“Hi, Dudes! I cannot even begin to say what a pleasure it is to finally meet you! As I think you know, I love all rodents. I am very pro rodent. I’m prodent. I might be the prodentest person in the history of ever. So to meet you at last is a dream come true…..”
QUESTION ONE. You caught the reading and writing bug young, was that what drew you to write for children?
MIKE ALLEGRA. I don’t think so. When I was young, my goal was to write stories that adults would find funny. It was easy to amuse my friends, but if I could get my parents or my teachers or my cranky Uncle Bill to laugh, well that was an achievement. When I pulled it off, I felt like a million bucks.
Now that I’m an adult with an adult sense of humor, I’ve done a 180. The challenge and the joy of my career is to make kids laugh. I love writing kid’s stories because it gives me permission to delve into the silly side of my personality.
Being silly is not only fun for me, I think it makes me a better person. The world would probably be a better place if more adults allowed themselves to get their silly on.
Could a worldwide increase in fart jokes lead to world peace? I’m not sure, but it’s a hypothesis worth exploring.
QUESTION TWO. You’ve written plays, worked as a reporter, an editor, as well as being an author, which would you say is your favorite and why?
Mike Allegra . All of the writing gigs in my life were fun and rewarding in one way or another. My two years as a reporter, however, was, far and away, my most valuable work experience. It made me the writer I am today. The job taught me how to research and write fast, polished work on tight deadlines. It taught me how to work with editors, conduct interviews, and deal with critics. It also taught me the ins and outs of government, which may not be important from the perspective of a writing career, but is essential to anyone who wants to be a good citizen. (We should all want to be good citizens.)
I recommend a stint as a reporter to anyone who wants to do this writing thing as a career. I even wrote a blog post about it:
But my most satisfying work is my children’s book career. I love letting my imagination go wild. I love visiting schools and meeting my readers. The gig isn’t very lucrative, but it makes me terribly happy.
QUESTION THREE Which book have you had the most fun writing?
Mike Allegra . That’s a tricky one, but I think it’s my most recent picture book, Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles. The main character is a capybara, the world’s largest rodent. (See? I told you I was prodent!) I’ve been fascinated by capybaras ever since I’ve first heard about them as a kid in the 1980s. Back then (and now!) I kept gerbils as pets, so the idea of a rodent being the size of a golden retriever captivated me in ways I can hardly explain. When I became an adult, and I learned more about these ginormous critters, I was even more captivated. Capys cuddle with other animals! They babysit each other’s children! They are excellent foster mothers to other species! They are amazing swimmers! And they are soooo cute! How could I not write a book about a cuddly capybara?
God, I love this book.
QUESTION FOUR Have you ever written a book about a hamster?
I feared this question might come up.
My picture book, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist, stars mice; another book of mine, Everybody’s Favorite Book, features a guinea pig; and, as I mentioned, Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles has a capybara. But no hamsters yet. No gerbils either—much to the consternation of my beloved fur children, Dusty and Oreo. But fear not,
I have more books in me. I’m sure I can get a couple of cool dude hamsters in one of them sooner or later. I’ll write a book starring gerbils, too.
MIKE ALLEGRA Ah. Writing tips? Question five eh?
Okay……. I will give them. Aspiring writers please forgive the tough love:
Your book ideas are worthless if you don’t write them down. Don’t just talk about your ideas; don’t pass the buck by trying to collaborate with someone; don’t say, “You know, I really should write a book.” Get your tush in a chair and start writing. Writing is slow, hard work. It can sometimes be frustrating, exhausting, maddening and make you want to bang your head against the wall. But don’t get discouraged. Keep going. Because when those words of yours finally come together in just the right way, when your story makes people think, laugh, or see the world with a new point of view, well, dang, that’s the best feeling in the world.
QUESTION SIX 6. What’s next for Mike Allegra
MIKE ALLEGRA Well, in addition to running around telling everyone about Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles, I’m also gearing up to run around to tell everyone about my next picture book, Pirate and Penguin, which will be out in May 2023. It’s the story of a penguin finding his way onto a pirate ship and being mistaken for a chubby, mute, monochromatic macaw. It’s a fun one.
Mike Allegra is the author of 17 books for children including the picture books Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles (Page Street, 2022), Scampers Thinks like a Scientist (Dawn, 2019), Everybody’s Favorite Book (Macmillan, 2018), and Sarah Gives Thanks (Albert Whitman and Company, 2012). He also wrote the chapter book series Kimmie Tuttle (Abdo Books, 2021) and Prince Not-So Charming (Macmillan, 2018-19; pen name: Roy L. Hinuss). Scampers was the winner of Learning Magazine’s 2020 Teacher’s Choice Award and was selected for inclusion in the Literati Kids subscription box. His story, “Harold’s Hat,” was the winner of the 2014 Highlights fiction contest and was published in the July 2015 issue.