Jon McGoran
Jon McGoran talks about his new book, Spliced.

Common Core State Standards
I Like to Read Books
Holiday House eBooks

Jeffrey Ebbeler

A Conversation with the Author

Q: Jeff, please tell us about your new book, CLICK!.
A: When a young boy turns off his bedside lamp with a click, the noises throughout the house cause him to toss and turn. The boy's bedside lamp, which is shaped like a bird, comes to life and travels from room to room. The bird lamp quiets a dripping bathtub, a sneezing push broom, a creaking rocking chair and rustling curtains. After the bird lamp pushes the boy's lost stuffed animal back into his arms, all is quiet and the boy can finally sleep soundly, until the next page, when the alarm clock rings and the house is filled with all the sounds of the day.

Q: Where did you get your inspiration for this story?
A: Many of the ideas for CLICK! came from my twin daughters. When they were babies, I was amazed that one of them could fall asleep easily while the other would be crying at the top of her lungs in the crib a few feet away. However, a creaking floor board or running water in the middle of the night could wake them up!

I've always liked the idea of wordless picture books because they challenge the readers to pay close attention to visual clues and narrate the action themselves. I thought, What if I tried to tell a story using only pictures and sound effects?

Q: You've illustrated many picture books, but this is the first that you've both written and illustrated. How did that change your process or approach?
A: Holiday House gave me my first opportunity to illustrate a picture book, Punxatawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill, in 2005, and I’m so thrilled that they have given me my first opportunity to be a writer as well.

Over the last ten years I've illustrated books for a bunch of authors. One of my favorite parts about working on a book is receiving a new manuscript and imagining the particular world that that character inhabits. The text for picture books is often short and simple, so I do my best to fill in the details that can bring the character's world to life.

Since most of the story for CLICK! is told with the illustrations, I was sketching ideas as I was writing it. The actual manuscript was mostly descriptions of what was going to be happening in the illustrations. I start off every book with a storyboard, a series of small drawings laid out together, so I can see how the whole book will flow, and progress. It's like I'm creating a movie, and I'm mapping out each scene. I used this technique from the very start of CLICK! to map out how I wanted the story to build.

Q: There are hidden faces in many of the everyday objects you've illustrated in CLICK! Where did you get this idea, and what do you hope it adds to the story?
A: I want every book I illustrate to have details that you might not notice the first time you read it. I started writing CLICK! with the simple idea that a lamp comes to life to quiet a noisy house so a boy can sleep. Then I thought, Why not have a dripping noise come from a bathtub with a runny nose or a sneezing noise come from a dusty broom; and if those objects have faces, why not give a face to everything else in the house.

Q: Tell me about your musical hobbies. How is writing and illustrating books similar to or different from playing music?
A: I've been playing drums and trumpet since I was in high school. I've been in alternative, punk, rockabilly and honky-tonk bands as well as the pit orchestra for a Chicago musical. I like to play with people who are passionate about their style of music, in the same way that I enjoy working with a variety of authors who are passionate about the subjects that they write about.

When I was writing CLICK! I wanted to bring an element of rhythm and repetition through the story like a piece of music. I hope it will encourage kids to pay attention to the sounds all around them.

Q: What made you decide to become an author and illustrator?
A: I've loved drawing since I was very young. My mom and older brother are both artists, and my mom was the art teacher at my grade school. While I was attending the Art Academy of Cincinnati, friends of mine showed me some of the books by artists such as William Joyce, Lisbeth Zwerger and Lane Smith. So I started collecting picture books, and I continue to be inspired by the skill and variety of the art in children’s books.

I love telling stories with pictures. I get to paint all the things that I thought were cool since I was a kid. I have seen with my own daughters how important a favorite book can be for a kid. It makes me think how amazing that would be if there is a child out there who is pestering his or her parents to read one of my books night after night.

Q: What advice would you give to young authors/illustrators?
A: Read a lot of children's books. The amazing and creative books that come out every year are what keep me inspired and challenge me to work harder. It took me about four years of working on my portfolio and taking every small illustration job I could get before I had the opportunity to illustrate my first picture book. It took me ten years of submitting stories before I had the opportunity to publish CLICK! Stick with it and keep trying to improve.

Also, the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) was very influential to me. Having the chance to try out ideas at critique groups or meet face-to-face with editors and art directors at SCBWI conventions made a big difference.

About the Illustrator

Jeffrey Ebbeler has worked as an art director, book designer, and illustrator. He has illustrated several books. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews praised his "feisty full-page illustrations of the world from Mouse’s perspective" for Cindo de Mouse-O by Judy Cox. CLICK! is the first picture book he has both written and illustrated. He lives with his family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he also plays trumpet and drums in local bands. Visit Jeff online at

Books by Jeffrey Ebbeler

Cinco de Mouse-O!, Reinforced
Cinco de Mouse-O!, Paperback
Click!, Reinforced
Haunted House, Haunted Mouse, Reinforced
Haunted House, Haunted Mouse, Paperback
ONE IS A FEAST FOR MOUSE: A Thanksgiving Tale, Paperback
Snow Day for Mouse, Reinforced
Snow Day for Mouse, Paperback