A Conversation With Dav Pilkey

Annika interviews Dav Pilkey, author of the Dog Man and Captain Underpants series.

Annika with Dav Pilkey, author and illustrator of the Dog Man and Captain Underpants series

During Dav Pilkey’s recent “Howl with Laughter Tour,” the author and illustrator visited the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in California. More than 1,400 Pilkey fans came to listen to an inspiring speech and attend a meet-and-greet with the creator of the best-selling Dog Man and Captain Underpants series.

Before the event, I spoke with Pilkey about writing and illustrating. Here are highlights from our conversation:

How did you come up with the idea for the Dog Man series?

Dog Man is something I thought of when I was in the second grade. I loved dogs, so I started writing a story about a dog. Obviously, his name was Dog Man. He wasn’t really a man, but he would always get struck by lightning for some weird reason. It always happened at the time he was needed the most, and the lightning would give him superpowers.

Where do you get the ideas for your books?

A book usually starts out with whatever I happen to be reading at the time. Lately, I’ve been on this kick where I’m re-reading classic literature. Sometimes, if there’s a book or a certain title that strikes me as funny, I’ll turn it into a pun. I’ll reread that book and focus on some of the themes of the story. Then I’ll write a brand-new story around those themes. [Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas was inspired by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.]


Dav Pilkey draws a picture of George and Harold who are best friends in his Captain Underpants series.

Pilkey draws a picture of George and Harold, best friends in his Captain Underpants series.

What books did you like to read as a kid?

I was mostly into comics and books that had lots of pictures in them. I have dyslexia, which I had as a kid, too. I didn’t really like the things that my teachers wanted me to read. My mom thought that it would be best for me to read what I liked. So she would take me to the library and let me pick out what I wanted.

Do you relate to any of the characters in your books?

George and Harold are definitely based on me. They kind of developed their own personalities after the third book. They both have ADHD, like I do, and they make comics, like I did.

When did you discover that you have a talent for writing children’s books?

It wasn’t until I got to college. I had a teacher who liked my cartoons and my writing. She said, “You should write a children’s book,” so I started my first book that day.

Have you ever considered writing books for older kids?

Right now, I really like my audience. The kids I write for are cool.

Do you have advice for kids who are interested in a career like yours?

The advice I would give is the same advice I would have given to myself when I was a kid: Just keep at it. Keep working at it, and keep drawing. Even if you’re not happy with what you’ve come up with, at least you can learn from your mistakes. The more you do it, the better you get.

In the back of your Dog Man books, there’s a section that shows kids how to draw your characters. I don’t see that feature in many books. What made you decide to include it?

I used to like “How to Draw” books when I was a kid, and it was something that I wanted to include in my books. I thought that kids might like to learn how to draw my characters, and kids do seem to like that.

Many kids love your books, and read them over and over again. Are there books or authors you would recommend to your readers?

Troy Cummings is an author I really like. He has a series called The Notebook of Doom. Cece Bell is wonderful. She wrote a graphic novel about her childhood called El Deafo, which is a perfect book, a great book.

What’s next for you and your books?

More Dog Man. I’m a quarter of the way through Dog Man 7. As soon as I finish that, I have to start on Dog Man 8.

Look out for Dav Pilkey's sixth book in the Dog Man series, Brawl of the Wild, which is due out on December 24.


Annika attends Dav Pilkey’s “Howl with Laughter Tour” in Redondo Beach, California.

Annika at Pilkey’s event in Redondo Beach, California


Photos courtesy of the author