Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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Abilene, TX

Hi everyone, greetings from Abilene, Texas! Please forgive this short blog entry; I'm writing this on my iPhone because my laptop is having all sorts of problems with the hotel wifi (a common hazard while traveling).
 
As you can see from these photos, I was privileged to be part of an exhibit here at The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. The show looked tremendous, and it was an honor to see my work hanging on the walls alongside beautiful drawings by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Matthew Holm, Raina Telgemeier, and Mark Crilley.This morning I did a video shoot at the museum, saying a few words about each of my drawings.My responses will be edited to get rid of all my "ums" and "you knows", and the completed video will travel with the show when it goes on exhibit at other places around the country.
 
Then tonight I spoke to a happy crowd of 130 folks about Big Nate and some if the choices that go into making a book. I showed a PowerPoint, did some drawing, and signed a lot of books. It was a wonderful night.
 
I'd like to thank the great folks from the NCCIL for bringing me to Abilene and making me feel so at home. Debbie, Sujata, Becky and Rodney made my visit so much fun. Thanks also to Sara Beth, Larry, Sherri, and Sandi for all they do for the NCCIL. And finally, a huge thanks to Rob for his friendly, low-key approach to the video shoot.
 
I look forward to my next trip to Abilene. But I'm even more excited to get back home to Portland. Wish me luck -- the weather could be a bit sketchy!
Fri, 02/14/2014

Countdown!

Hi everyone, I'm afraid today's entry is going to be on the short side. But I've written a number of long ones in recent weeks, so I hope you'll cut me some slack!
 
Item #1: We're officially in countdown mode, marking the days until BIG NATE: IN THE ZONE goes on sale at a bookstore near you. It's February 11th as I write this, exactly four weeks from the big day on March 11th. Today, for the first time, I saw the book itself -- not a manuscript or an ARC (Advance Reader Copy), but the actual hardcover edition -- and it looks great. Writing this book was like pulling teeth at times, but I ended up being very happy with it. I hope you enjoy it!
 
Item #2: A new book means a book tour! There are still some details being worked out, including the location where we'll be unveiling the Big Nate World Record Comic Strip, but here's what I CAN tell you: between March 9th and 21st, I'll be visiting the following cities: Dayton, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; St. Louis, Missouri; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas. With any luck, I'll be stopping by your school or visiting your local bookseller.
 
Item #3: It's basketball playoff season here in Maine! You might remember that last year, when our daughter was a sophomore, her team, the mighty Waynflete Flyers, won their first ever Class C state championship. (The picture here shows Dana on the right, holding the coveted Gold Ball along with last year's tournament MVP and reigning Miss Maine Basketball, Martha.) Well, today the Flyers begin the defense of their title with a preliminary game against Sacopee Valley. Repeating as champs will be difficult, but definitely not impossible.  It's a great group of gals, and they'll give it their all. Go, Flyers!
 
Item #4: Back in December, my trip to the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas, was postponed due to some nasty weather. Keep your fingers crossed: I'm trying again. Tomorrow I'll fly to Abilene, and on Thursday evening I'll give a talk about writing and illustrating Big Nate books. If you live near Abilene, stop by on Thursday!
Tue, 02/11/2014

The Olympics

Are you an Olympics fan? I am, and always have been.  As long as I can remember, there's been something about the spectacle of international competition that has fascinated me, and the fact that so many Olympic events feature obscure or exotic disciplines like luge and ski jumping (in the Winter Games) and steeplechase and Greco-Roman wrestling (in the Summer Games) is very compelling.  As the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi kick off, I thought I'd write about the most memorable Olympic event I've ever seen:  the USA hockey team's shocking gold medal performance in Lake Placid, New York, in 1980.

First, some vital information:  in 1980, the former Soviet Union still existed, and there was a lot of political tension between the United States and the USSR.  Many, perhaps even most Americans saw the USSR as a rival and a potentially dangerous threat.  From a hockey standpoint, in 1980 Soviet hockey players were not coming to North America to play in the NHL, as so many do today.  That meant that there were a couple dozen world class players on the Soviet national team (called the "Red Army" team) who were the equal of any professional player, but they were still able to compete in the Olympics as amateurs.  The United States team, on the other hand, really WAS a squad full of amateurs:  college players (average age:  21) who were given virtually no chance to win the gold medal.  At most, some thought the US had an outside chance at a bronze.  The Soviets were the overwhelming favorites, and they solidified their elite status by demolishing the US in an exhibition game just a week before the Olympics began.  The score was USSR 10, USA 3.

Well, even if you weren't around back then, you probably know what happened:  The United States played better than expected in the preliminary round, and entered the medal round with an undefeated 4-0-1 record.  The Soviets, predictably, were 5-0-0.  The two teams faced off on Friday, February 22nd.  The Soviets led by scores of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2.  But each time, the US team rallied.  Without about 12 minutes to go in the game, the American team tied the score at 3 on a goal by Mark Johnson.  Less than two minutes later, team captain Mike Eruzione scored the go-ahead goal.  There were ten minutes to go in the game, and the US had to survive a furious Soviet rally to hang on.  But they did.  Remember, this game was being played in upstate New York before an overwhelmingly pro-American crowd.  The place went absolutely crazy.

Now here's how you know this really WAS a different era:  the game was not televised live in the United States.  It was played at 5:00 pm, but wasn't shown until the prime time Olympic broadcast came on at 8:00 pm.  The host of ABC's Olympic coverage, Jim McKay, knew when he went on the air that the US had won the game.  But he didn't give even the tiniest hint of the result.  I was sixteen years old and was on my high school hockey team.  My teammates and I had been following the US team's progress throughout the tournament, but none of us really believed the Americans were capable of beating the Soviets.  But as the minutes and then the seconds counted down, it began to seem possible.  Al Michael's classic call at game's end -- "Do you believe in miracles?" -- perfectly summed up just how stunning a moment it was.

And that wasn't even the gold medal game!  It was only the semifinal.  The US still had to defeat Finland two days later to win the gold, and once again, they had to come from behind to do it.  But by then, nobody seemed to have any doubt who'd win.  The Americans were officially a TOD -- Team Of Destiny -- and nothing was going to derail one of the great sports stories of all time.  I'm looking forward to watching the Olympic hockey games -- there are NHL players on almost every roster now -- but no matter how great those games are, they won't be able to replicate the excitement of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice."

Thu, 02/06/2014

Backyard Football

It's late Monday night as I write this, which means we're about 24 hours removed from the Super Bowl. If you watched, you know that the Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl championship by putting a 43-8 beatdown on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. There won't be any games until late summer, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to write about football.
 
But not PRO football. I'm thinking about the kind of impromptu football games that kids play on the school playground during recess, or in a neighborhood back yard. At first glance, this might seem like a much simpler version of football than the professional games we watch on TV. But actually, a good game of backyard football can be quite complex. Here's what I mean:
 
  • PICKING TEAMS- Here's something pro football players never have to consider. They have absolutely no authority to decide who's on their team; their job is simply to play the games. But when a group of kids gathers to play football, they need to divide themselves into two (hopefully) even teams by picking players one by one. Usually, two kids appoint themselves captains and decide on a way to determine who will choose first. In the picture shown here, Nate and Teddy are doing the classic "shoot," or "odds & evens." Teddy wins, so he gets to pick first. (Note: If you're not a very good player, you might dread teams being organized this way, because it's always embarrassing to be picked last.) Ideally, you'll have an even number of players so that the teams will match up, numbers-wise. If you have 13 kids, you might appoint one kid a "full-time quarterback" so that there are always 7 players on offense and 6 on defense.
  • MAKING A FIELD- Again, pro players don't have to worry about this. When they walk on a field, the end zones and sidelines are clearly established. But unless you happen to have a real football field in your backyard, chances are you'll need to make your own. Painting lines on your parents' lawn isn't usually a good idea, so you need to improvise. A driveway might be one sideline, for example, and a fence might be another. You might use jackets or sweatshirts to mark the goal lines. On the playground where I played a lot of football during elementary and middle school, one sideline was where the grass met the blacktop, and the other was where the flat ground started going sharply downhill. The end zones were a jungle gym on one end and some bushes on the other.
  • ESTABLISHING RULES- There are always some important points to establish right away: Are you playing tackle football or touch? If it's touch, is it two-hand touch or one-hand? Are you allowed to rush the quarterback? If so, what's the rush count? (In other words, how many "mississippis" do you have to say aloud before you can chase the quarterback and tackle him?) If there's a disputed play, like a fumble or an interception, how will you determine who gets possession of the ball? For that matter, who's in charge of calling penalties, if there are any?
  • POSITION ASSIGNMENTS- If you tend to play with the same general group of friends on a regular basis, deciding who plays where on the field quickly becomes pretty simple: kids naturally gravitate toward the position that suits them best. In the games of my youth, the two kids who always played quarterback were Johnny and Tuck, because they were the best at throwing spirals. Randy was a running back, because he was very strong and difficult to tackle. I always played receiver, because I was a fast runner and was much better at catching the ball than I was at throwing it. Eluding tacklers was an important skill, and my friend Marco and I used to practice our fakes and stutter steps together.
 
Playing organized football wasn't an option for us; there was no youth football in our town, and none of the schools were big enough to support a football team. But considering some of the injuries kids sustain playing football, I think it's just as well that we kept it simple. Enjoy the offseason, football fans!
Tue, 02/04/2014

"Where the Red Fern Grows"

As you might know, Nate is absolutely convinced that dogs are superior to cats in every way. Francis, proud owner of Pickles the cat, is unconvinced. Well, maybe Francis should watch the movie "Where the Red Fern Grows" for a dramatic demonstration of the loyalty and bravery of dogs.
 
I watched this movie on Netflix today while I worked in my office. It's based on a 1961 novel by Wilson Rawls and, even though I read an awful lot of "boy and his dog" books when I was a kid, this one somehow slipped under my radar. It's doubtful I'll get around to reading the book at this stage, so I'll have to content myself with having seen the film. Here's a brief recap of the story:
 
Billy Coleman, a young boy growing up in the Ozarks during the Depression, dreams of owning a pair of raccoon-hunting dogs. But his parents are barely eking out a meager leaving on their hardscrabble farm, and can't give Billy the money he'd need to buy puppies. Undeterred, Billy finds an ad in a sportsman's magazine; he can purchase Redbone Coonhound pups from a kennel in Kentucky for $25 apiece. Convinced by his grandfather that anything worth having is worth working for, Billy spends more than a year doing every odd job he can find. He raises enough money for two puppies and gives his grandfather the $50 to send to the kennel, keeping his plan a secret from his parents. When the pups are ready, Billy learns two things: that the pups can't be delivered to his remote mountain location, and that the cost of the puppies was actually $20 apiece, not $25. With the refunded $10 in his pocket, Billy walks to the big town of Tahlequah, where he picks up his dogs and buys gifts for his family: a new pair of overalls for his father, dress fabric for his mother, and candy for his sisters. On the long walk back home, Billy sees the names Dan and Ann carved in a sycamore tree, and chooses those names for his dogs: Old Dan and Li'l Ann.
 
His parents, though surprised by the appearance of Billy's new dogs, are impressed by his initiative and touched by the gifts he brought back for them. He tells them of his trip to Tahlequah, and of seeing a beautiful red fern during his journey.  His mother then recounts an old legend that "only an angel can plant a red fern." They give Billy their blessing to train his dogs to hunt raccoons, and as they grow, it's clear that the dogs share an uncommonly close bond with each other and with Billy. Soon Old Dan and Li'l Ann are known throughout the Ozarks as the best coon hounds in the area. A couple of loudmouth brothers, Rubin & Rainie Pritchard, are envious of Billy's success. They bet him $2 that his dogs can't tree the "ghost coon," a raccoon on their land that always seems to disappear before being captured. Urged on by his grandfather, Billy takes the bet. He meets the Pritchard brothers at their farm, where their coon hound, Old Blue, is incensed by the presence of Billy's dogs.  Billy, the Pritchards, and Old Dan and Li'l Ann set out in search of the ghost coon. The dogs track the coon and tree him, but when Billy and the Pritchards arrive at the base of the tree, the ghost coon has disappeared. The Pritchards claim to have won the bet, and take Billy's 2 dollars. Billy, sensing from his dogs' behavior that the coon is still nearby, climbs up the side of an old shack beside the tree and finds the ghost coon hiding on the roof. Billy refuses to kill the coon, but having tracked and treed it, declares himself the winner of the bet and tries to get his money back from the Pritchards. As the three boys argue and then begin to fight, the Pritchards' coonhound, Old Blue, arrives on the scene, having freed himself from his leash back at the Pritchard farm. Old Blue attacks Billy's dogs, who team up against him. Rubin Pritchard, angry that his dog is outnumbered, grabs Billy's axe and plans to use it on Billy's dogs. But when Billy trips him in an attempt to protect Old Dan and Li'l Ann, Rubin falls on the axe and is killed. Distraught, Billy vows never to hunt with his dogs again.
 
Some months pass, and Billy's grandfather learns of a coonhunting competition. He tells Billy about it and, though reluctant at first, Billy concludes that Old Dan and Li'l Ann have a God-given gift for coon hunting. He agrees to enter the competition, which awards a gold cup and cash prize to the winner. On the final night of the competition, as Billy and his dogs hunt in the forest along with Billy's father and grandfather, a freezing early-winter storm blows in. Billy's grandfather is separated from the group and severely sprains his ankle; trapped in a ditch that's filling with freezing water, he is helpless to save himself. At the same moment, Old Dan and Li'l Ann have treed three coons, which will win them the competition. But when they notice that Grandpa is missing, they abandon the coons to find him. Old Dan and Li'l Ann find Grandpa, saving his life. Billy is convinced that he's lost the competition, but the next day, the man declared the winner learns that Billy would surely have won had it not been for Grandpa's accident. Impressed by Billy and his dogs, the man hands the cup and the cash prize over to Billy.
 
The money is enough for Billy's parents to achieve a lifetime dream: to move to the city of Tulsa, where they can purchase a farming & feed business from a distant relative. But Billy's parents know that moving to Tulsa means leaving Billy's dogs behind, and they struggle with what to do. Then tragedy strikes. Billy is out hunting with his dogs, and they corner a mountain lion against a cliff. The mountain lion attacks Billy, but his dogs rush to his defense. Fighting ferociously, they keep the lion at bay until Billy can kill it with his axe. But Old Dan has been seriously wounded. Despite the best efforts of Billy's mother, Old Dan dies, and Billy buries him on the riverbank near the family's cabin. Without Old Dan, Li'l Ann is heartbroken and loses her will to live. After a few days, she goes to the riverbank, lies down on Old Dan's grave, and dies. Li'l Ann is buried alongside Old Dan. Billy struggles to understand why his dogs had to die.
 
In the spring, the family decides to move to Tulsa. As they pack the wagon and prepare to leave, Billy tells his parents that he's going to visit Old Dan and Li'l Ann one last time. When he arrives at the riverbank, he sees to his astonishment that a red fern is growing between the two graves. Comforted, Billy is now able to begin the next chapter of his life.
Fri, 01/31/2014

Morrie Turner Tribute

Morrie Turner died on Saturday, and I'd like to write a few words in tribute to the man and his groundbreaking career.
 
I never met Morrie, but I wish I had. He was a cartoonist, and his comic strip, "Wee Pals," has been in print for nearly fifty years. But his significance in the cartooning world extends far beyond his longevity. Morrie was the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, and the cast of characters he created brought diversity to the comics pages. In brief, here's Morrie's story:
 
He grew up in Oakland, California, and pursued his cartooning dreams by taking correspondence courses through Art Instruction Schools, the organization where Charles Schulz of "Peanuts" fame got his start. After a stint in the military, during which he published his cartoons in "Stars And Stripes," Morrie took a job with the police department in Oakland. But he continued to draw comics, and became increasingly frustrated with the lack of diversity on the comics pages. He had become friends with Charles Schulz over the years, and Schulz encouraged him to create a strip that addressed this inequity. The result was "Wee Pals," a strip that featured a multi-ethnic cast of child characters. There's Randy, Diz, Nipper, Sybil, and Mikki, all of whom are African-American. There's Oliver, Ralph, and Connie, who are white. George is Asian-American, Rocky is Native American, and Pablo is Mexican-American. (There are additional characters, but the ones I just listed have been around the longest.) From the very beginning, Morrie used his strip to gently introduce topics of racism, sexism and bigotry to his readers, employing his "Rainbow Power" kid characters to advocate for tolerance and understanding, and friendship.  
 
 The strip launched in 1965, but only a half-dozen newspapers published it at first. It was a very different world in the mid-sixties, and many newspapers were reluctant to print a strip that featured African-American characters. Tragically, it was only after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that editors began to reevaluate this policy. In the aftermath of Dr. King's death, a number of newspapers seemed to finally realize that the world in general, and the comics pages in particular, would benefit from Morrie's message. By 1968, the strip was in over 60 papers, and its client list would eventually top 100. There were also Wee Pals reprint books (I had several when I was a kid), lunch boxes, and buttons. Morrie remained the lone African-American voice in syndication for awhile, but over time he would be joined by others, like
Ray Billingsley, Robb Armstrong, Aaron MacGruder, Keith Knight, and Darrin Bell, for whom he helped kick down the door. Morrie also used his platform as a syndicated cartoonist to support various causes, and he received many awards during his long career, not only for his cartooning but for his humanitarian work.
 
So here's to Morrie Turner, a great man and a great cartoonist.
Mon, 01/27/2014

Fortune Decoding

I apologize if you can't read the "fortune" on the slip of paper shown here. It's from a fortune cookie, of course, and the reason I'm putting "fortune" in quotes is that, like many of the strangely-worded messages I encounter after eating Chinese food, it's not a fortune at all. The word "fortune" would seem to suggest some sort of prediction about one's future, as you might expect if you were to visit a so-called fortune teller with a crystal ball. This is not a prediction, and it does not refer to events that may happen in the future. Instead, it's some sort of adage, and -- stop me if you've heard this before -- it makes no sense. That's subject #1 of this entry. Subject #2 is the series of numbers on the third line.
 
SUBJECT #1: An honest man is awake if he lies sleeping. Huh? I have no idea what this means. At first I thought it might be saying that that people are only honest when they're sleeping. Then I wondered if perhaps it might mean the exact opposite. And then it occurred to me that it might be a pun, employing a double meaning of the word "lies" -- first, to tell a falsehood, and second, to recline horizontally. But no matter what meaning one ascribes to the word "lies," this sentence still means nothing to me. It might be trying to say that people tend to be more honest while awake if they lie to themselves while asleep.
 
SUBJECT #2: I was focusing so much on the words when I read this fortune that I didn't pay any attention at first to the lucky numbers: 38, 10, 50, 11, 23, 17. Well, this is quite uncanny. Five of those six numbers are very significant to me for personal reasons, and the final number is meaningful in a different way. I'll explain:
 
38 was my street address number growing up. We lived in Durham, New Hampshire.
10 stands for October, the tenth month. I was born in October, and so was my wife.
50 is my age.
11 is our son's birth date in the month of February. He was born on 2/11/94.
23 is my birth date: 10/23/63.
 
And then there's the final number in the sequence, 17. That number has no personal meaning for me, but it does have a very specific association. When I was growing up in Durham, I had a friend whose father was a math professor at the university. His claim was that 17, of all the numbers in the universe, is the one that occurs randomly most frequently. As "proof," he pointed out that Durham's zip code, 03824, added up to 17 when you combined the individual digits. He also thought that 17 tends to occur more often than any other number in general speech; in other words, if you're expressing yourself in a way that requires a random number -- imagine saying something like "I tried to call you XX times and your phone was busy" -- you'd be more likely to say "17 times" than "12 times" or "28 times." Seventeen, in other words, just seems to roll off the tongue.
 
And by the way, I just noticed that the exact time right now is 8:36 pm. When you add those three numbers, what do you get??
Fri, 01/24/2014

Cartoon Dialects

Hi, everyone. I hope those of you who live in the US enjoyed the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. For me, holidays are often just like any other day in that my routine doesn't change. So far, today's been indistinguishable from any other Monday. I walked the dog, deejayed my radio show, went to FedEx to send a couple packages...and now here I am, pecking away at my blog entry.
 
Last time, as you may recall, I said that I'd intended to write about Artur until I came across a picture online of a "Big Nate Horse." That took my blog entry in a completely new and unexpected direction. But now it's back to Artur. Last weekend, when I gave a presentation at the Durham Public Library in New Hampshire, I was asked by one of the kids in attendance: where is Artur from? I answered that he is from Belarus (a country in Eastern Europe that was once part of the Soviet Union), and that English is not his first language. (As a resident of Belarus, Artur would be most likely to speak either Belarusian or Russian.) That explains why Artur expresses himself in "fractured" English. He sometimes misuses words, or mispronounces them. Or he'll simply choose the wrong word to use, or add a word that's not necessary, or mess up the order of the words. So instead of "Nate, why are you so mad?", Artur might say something like "Nate, what for you are so angry?" It might make reading Artur's dialogue a bit more challenging, but I try to make sure that he's still easy to understand. (In the picture shown here, though, Artur ISN'T easy to understand. He uses the word "sailing" instead of "selling," which leads to some confusion in Big Nate On A Roll.)
 
Once upon a time, there were many more comic strip characters who spoke in dialect, or had accents, or whose command of the English language was somewhat lacking. Sometimes, sadly, these characters reflected and reinforced ethnic stereotypes. (One of the great adventure strips from the 1930's and 40's, "Terry And The Pirates," featured a Chinese character named Connie -- short for 'Confucius' -- whose depiction would be deeply offensive to readers today.) But more often, cartoonists were clearly writing from a vantage point of affection and warm-heartedness, and simply used their characters' colorful way of speaking to make clear that they were offbeat and memorable personalities.  
 
The two examples shown here alongside my picture of Artur and Nate are from the comic strips Li'l Abner and Pogo. Li'l Abner was a member of a hillbilly family called the Yokums who inhabited a backwoods hamlet called Dogpatch, USA. The Yokums were roughhewn and unsophisticated, and the strip's creator, Al Capp, wrote their dialogue to match. Their grammar was atrocious, and Capp employed unusual spelling to approximate the family's southern drawl. In this panel, Abner is saying "I...lay down here to die like a gentleman, just like you told me to, Mammy...but curse it, I'm still ALIVE! And I'm FLOATING!" Capp writes it this way: Ah...laid down h'yar t'die like a gennulman, jest like yo' tol' me to, Mammy...but cuss it, Ah is still ALIVE! An' Ah is FLOATIN'! But one secret of the strip's longstanding appeal was that the Yokums, simple and unschooled as they were, consistently got the better of "smarter" or more "cultured" characters who ventured into Dogpatch. If you've ever watched the old TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies," it owes a lot to Li'l Abner.
 
Then there's Pogo, which chronicled the adventures of a group of animals residing in the Okefenokee Swamp. Pogo, a possum, was the main character, but he usually played the "straight man" for other, more outrageous characters like Albert Alligator and Churchy LeFemme. The creator of Pogo was Walt Kelly, and he used his animal characters as vehicles for social and political commentary. Though the animals were often greedy, selfish, or dimwitted, Kelly imbued them with a homespun innocence which ultimately made them very likable. And, like the characters in Li'l Abner, they expressed themselves in colorful ways. In this panel, Albert mentions that Owl has just had a "horribobble" accident.
 
I don't think either Al Capp or Walt Kelly was making fun of their characters for being "hillbillies." They were just using their way of speaking to add color to the comic strip worlds they'd created. Artur isn't nearly as outrageous a character as the Yokums or the gang from Pogo, but I'd like to think that in some small way, he's a part of the same comic tradition.
 
Tue, 01/21/2014

Big Nate Horse

I was going to write a blog entry tonight about Artur and why he talks the way he does, but when you look at the very strange picture shown here, I think it's clear that those plans have changed. And therein lies a tale. Or a tail, as the case may be. And in this particular case, that tail is blue and yellow -- Big Nate colors. Anyway, here's what happened.
 
I have a file on my laptop named IMAGES. It's an archive of just about every image I've ever included in a blog entry, along with many others that I've set aside because I think I might use them in the future. So earlier tonight, having decided that I was going to write about Artur, I opened my IMAGES file to look for a picture of Artur. I was searching for a picture that included a speech bubble because I wanted to show an example of Artur's unique way of speaking. But I couldn't find anything in the file that I could use.  Hoping to avoid scanning an image myself (because I'm lazy), I decided to do a quick Google Image search. First I typed "Artur" into the search engine. All that got me was a few dozen pictures of some vaguely Russian-looking guys. Next I typed "Artur - Big Nate." This produced some more promising results, and I started scrolling down the screen in search of the perfect Artur picture. And then I arrived at the picture shown here. What IS it?
 
Well, I think it's a Big Nate Horse. At first I thought it might be a centaur, a mythological beast described as a combination of a horse and a man. But centaurs have human arms and torsos, and this creature doesn't fit that description. It appears to be 100% horse, but just happens to be a horse dressed like Big Nate. How do I know it's supposed to look like Nate? Well, I can't be entirely certain, of course, but there are quite a few indications. The first is that the horse's hair (I hesitate to call it a mane) is growing in seven distinct spikes, just like Nate's does. Indication #2 is that the artist has drawn the animal's eye just as I would: as a simple vertical line. And finally, there's the color scheme I mentioned earlier. That yellow-and-blue shirt isn't the exact design of Nate's trademark shirt, but -- considering it's a horse that's wearing it -- it's pretty close. It all adds up to a pretty rock-solid verdict: this IS a Big Nate horse.  An entirely new species has been discovered!
 
Do I have any idea why someone would draw a Big Nate horse and put it on the internet? No, I haven't the foggiest idea. And there was something else about this drawing that confused me, too -- at least at first. What is that object stuck to the horse's butt? After pondering this earth-shattering question for a few moments, I came up with what I think is a good answer. It's a pencil. It's yellow, it's straight, it's pink on one end (the eraser), and black and pointy on the other. So this animal, as one would expect of a Big Nate horse, is probably getting ready to do some drawing. I think that's a good choice for this particular pony. With those short little legs, I don't think becoming a racehorse would be a good career move!
Thu, 01/16/2014

Home Again, Home Again

Some people choose to live in their hometowns for their entire lives. Others leave their hometowns, for any number of reasons, and never set foot in them again.  I'm sort of in-between. I left my hometown of Durham, New Hampshire when I went to college, and haven't lived there since I was 18 years old. But I live close enough that I can drive through it on occasion. And my parents, though they've moved from the house in Durham where I grew up, still live only about ten minutes from the center of town. So whenever I visit them, I usually get caught up on the latest Durham news.
 
A couple of years ago, I heard that the town had approved a plan to build a new public library, which was great news indeed. The Library Committee was able to purchase a private home on Madbury Road, and over the course of the last two years, that home has been transformed into the shiny new building you see in the top picture. It had its grand opening last fall, but I wasn't able to attend. I was there on Saturday, though, to give a presentation about Big Nate to a group of kids and parents who were kind enough to come out on sort of a wet and dreary day. The library is absolutely beautiful. Lisa Kleinmann, the children's and young adult librarian, gave me a grand tour of the entire building, and it's impressive to say the least. It's just the sort of facility the town has needed for a very long time.
 
When I was growing up there, Durham didn't have its own public library. Instead, it occupied a small part of the Ezekiel Dimond Library at the University of New Hampshire. I did an image search on Google for the Dimond Library, and barely recognized what I was looking at -- so clearly, there have been some significant renovations since I was a kid. The bottom picture shown here is the way I remember it. It looked a bit grim, don't you think? It was a bit more inviting on the inside, but it still had a strange vibe, because it was simultaneously a place where college students and professors were doing research, and a place where a boy like me could go in search of the latest Matt Christopher book. In other words: even as a kid, I got the feeling that this was not an ideal arrangement. Durham wanted its own public library, and the university probably wanted to use that space to expand its own facility. Now, happily, it's finally come to pass.
 
Back to my library visit: I showed a powerpoint, including some images of comics I drew when I was the same age as many of the kids in the room. Then I did some drawings on an easel the library had provided, and finally, I answered questions for about ten minutes. Even though I haven't lived in Durham for over 30 years, there were some people there I knew: a classmate of mine who still lives in town, a good friend of my brother's who is now a math teacher, and several parents of friends I grew up with who are now enjoying their retirement in Durham. All in all, I had a wonderful time. Thank you, Durham Public Library, for having me. Who says you can't go home again?
Tue, 01/14/2014