What Keeps David Small Up At Night

David Small is an award-winning American author and illustrator of over 40 books for children. A Detroit, Michigan native, he graduated with an MFA from the Yale School of Art and published his first illustrated book in 1981. His illustrations for "The Gardener" (written by his wife, Sarah Stewart) received a Caldecott Honor in 1997, while his work on “So, You Want To Be President?” (by Judith St. George) earned him the coveted Caldecott Medal for children's illustration in 2001. His widely acclaimed 2009 memoir, "Stitches," was nominated for a National Book Award in Young People's Literature. Small's work has also appeared regularly in The New Yorker and The New York Times, among other publications. He and his wife live in southwest Michigan.

  • Transcript


Question: What keeps you up at night?

David Small: Oh. I do keep up at night. I try not to let my mind go to extremes in the middle of the night because it would be better to turn all that stuff into dreams; it would be better if I was sleeping, because dreams become good metaphors for what's really going on inside of you. But you know, I come from a family of—my mother worried about money all the time, and I think her being a Depression child was part of that. But that vision of hers of always ending up in the poorhouse, or her kind of—she never talked about it, but I'm sure she had apocalyptic, you know, visions of poverty and destitution that have infected me and—you know, my brother has the same anxieties. And it's silly, really, but that's part of the family tradition, and it's something that I would hope to break sometime in my life. But I don't know if it's every going to go away. You know, I worry about money, I worry about security. And nowadays it's really easy to fret about that sort of thing. I try not to watch the news too much because that just aggravates the anxiety.

Recorded on November 18, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen