Dragons love tacos! Sure, it sounds like a universal truth, but where did the idea for the kid-favorite picture book come from?
In this exclusive interview with author Adam Rubin, readers will learn about his collaboration with illustrator Daniel Salmieri, why writing is like making delicious nachos, and of course, where the idea for Dragons Love Tacos originated.
Read the interview together with your students and get them excited to dive into the Book of the Week!
Your first book, and your first collaboration with illustrator Daniel Salmieri, was Those Darn Squirrels!. Can you tell us about the journey of your partnership working with Daniel?
ADAM RUBIN: It’s all thanks to Corey Mintz. After college, my buddy Corey suggested I collaborate with his childhood friend Dan on a picture book. I loved Dan’s artwork, so I wrote a story about squirrels stealing from an old man’s bird feeder. Dan liked the text enough to draw some sample illustrations, and thanks to his tenacity and talent, he wound up selling [Those Darn Squirrels!] to Houghton Mifflin. That was back in 2008. When the book came out, I was so proud, but I thought it would likely only be a one-time thing. I never imagined I would get to be a full-time author someday.
Where did the idea for Dragons Love Tacos come from?
AR: When I was a kid, my dad had a lot of little tchotchkes on his desk in his office. Stuff he had gotten from trade shows or collected while traveling. There was a sculpture of a pile of pigs, some wooden carvings of Don Quixote, and a little statue of a dragon eating a taco. Years later, when I thought about the statue, I reflected on how it made perfect sense that a dragon would eat a taco. I realized then that dragons LOVE tacos, and those three words seemed like a good title for a picture book.
You’ve mentioned that since the publication of your animal + food books, young readers treat you and Daniel like experts on what kinds of food animals love. How do you come up with the pairings of dragons plus tacos or raccoons plus pizza?
AR: Well, tacos and dragons came from the statue, as I mentioned, but raccoons and pizza [Secret Pizza Party] came about because I personally love both of those things. Frankly, I think everyone loves pizza. It might be the only more beloved food than tacos.
What has been your favorite response to Dragons Love Tacos?
AR: I really love seeing the themed parties people throw and also the Halloween costumes. When something Dan and I made together inspires other people to be creative, that is really heartwarming. It’s an honor to be a part of these special moments with people we’ve never even met.
You’ve mentioned your life has completely changed since you became an author. What has been the best part about being an author?
AR: The best part about being an author is that I no longer have to commute to an office for nine hours a day, five days a week. It’s amazing how productive I can be when my time is my own. It can get a little lonely working from home, but that all changes when I go out on the road to meet readers and librarians and teachers and all the wonderful bookstore folks. I like to travel and whenever I visit a new city, I always stop by the bookstore to say hi and find out all the best local tips for where to eat and what to do.
What advice do you have for aspiring young authors?
AR: The best way to get better at writing is to write more. The second best way is to read more. I know for me, the hardest part of writing a story can be editing or revision. Once you write “The End,” it’s easy to feel like you never have to work on that particular story again. But I’ve never met a writer who gets their story exactly right on the first draft. Revision is the difference between a mediocre story and a great story.
To bring it back to food again, think of writing a story like making nachos. Your first draft is just dry chips on a plate. But once you start revising, you’re adding the cheese and tomatoes, whipping up fresh guacamole and baking the whole thing in the oven to get it melty and delicious. They wouldn’t be very good nachos if you stopped working after the first step. Writing a story is the same way.