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Five questions for David Wiesner

Photo: Annie Hosfeld.

Cat-and-mouse games are so over — what might a feline do when faced with little green men? My question is entirely literal, and David Wiesner’s answer, in the form of his new picture book Mr. Wuffles! (Clarion, 3–7 years), is completely reasonable. See five more questions below.

1. History is written by the victors. What’s Mr. Wuffles’s side of the story?

DW: Oh, it isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Mr. W may have lost a battle, but the war goes on.

2. Why do cats ignore the toys we buy for them in favor of ones they find for themselves?

DW: Psychological warfare — they do it on purpose. It would be the ultimate coup if a designer could delve into the feline mindset and create a toy that cats would respond to without the need to prove to their owners that they were too cool for it.

3. Is it possible to decode the aliens’ language?

DW: I made a set of about thirty symbols to use for the aliens’ language so that there would be repetition of forms. The triangle is a sort of all-purpose exclamation. Sometimes it appears alone and sometimes it has modifiers.

The little green-robed engineer talks in technical language, so his speech is visually more complex. His symbols are presented as compound equations, with a numerator and denominator.

Assuming someone recognizes the universal symbol for cheese — a circle with a triangular slice missing — they should be able to read the panel where the aliens and bugs are getting their picture taken.

4. Cats or dogs: which are easier to paint?

DW: Cats, regardless of weight or amount of fur, adhere to a body template. There is a uniform line and gesture to their posture and shape. If you can draw one cat, you can draw them all.

No two dogs are alike. Each one is a puzzle unto itself.

5. Do you think aliens have visited us?

DW: I like the idea that they’ve been visiting Earth.  One thing is for sure, though: when they do reveal themselves, they’d better be in saucer-shaped ships. Whether the saucer is an efficient shape for space travel is irrelevant. They’ve been monitoring our media for years, and they know perfectly well what our expectations are. It will be an unbearable letdown if they show up in a tube or a cone or a sphere. We want saucers.

From the September 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. writersideup says:

    David, this book sounds SO unusual, I can’t wait to see it! 🙂

  2. Virginia Rinkel says:

    I can hardly wait to see this one!!!

    The front cover reminds me of a Black Persian cat my friend once had. I drew a portrait of his 13# body, along with the other four cats she had. His name was “Oliver”. He had the most arrogant attitude, and his ‘could care less about you’ essence was second to none. I’ve never seen a cat like this since (and I’ve been around more than a few years). His favorite spot was in a large empty bowl on top of the high cupboard in the kitchen. I’ll never forget his antics, among the other cats and the humans that lived in his house!

  3. Beverly Wrigglesworth says:

    That cat looks at the same time both adorable and scheming. I can’t wait to see the new book!

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