Q&A: Andy McGuire
Eleanor has a talent for telling tall tales. But as the village animals gather around to hear her spin her lies about others, the truth about Eleanor soon becomes clear. Will she learn her lesson and find out that only honesty truly allows us to be ourselves and that the truth lets us love others the way that God loves them?
WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE ELEANOR THE HIPPO LEARNS TO TELL THE TRUTH?
It’s amazing how kids spontaneously learn to lie (who’s teaching them?). It’s part of our fallen nature, of course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fight against this tendency. Moral lessons are often best learned through stories, as God shows us time and time again through the Bible. And humorous animal stories are my particular specialty. It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t like animals. And it’s hard to find a parent who doesn’t appreciate a picture book that makes mom and dad chuckle—even on the hundredth reading. That’s my goal at least.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
I love Dr. Seuss, of course. I’m also a big fan of Bill Peet. He worked for Disney for many years and wrote and illustrated a lot of great picture books. Of contemporary picture book authors, I love Mo Willems and Karma Wilson.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
As a Christian, I do care about the moral development of children. It’s not enough for me to simply get a laugh and have them go on their merry ways. That said, bringing joy to children—or anyone for that matter—is a good and Godly thing. I don’t know if we focus enough of our energy on bringing joy to others, and I hope my books can do that a bit.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
I’ve been writing and drawing pictures since early childhood. When I was in college I majored in creative writing and took art classes, all with picture books in mind. I got away from that for a number of years, but I came back to it.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
Overall, I want readers to find joy. I know that a book can’t be a lasting source of joy in someone’s life, but it can point toward an eternal joy, whether the message is explicitly Christian or not. At the risk of sounding too philosophical, I believe there’s a battle in our culture between joy (and the God of joy) and despair (and despair’s various false “gods”). I want to be on the right side of that battle.