The Notebook of Doom


Maxwell with Troy Cummings, who created The Notebook of Doom series

“My picture book ideas come from all sorts of places,” says children’s book author and illustrator Troy Cummings. “But most of them start out as little doodles in my notebook. Always carry a notebook.”

Such advice has paid off for Cummings, who is the creator of more than 30 children’s books. He is best-known for his Notebook of Doom series (Scholastic), which is geared for kids ages 6 to 8.

Alexander, the main character of the series, finds a notebook filled with monster drawings. He must save his town from a Forkupine, an Octo-Schnozz, Balloon Goons, and other crazy creatures.

Cummings, who lives in Indiana with his family and two cats, enjoys playing board games and riding bikes with his children. In July, he toured with the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip. I had the chance to talk with him at Blue Bunny Books in Dedham, Massachusetts. Here are highlights from our conversation:

What inspired you to write The Notebook of Doom series?

I think the inspiration came from me drawing monsters from books, movies, and TV when I was a grade-schooler. I loved turning everyday objects into monsters—my bike, the tree in our yard, our chickens, and my younger sister. Sorry, Lisa!

What were you like as a kid?

I grew up in Central Indiana, way out in the woods. I had a long bus ride to elementary school, which gave me lots of time to read and draw. My career probably started on that bus ride, making goofy adventure comics.

Where did you study art?

I didn't go to art school. Most of what I know has come from me trying to copy characters from old newspaper comics and Bullwinkle cartoons as a kid.

What does your work studio look like?

My studio looks like there was an explosion at the paper factory. There are little notes and sketches and edits and diagrams and to-do lists everywhere. If you squint, you can make out a drawing table and chair in the middle of that pile of paper. I’m also very lucky to have super-tall windows.

What motto do you live by?

I live by many mottoes:

1) Don′t try to make it perfect the first time. You’ll just get frustrated.

2) Try to create something that makes you laugh.

3) Sleep is important. This is a newer motto I’m trying out.

4) The opposite of “weird” is “boring.” Don't be boring.

5) You can never have too many pencils. Or mottoes.

Photo courtesy of the author