great books out there than ever before. And, having a company like Elephant Books who can deliver them right to your door is a huge time saver.
What is the best thing about being a children’s author and illustrator?
Being able to read my books to children. To hear them laugh, gasp or sigh at the right moment in the story means that I have done what I set out to do when I wrote my book. I love that, but my greatest joy is when someone tells me that Bad Monkey Business is their favorite book.
Do you have a new book in the works?
I have a new book that will be coming out this summer. “Fast Freddie, The Legend in a Shell.” It is a story of a tortoise who refuses to live a slow, boring life and becomes a legend in the process.
Thanks to Michael Hale for sharing more about Bad Monkey Business and his take on why reading with kids is so important! To learn more about Bad Monkey Business and other publications and illustrations, visit his website.