Nick Jr. asked David Kirk, the author and illustrator of the beloved Miss Spider series, about his books, his family, and about the show.
How did the idea for Miss Spider come about?
Miss Spider's story was created for my daughter Violet, who at the time was only three years old. She was always fond of little garden creatures and could carry them around in her hands for hours without so much as bending an antenna. Still, not every bug wants to be carried around, even by a considerate child. I thought of a gentle spider who is misunderstood by those she'd like to befriend.
Do you have a favorite Miss Spider book? Do your daughters?
Probably Miss Spider's Tea Party is still my favorite, though I'm proud of lots of things about all the books. I'm not sure if my daughters have favorites of my books. I try to read them lots of different things, and we have a huge children's book library, so I'm always happy when they choose any of mine for a read.
Besides your own books, what others do you read to your kids?
Violet is 17 and has been reading to herself for quite a while now. I miss reading her novels at bedtime. Primrose is nearly 4. She likes all sorts of things, but when I'm reading, I choose the Frances books--Bedtime for Frances, Bread & Jam for Frances--as often as I can get away with it. Wisteria is 16 months and isn't ready to sit still for books or TV yet. She's much too busy running, hopping, jumping, and climbing.
What books were your favorites as a child?
I had a book called How the Mole Got His Car (by Zdenek Miler and Eduard Petiska) and it's the only one that really stands out in my mind as a childhood favorite. My dad also wrote stories and made up stories to tell my brother and me at night, and those were more fun than most books.
You are also a toymaker. What kinds of toys have you made for your kids?
I haven't made a lot of stuff lately. When Violet was little, I built her a fancy slide that was kind of like a big robot head. Currently it's a playhouse for Prim. Violet also got a nice wooden stove and fridge that I spent a good week on, and then had to give Santa the credit for on Christmas morning. I was sort of pleased when she was old enough to tell her that it was me who spent the hours on it, not some elf. I did manage to make Primrose a pretty pink bed for Christmas last year, and there's a big outdoor play set waiting to be designed and built--maybe next summer.
Is there one Miss Spider character that you identify with most?
Spiderus, of course! No, actually, the only characters in the books that are based on my family are Ike and May, who are modeled after my mom and dad.
What's it like to see your characters outside the pages of your books and on television?
The TV show is a different kind of kick for me. In the books, I'm deeply involved with every word and paint stroke, but on TV I'm mostly watching what other people do with my characters. It's as if those bugs are having their own lives away from me, and now I get to visit and see what they're up to without having to supervise their every move. It must be how it is when your children move away.
What do you hope kids will take away from or learn from the show?
I think the writers for the show have done a wonderful job at conveying the same lessons I try to stress in my books: It's important to be kind. It's important to have empathy for those different from yourself. It's important to enjoy the beautiful world we live in and to share it with others.