Designed especially for toddlers, this large die-cut board book features an intriguing locomotive shape, bright, cheery illustrations, and a simple retelling of the original story just right for reading aloud.
About the Author
Watty Piper is the pseudonym of Arnold Munk, author behind the classic retelling of The Little Engine That Could and cofounder of Platt & Munk Publishers (now part of Grosset & Dunlap.) Munk’s retelling of the beloved children’s tale has sold millions of copies since its 1930 publication and inspired generations to believe they can.
An interview with Loren Long
How long have you been an artist?
I have been an artist professionally in capacity or another since I got out of school 15 years ago. When did you first feel the artistic urge?
My mother tells how I would draw Snoopy over and over from the "funny" papers lying on the kitchen floor as a four-year-old. I don't remember the kitchen floor, but I do remember loving Snoopy.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Joplin, Missouri (in the Snoopy era) but moved to Lexington, Kentucky at the age of five and grew up in Lexington.
What were you like as a child?
I had a very conventional childhood and a wonderful family. Like many kids growing up in the mid-west, I loved sports, especially baseball. I was an average student and a bit of a dreamer. I loved to draw and as time passed I felt that I was better in the arts than anything else. Shortly after my Little League years, I realized I would never make the 25 man roster of the Cincinnati Reds so I figured I better start painting pictures.
Have you always wanted to illustrate books for children?
It was always in the back of my mind but I spent many years after school working as a freelance illustrator for many different magazines or anyone else who would call. I feel those years helped me to develop my so-called direction.
Where do you do your work?
I have a suitably un-glamorous studio in the basement of my home. I like being able to live and work under the same roof so I am here when my boys get off the school bus. Besides, I've always felt that having a romantic freestanding studio overlooking a valley like N.C. Wyeth had with huge windows and north light was terribly over-rated ... right?
What different mediums to you use in your art?
At the moment, I work with acrylic paint on either canvas or panels.
What do you like best about your job?
I love the visual storytelling aspect of the work. I love creating images. I feel challenged everyday. Every time I start a new piece of art, there is a chance I could fail. It's both irritating and inspiring at the same time.
Who are your favorite artists?
Mostly, I love the work that was being done in America in the early part of the twentieth century. The Ashcan School painters, the American Regionalists of the 20s and 30s. the Harlem Renaissance artists as well as the WPA muralists. Artists like Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Edward Hopper, John Sloan, and George Bellows to name a few of the bigger names. And, of course, I can't leave out the illustrators of that time like N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish among others.
Did you have favorite artists/art styles as a child?
Not having any artists in my family, I really did not have early artistic influences as a child ... just Charles Schulz.
Where do you get the inspiration for your art?
I imagine much of my inspiration comes from the things around me. I get a lot of inspiration from my two young sons and my wife who has an accounting background.
Do you ever get "painter's" block?
I'd like to call it that, but that would be a convenient excuse for plain old procrastination.
What do you like to do when you're not painting?
When I am not painting, I like hanging with my wife Tracy and our boys. I like movies and I am an avid kayak enthusiast (even though I have only done it once).
Who influenced you in becoming an artist?
Even though they had no art background, my parents encouraged me to find something I was passionate about. My mother refused to allow me to be lazy and waste a God given ability. I'm glad now that she stayed on my case.
You have a fabulous sense of color; where does this come from?
Boy, the color thing has always been a challenge for me. I'll just say it has been one of my biggest artistic issues and I am flattered and pleased that anyone thinks highly of my color.
In creating the art for The Little Engine That Could(tm), was their some aspect of the story that was really new? A surprise even to you?
I suppose the most obvious departure that I wanted to explore was to create new, unique, and appealing individual characters of the trains and toys in this legendary story. It was new for me as an artist to create smiling trains and sad little toy animals and this was without a doubt the most surprisingly fun aspect of the project for me.
Did you know The Little Engine That Could(tm), as a child?
I knew the Little Engine well as a child ... it certainly was one of my favorite stories. I have uttered those famous words, "I think I can" to myself throughout my life ... even while working on this very book! I feel very honored and humbled to have been able to create new art for this meaningful children's book that has been a part of so many of our lives.