Lane Smith recently described his artwork as a mixture between his fine arts background and low-brow influences like Monty Python and Mad magazine. He has tried making children's books that are sweet and cute, but inevitably they take a turn toward the edgy. "I try to do serious stuff," he explains, "but it just comes out screwy." Lane Smith's unconventional approach has resulted in many fans, numerous bestsellers, and a prestigious Caldecott Honor. Smith has collaborated with author Jon Scieszka on many favorites, including Math Curse, Science Verse, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Lane Smith, or see a selected list of his children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.)
Lane Smith was born in Oklahoma, but his family moved to southern California when he was just three. Lane and his brother grew up building forts, collecting lizards, and exploring the foothills behind their house. At school Lane tended to be the quiet kid who sketched cartoon characters in the back of class. In high school Lane's art teacher recognized his talents and encouraged him to enroll in art school.
Lane Smith studied illustration and fine arts at the Art Center in Pasadena. While living in the Los Angeles area, he also illustrated album covers for punk rock and new wave music groups like Oingo Boingo. Shortly after graduation, Smith moved to New York City and sold illustrations to The New York Times, Time magazine, and Rolling Stone.
After illustrating his first children's book, Smith met aspiring author Jon Scieszka and agreed to illustrate his parody of The Three Little Pigs. Once Smith found a publisher who didn't think the story was too sophisticated, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! became a bestseller. Smith and Scieszka teamed up again to create The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, which won a Caldecott Honor award in 1993. Over the years, Smith has continued to illustrate many of the stories written by his good friend, Jon Scieszka. He has also found success both writing and illustrating books like The Happy Hocky Family and John, Paul, George & Ben.
Lane Smith and his wife, book designer Molly Leach, live in the small town of Washington, Connecticut.