Interview with David Zeltser


David Zeltser writes books for the young and for the young at heart. After immigrating to the United States from the former Soviet Union at the age of 5, David went on to graduate from Harvard with a degree in physics. His passion for animals led him to pursue a veterinary degree in wildlife medicine. Ultimately, David returned to his first love- the love of storytelling.

David's middle grade novels, Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age and Lug: Blast from the North, have been praised by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal and even former vice-president Al Gore. The Lug novels are a humorous take on the heavy topic of climate change, satirizing mankind's response to it.

Ninja Baby is David's first picture book, illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Diane Goode. This hilarious book about an independent little girl is the perfect sprinkle gift for a growing family. Read our full review of Ninja Baby. Ninja Baby was nominated for the Magnolia State Book Award, featured in USA Today, and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

David lives in California with his family. He and his wife are the driving force behind the Santa Cruz Young Writers Program’s nonprofit tutoring and writing center for underserved kids.

We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to ask this talented author some questions, so without further ado:

What books have most influenced your life?

Funny, honest books by Seuss, Dahl, Silverstein, and many others.

When did you discover that you wanted to be a writer for the young at heart?

I think I've always wanted to keep the connection to the curious, playful, childlike part of myself. Writing children's books is one great way to do that.

You are Harvard-educated and currently working to create a nonprofit tutor program for underserved youth in your community. You seem to value the important role of education. Do you have any tips for parents on how to make learning fun?

Yes! Read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It's one of the best investments of time you can make as a parent. There is also a very worthwhile DVD with the same title.

It must have been incredible to have your work praised by former Vice President Al Gore. If you had to choose just one accomplishment, what has been the highlight of your writing career thus far?

It was great to have LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age praised by many authors I love, and to get a starred review from Publishers Weekly for my picture book Ninja Baby (with art by the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Diane Goode). But the most memorable moment was when a little girl came up to me after a reading to tell me that she was going to use her life savings to buy my books.

Did you learn anything from writing LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age and what was it?

I learned that kids, parents, teachers and librarians make the best fans. Despite the publisher going under, LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age has stayed alive through great word of mouth. That's been incredibly rewarding.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

I love animals and almost became a wildlife vet. You can see the baby rhino I cared for on my website: http://www.davidzeltser.com

You will be publishing the second book in the LUG series this year, and I’m also looking forward to “Stinker” the story of an unadoptable dog which I’m sure my son will love (he LOVES dogs!). What else can readers look forward to?

Yes, I'm excited that Lerner is now publishing the second LUG novel, as well as the picture book Stinker, to be illustrated by the hilariously whimsical Julia Patton.

Lug: Blast from the North comes out on September 1.

My other forthcoming books are:

The Lion's Tale (to be illustrated by the amazing award-winning Raul Colon; from Random House)

Codzilla (illustrator to be determined; from HarperCollins)

The Universe Ate My Homework (illustrator to be determined; from Carolrhoda/Lerner)

Learn more about the author at DavidZeltser.com

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