The kids and I recently had a chance to meet Zachariah OHora, author of Stop Snoring, Bernard!. His book is such a fun one (we’ve been practicing our snores here ever since) and he was great with all the kids who came to listen to him speak!
Mr. OHora is also a talented illustrator. His illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, Atlantic Magazine, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Philadelphia Magazine, among others.
He is currently traveling across Pennsylvania as part of the PA One Book Tour. Stop Snoring, Bernard! was chosen as the 2012 PA One Book. Keep up with his latest stops on the tour.
Q: Can you tell us the story about how Bernard came to be?
Bernard came to be when I made a picture to cheer up my wife Lydia Ricci. We were having a hard time getting pregnant so I made a cute otter that said “Stay Fuzzy and Hopeful”. She thought that he would make a great character and in the process of brainstorming a story arc, she gave me a list of annoying things I do and said that it was best to write what you know.
Snoring was at the top.
In researching otters I found the “otters holding hands” video on youtube and it made sense that since otters sleep on their backs (like I do) they might also be snorers. This is the picture.
Q: Where did you grow up and what brought you to Philadelphia?
I grew up in Manchester, NH or Manch Vegas as the locals like to call it. It has the dubious distinction of having the longest double dead end road in the country which is an apt metaphor to describe the place with.
After graduating from high school I got into Kerouac and the Beats, hitchhiked around the country and landed in San Francisco. Eventually I met Lydia there. She was originally from King of Prussia and her sister lived in Narberth. As it happened, both my sisters lived in Philly too. We moved to Brooklyn after I graduated from the California College of Art and after having our first son (Oskar) we moved to Narberth.
Q: Do you have kids – and do they like to draw?
I have two boys, Oskar and Teddy who are 4 and 2. And they love to draw, especially on things they shouldn’t. They also love it when I draw tattoos on them. Usually in a traditional Russian Prison tattoo style (spiderwebs on the elbows etc) This gets horrified looks from other parents at their preschool which I enjoy.
Q: If you and your family had the chance to travel the U.S. in a bookmobile, which books would be with you on the shelves?
That is a good question! A lot of Richard Scarry. All the Bob Shea books. Some Mo Willems too. Some graphic novels like Persepolis and Raymond Carver stories. Can’t forget “On the Road”!
Q: What is your favorite animal to draw?
That changes all the time but right now it would probably be a gorilla.
Q: My kids are both left-handed, so we were excited to see you are, too. How do you keep from smudging your drawings?
Q: Do you have any advice for kids who want to be writers or artists someday?
Read lots of books! Throw away your coloring books and keep drawing all the time!
Q: Can you tell us a little about your next project(s)?
I have two books that are coming out next year. One of them, The Pet Project, is written by Lisa Wheeler and is with Simon and Schuster. It’s about a girl who wants a pet and whose parents tell her to conduct her research first. The potential pets do all kinds of mean things to her, and it’s quite funny.
And a book that I wrote that Penguin is putting out called No Fits, Nilsson! It’s about a gorilla who throws big fits and his best friend, a girl named Amelia, who tries to help him not throw fits. It’s based on my own boys and the last two years of figuring out how to deal with their fits in public. I’m super excited for this to come out!
There’s also a new Bernard book in the works called “Slow down, Bernard!” and a couple other top secret projects too!