020: Dan Santat – The Depth of Great Characters

In All, Picturebooking, Podcasts by Nick Patton8 Comments



Dan Santat’s books have a depth that is rare in children’s literature. It was an honor to talk to him about his craft and his stories.

Last week Dan’s book, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, won the Caldecott!

Full disclosure: The fact that Dan is on this week is dumb luck! We recorded this interview a couple weeks ago. I was semi-aware of when the ALA book awards where happening but usually my favorite books don’t get mentioned.

This year they did with Katherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks winning a Sibert Honor (listen to Katherine’s Picturebooking Talk) and my personal favorite, Beekle taking the Caldecott.

I’m so happy that Beekle will represent this year in picture books. For me this story is about creativity being a two way street. Sometimes the storyteller finds a story but sometimes a story finds a storyteller.

Enjoy this episode; it’s a good one!



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Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Books Mentioned in This Episode:

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Thank you!

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  1. Did you have an imaginary friend like Beekle?

    I didn’t have a favorite imaginary friend … I had a whole baseball team of imaginary friends. We’d play all summer. A tennis ball, A wooden garage and the best imaginary baseball team in the world. We won a couple world series. Lost a couple too. The day I got traded was sad but I was up for the imaginary challenge.

  2. Wow, guys! What a GREAT podcast! 😀 Nick, between your and Matthew Winner’s interviews with Dan, SO much info to help us truly appreciate all that BEEKLE is about. Whenever I’m at Barnes in the kids’ section and I recommend this book, I LOVE being able to nudge them into seeing things about it they may not see otherwise—and they usually buy it! (And, no, I’m not an actuall bookseller in the official sense–I write and illustrate.) That thrills me 😀

    As a child (and still) I always had a very vivid imagination, though never actually imagined a friend. I’m guessing it’s ’cause I never lacked for company when I wanted it? Anyway, I love YOU, Dan, and YOU, Nick, and most definitely BEEKLE! Congrats again on the Caldecott! 😀

  3. Pingback: Illustrators, earn your Raccoon Badge of Honor? - How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator

  4. This was a great interview. I love how Dan’s passion came across within his explanation of his process and the wonderful anecdotes (creepy Ben Franklin!).

    Also, I appreciated the extra thoughts where Nick discussed his battle for time. I’m an at-home dad and have been in the same place–When can I write? I’ve also begun trading sleep-hours for writing time and am feeling good about it.

    Thanks for the work on these podcasts, Nick. Informative and inspirational!

    1. Thanks Michael. I think I’m going to talk about this more in a future podcast but it is a battle. And yes I am still trading sleep-hours for creative time … but I think we all still need balance.

      I’ve been thinking about how I’d want my daughter to pursue her dreams. And I want her to have balance. To work hard but also take care of herself and enjoy each day. And if that’s what I want for my daughter … maybe that’s what I should be doing for myself.

      1. I agree Nick. Taking care of myself is taking care of my kids. It has taken me a while to embrace that… Still working on it.

        My kids are 3 & 4 y.o. and their sleep is much more on a schedule than it used to be. My early-morning writing would have been much less predictable even a year ago.

  5. I’ve being going through the back logs of your podcast while working on my first childrens book and this interview was one of my favorites. I had a few hundred mice as my imaginary friends….I can’t imagine telling my kids that have an imagination is bad!

    1. Thanks Brandon. It’s one of my favorites too. And I agree … it’s seems so strange to think some people can’t see the benefits of an imagination. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to this interview and I had to think hard about why in the world we’d be talking about people not liking imagination. Just blows my mind.

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