Dan Santat has illustrated books by other people, including Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, which won the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and he wrote and illustrated Sidekicks, a graphic novel aimed at middle graders. He's also the creator of Disney's animated hit The Replacements. Santat's most recent picture book is Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds (Chronicle, September), for which Santat created color illustrations. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, a rabbit, a bird and one cat.
On your nightstand now:
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Nanny Piggins and the Runaway Lion by R.A. Spratt (for work)
Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
A receipt from Denny's for an order of buffalo wings at 2 a.m. (shame)
A buy 1/get 1 free coupon for Chipotle
An empty plastic SpongeBob cup (left by my younger kid)
Favorite book when you were a child:
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. It was the very first book I learned to read, and it became the tool I used to show grown-ups how smart and awesome I was. The magic wore off when I was eight and most people reacted with, "Yeah... I get it."
Your top five authors:
David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Chris Ware, Malcolm Gladwell, Dr. Seuss.
Book you've faked reading:
I've tried multiple times to read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I'll get 50 pages into it but stop because I'm often so immersed in projects that I can't sit and read the book for prolonged periods of time, until it's just completely forgotten about. One time I brought the book to the beach when a woman walked by and spotted it resting on top of my backpack and said, "Great book!" to which I replied, "I know!"
I might have to resort to the audiobook.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I often give lectures to art schools and writing conferences about becoming a professional author and illustrator, and I often find myself referencing the 10,000-hour rule and being prepared for opportunities that are presented to you. I get a little out of hand telling people to do 10,000 hours of something until they are awesome at it, not realizing that it's like telling someone, "Just devote your life to something non-stop for about three to five years."
That's not quite the answer most people want to hear when they want to be published as soon as possible.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I'm obsessed with good book cover design. I'll often repurchase books if a cover is designed really well, or at least keep a jpeg of the cover somewhere in a reference folder on my desktop. I've bought many books for their brilliant covers, and the simple answer to that question is anything designed by Chip Kidd. However, I most recently bought A Hologram for the King, written by Dave Eggers and designed by Jessica Hische.
Book that changed your life:
This is an embarrassing answer. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with death, to the point where I was always thinking about the end of my life and worrying about how my life was going to end. It might be due to the fact that my father was a doctor, and whenever I got sick he would put me on medication. I was a pill-popping kid. There was a pill for everything. Can't sleep? Take this. Constipated? Take this. You remember back in grade school when a cold would be making the rounds to all your fellow students and you eventually got it, too? I was the kid who was still sick weeks after everyone had fully recovered because my body was so filled with antibiotics that my immune system was completely shot. Then I went off to college where I read The Last Days of Socrates. It sounds corny, but once I read his reason for why he wasn't afraid to die, I became a completely different person. The logic for how Socrates broke it all down just made sense to me. I stopped pill-popping (which was also due to the fact that I took a basic biology class and realized that you can't fight off a cold using antibiotics because a cold is a virus). I got healthier. I stopped worrying about death. I started enjoying life. All from that one book.
Favorite line from a book:
"So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane." --Looking for Alaska, John Green
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. The chapter in which he's trying to tell off his pretentious French teacher in broken phrases is hilarious.