Saturday, October 20, 2007

Robert's Snow: Maxwell Eaton III

The snowflake Maxwell Eaton III has illustrated for Robert's Snow this year features his delightful characters, Max and Pinky. Max, a little boy, and Pinky, a marshmallow-loving pig, are best friends. And what better way to spend a snow day than playing outside with your best bud? I particularly enjoy the fact that his snowflake tells a story - flip it over, and the mystery is solved. Plus, like everything that involves Max and Pinky, it makes me smile.

For more information about bidding on this or the many other marvelous snowflakes featured in the 2007 Robert's Snow: For Cancer's Cure benefit, click here. Proceeds benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Maxwell Eaton III writes that he "grew up in Vermont where he spent his childhood building forts, damming streams, exploring woods and spying on unsuspecting cows. He still enjoys all of these activities but is told that 'it’s not that cute anymore.' So Maxwell now spends his days in Saranac Lake, New York creating children’s books and figuring out what to do when he grows up. Hopefully something that involves bulldozers and dinosaurs. We’ll see."

So far, he's published two books about Max and Pinky:
The Adventures of Max and Pinky: Best Buds (Alfred A. Knopf, December 2006 )
The Adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes (Alfred A. Knopf, October 2007)

In Best Buds, Max becomes alarmed when he can't find Pinky anywhere. He searches all over the place, but it isn't until he finally stops to think about what truly motivates his best bud that he realizes exactly where to look.

In Superheroes, there's some tension between the best buds when Max is hogging the glory in their superhero battles, but poor Pinky gets the short end of the stick. Friendship (and hero skills) are tested in this book, but we know that truly best buds always help each other out.

A new Max and Pinky book (The Adventures of Max and Pinky: The Mystery) will be published by Knopf in fall of 2008, and another book, Little Boogers, is also forthcoming. Here is a sneak preview of the cover of The Mystery:

In addition to supplying me with all this great artwork from the books, Maxwell also agreed to answer some questions about himself, writing and illustrating.

How did you get involved with writing and illustrating?

I had just graduated from college and was living in the mountains of Colorado and pursuing a lucrative career in ski instruction. Anyone who has ever worked in this field or any of the ski related service industries knows the deal. Get rich quick, and get out. But despite this early success I was still exploring my creative options figuring I’d need something to occupy my time during my early retirement. I’d been doodling a little hairless, earless character named Max and began writing him into stories where he gets ready to go skiing or skating or drag racing or something. He had a little sidekick named Pinky that resembled a pig only he didn’t have legs… or a body… or a neck. Just a tail out of the back of his head. A shuffling pig head? Adorable! Now that I think about it, my characters always seem to be missing significant body parts and facial features, because it was another year before Pinky had legs and Max had ears. And they still don’t have more than dots for eyes! Where am I? Anyway, Pinky started working his way into the stories and pretty soon they were a pair. And blah, blah, blah, they’re published!

What do you enjoy most about it?

Getting to sit down every day to write and draw and entertain myself. You can’t beat it with a stick!

What other books are you interested in writing?

I’ve just started working with my editor, Cecile, on my first non-Max and Pinky project, LITTLE BOOGERS, which is a lot of fun so far because there are so many new options. It’s pretty refreshing. We’ll see how Pinky takes it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to
be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a drifter living about a hundred and fifty years ago. Not a hobo, because I didn’t want to clutter my mind with train schedules, but a guy wandering the woods and plains and playing a jaw harp. Maybe with a wolf that tags along. And I think I would have a slight ability to communicate with animals. Mainly owls. And I’d either have a sweet facial scar, a limp with a story behind it, or maybe a missing eye or finger. I was serious, but unfortunately so was my high school guidance counselor when he told me that most colleges don’t offer Drifting as a major.

What were your favorite books when you were
a child?

My favorite book as a child continues to be my favorite book today. It’s THE AMERICAN BOYS HANDY BOOK and I suggest you check it out. It shows you how to do everything from building rafts, war kites and wilderness structures to rearing birds and slinging rocks. It still gets me excited! Although, I’m pretty sure half of it has become illegal in the hundred and twenty-five years since its first publication. Nonetheless, Christmas is coming…

Any advice for kids who would like to do what you do?

My only advice would be to actively pursue whatever it is that you love to do, and when people tell you that you can’t, or it won’t happen, or that the odds are against you, then just remember that somebody has to be a writer. And somebody has to be an artist. And somebody has be a one-eyed drifter that talks to animals and plays the jaw harp. So, why can’t it be you? Basically, don’t give two thoughts as to what other people think. Now that’s good advice for anyone. Also, don’t ride a bike or run downstairs with your hands in your pockets. That’s even more good advice. No charge!

My children (first and third graders) are big fans of Max and Pinky, and when they heard I was writing down interview questions for "Mister Eaton" to answer, they wanted to join in on the fun. I asked them what they wanted to know, and I could barely keep up with them as I madly typed it all down. I think their questions are actually more interesting than the ones I thought up, and Maxwell kindly answered them all as well:

How did you come up with the idea of a pig loving marshmallows so much?

It’s basic pig biology. I just read up on pigs and learned that marshmallows are one part of their nutritional requirements. One part. So don’t go feeding your family pig all marshmallows. It’s not natural. As you can see, research is ninety percent of the children’s book writing process.

Do you like marshmallows as much as Pinky

Not by a long shot, and I’ve got twenty-eight healthy adult teeth to prove it (That’s right, I just put my finger in my mouth and felt how many teeth I have. I suggest you do the same to make sure you don’t have any missing).

How did you get the idea of a boy and a pig being best friends?

At first Pinky was almost like a stuffed animal that belonged to Max. But I wanted him to think and talk and show sarcasm (which pigs do so well), so they became full blown best buds.

Will you ever write a chapter book?

You girls sure are nosy! I think every picture book author thinks of writing a chapter book. For some reason I think we need it to prove ourselves. “See. I can write more than thirty-two pages.” It’s not right around the corner, but I think I’ll definitely be trying my hand at it at some point in the near future.

Will you write a Max and Pinky Hallowe
en book?

I would love to write a Max and Pinky Halloween book.

Did you like writing and illustrating books when you were a child?

Writing stories and illustrating them was the best. But I think you’ll find that as you get older (so wise… so wise…) the drawing and the writing seem to drift further and further apart until they become English and Fine Arts. I don’t know why it has to be this way. Heck, it doesn’t! Forget it! Just keep doing your own thing. For me they went wide, but now they’ve finally come slamming back together and I get to spend my days writing funny stories with pictures again. Whoa. Close one.

And finally, here is a photo of Maxwell Eaton III - it looks like he's in a canoe - possibly on his way to dam a stream or spy on some unsuspecting cows? I'd like to offer my thanks to him, not only for taking so much time to answer all my questions, but also for donating his talents to the Robert's Snow effort to raise money for cancer research.

Just think how fun it would be to have an original Max and Pinky looking back at you from their snowflake this holiday season. Don't forget to stop by the auction site and place a bid on this or any of the other stunning snowflakes you will find there. Also, be sure to check out Maxwell Eaton very cool website - it has coloring pages, a monthly drawing to win the "sketch of the month" (it's a drawing drawing, get it?), and other fun activities.

And (this is a p.s. to this post, added later that day) - I just discovered Maxwell has a blog, too!


  1. HA! This ornament makes me laugh. I have a Borders gift card, and now I know what I am going to get with it! I can't wait for Little Boogers to come out. Until then I am going to stock up on the others!
    Love the interview.

  2. Darla, oh my, he is funny. I almost choked on my coffee, laughing to his response to "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?" Why isn't there a jaw harp in that pic of him? Oh heavens, thank you both for that.

    My girls (not as old as yours) love the Max and Pinky books with the burning intensity of a bajillion suns. That is a fabulous snowflake. I also like that it has a little story to tell.

    I have a feeling the booger book will be a treat.

    Thanks to you both (Darla and Mr. Eaton III)!

  3. By the way, I LOVE getting those sneak-peek images from his next books! WOOT!

  4. What a great posting. I laughed my way through it. Who didn't want to be a one eyed, nine fingered, jaw harping drifter with a limp that could talk to animals when they were a kid?

  5. I love the lucrative career as a ski instructor. These Robert's Snow posts have been such a fun way to hang out with artists. Yay!

  6. That snowflake is great! I've never heard of his books but they look and sound great. I'll have to keep an eye out for them :)

  7. "It's basic pig biology." Well, that got me going! I obviously know nothing about pigs and/or marshmallows, but thanks to you, Darla, and you, Maxwell, I'm now much enlightened. And in need of that snowflake! I love that he used both sides to the fullest.

  8. Max reminds me of sanguine Charlie Brown character -- way less baggage,a quirky, cute pig and adventures galore.

    And who WOULDN'T want to pal around with Max and Pinky when the whole 'drifter' thing didn't pan out?

    Fun interview!

  9. Thanks for the fun and lively interview. Max and Pinky are adorable!

  10. Fun interview! This snowflake illustrator clearly has a great sense of humor.

  11. What fun! Now I have to get these books so I ... er. rather, my nieces ... can check out how funny they are.

    P.S. If your kids don't go into writing fiction, they should become journalists ... great, probing questions!!

  12. What a fine and funny interview! I'd say Mr. Eaton may have a second lucrative career off the slopes. I'm not sure how lucrative a career in children's literature can be--but I'm sure he'll be successful with such a great sense of humor!

  13. Thanks for all the wonderful comments, everyone! I have to admit, I feel that I need to pass these thanks on to Maxwell Eaton, because he's the one who made it such a fun interview! When someone almost chokes on their coffee reading my blog, I feel like my work here is done. :-)

  14. What a excellent and crazy interview! I'd say Mr. Eaton may have a second profitable profession off the hills. I'm not sure how profitable a profession in kid's literary works can be--but I'm sure he'll be effective with such an excellent feeling of humor! Rezo Systems


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