I was born in Los Angeles, California on April 30. It was raining so hard that my brother told my sister he hoped our parents would name me Stormy. When I was eight, I dreamed of being like John Lennon who was a member of the Beatles. (That's a rock group not a bug!) I started playing the guitar but my teacher suggested I try another instrument. "You'll never be a guitar player!" he said. As hard as it was, I was determined to learn, so I kept practicing. At my sixth grade graduation I sang the first song I ever wrote, "We're Four Black Knights." It was about a dragon who ran off with a princess, only to have his head cut off by the four black knights! It was a start! John Lennon also drew funny little cartoons and I was inspired to start drawing as well. My mother liked to paint pictures and she bought me drawing pads. I wanted coloring books, but my mother didn't want me to have to color in someone else's art, she wanted me to create my own. I began to cover the pages with little characters I had invented. I even drew all over my lunch bag every morning before I went off to school.
I went on to study art at Sonoma State College in Northern California. I remember one of my teachers saying, "Barney has the ability to draw like a child!" I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl under the table. I had a very young, naive style and all the other students had been trained to draw realistically. It took a while for me to realize that being different is a good thing.
I moved back to Los Angeles in the late 1970's and took a class at Otis/Parsons in children's book writing and illustration. The teacher, Barbara Bottner was terrific! She gave assignments that pulled stories out of me that I never knew were there.
The first month of the class was awful. Writing and illustrating was much harder than I imagined it would be. Then one day I came to class with a drawing of a boy asleep in bed. There was a man in his room playing the violin and a dog howling at the moon. My teacher said, "Tell me the story of this drawing." As I spoke, she wrote down the words and that became my first published children's book, It Must Have Been the Wind. I have now published close to thirty books.
On any given day, I carry around a sketchbook. I draw while waiting for a dentist appointment or picking up kids' after school carpool. I'm constantly doodling and writing things down. For the past year I've been working on my Hip & Hop stories. The drawing pad has become a great place to see my characters come to life. I might draw a little picture of Hip or Hop and the look on their face or the body language can suggest an emotion or an attitude that might not have occurred to me from just the writing alone. Other times, I will write down ideas, dialogues or monologues that may or may not get used in the book. This is all part of the process of shaping who these characters are and it's helpful for when I sit down at my computer to write."
In addition to writing and illustrating children's books I have recorded two albums for children. Where, Oh, Where's My Underwear?, and most recently, The Soccer Mom From Outer Space! (Based on my book of the same title.) My songs have been recorded by Shari Lewis for Charlie Horse Music Pizza. I have also written and produced songs for the PBS show, Arthur. I love to sing with children of all ages. It's a wonderful change from sitting alone at my computer or my drawing table.
Whether I'm writing, illustrating, recording a song or traveling to a school to talk to students, I love waking up in the morning and diving in. I never know where the creative process will take me! It's always a magical journey.