Chris Robertson is just a big kid at heart who happens to write and draw Children’s Picture Books. His most recent book is “My Yellow Umbrella” has hit the #1 spot on Amazon’s Bestseller list for Baby & Toddler Color Books, Bedtime and Dreaming and Children’s Game Books.
Chris’s other books include the Amazon’s Best Sellers, “I’ll Trade My Peanut-Butter Sandwich” and “Kit and Kaboodle”. He broke into the Children’s book field in 2005 with “Little Miss Liberty” published by Chronicle Books then subsequently by Scholastic Books in paperback.
Chris’s whimsical cartoon style feels light-hearted and carefree which seems to perfectly match his humorous writing style. He lives in Pasadena with his wife and three boys, all of whom, own a yellow umbrella.
You seem to have done it all in terms of creating content for kids — do you have a favorite medium?
“I’ve had the privilege of working in television, film, and children’s literature and by all means my favorite is kid’s books. TV and film are collaborative efforts, but when you write and illustrate your own book, it’s your name on the cover and that is something very special indeed.”
What’s the most important factor in your decision to proceed with one of your own projects? Does it have to make you laugh after several readings? Or are you interested in providing kids with a particular message?
“For me, the most important factor to pursue one of my own manuscripts and turn it into an actual book is that it has to be true to who I am as an artist. It has to feel like a project that speaks to me on some level, whether it’s because of its humor, sentiment, or message. More specifically, if I were to write something and find it funny, I’m confident that a child and a parent will also find it humorous to some degree. In addition, I will only pursue a project that I know will maintain my interest over several months or years. My most recent, My Yellow Umbrella, has been under development for about three years and it still touches me.”
Politics aside, what are some of the greatest challenges in the kid-entertainment business?
“Because the film, television, and publishing industries are all run by adults, the hardest thing to predict is what kids are really going to respond to. I think it’s important as a content creator to lead with my gut instincts first and my thoughts second. That way when a project “feels” right for kids it stands a higher likelihood of being right for kids. I rarely “think” that my next project will be successful. I “feel” that my next project will be successful.”
Are you a fan of previous eras of animation and kid content? Early Warner Brothers? Disney?
“Yes, I love all sorts of animation. I love 2D, 3D, classic Warner Bros cartoons, specifically Bugs Bunny. In fact, it would be easier to mention all the animation I don’t like. It would be shorter answer. I’ll tell you this…. it’s great having a two year old in the house. We can watch all these films that we haven’t watched in years and realize how amazing they really are. I’ll just mention a few; Jungle Book, Toy Story, The Iron Giant, Peter Pan, The Lion King, Tarzan… the list goes on and on. And it’s great to watch them with him because he’s watching them for the first time and in some ways, because it’s been so long since I’ve watched them, it feels like I’m watching them for the first time as well.”
Do you think there’s a role for “Hollywood” content creators to play in the world of education in general? Helping to develop schoolbooks? Lesson plans?
“First and foremost the role that Hollywood plays is to entertain. If it’s fundamental role is to educate, it may come across as stiff or boring. “Sesame Street” has been a huge success. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was entertaining first , I doubt very seriously that it would have ever become as popular and educational as it has. In terms of Children’s Books, one of the main guidelines is to not make it too preachy. Nobody want’s to get hit over the head with a heavy handed message. Especially kids.”
You’ve achieved so much in your career – do you have any bucket list items you’d still like to pursue?
“Having my own animated show and seeing it come to life would be pretty darn terrific. Who knows? It could all start off with a sketch on a napkin or tablecloth at some random lunch. As far as my children’s book career goes, I’d love to “hit it big” with one, but that’s the dream of every children’s book writer/illustrator. Of course, winning the Caldecott would be nice.”