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Interview Bill Cotter

Bill Cotter Knows the Secret to Keep Kids Reading

The Children’s Book Review

While teaching preschool art and music, Cleveland native, Bill Cotter quickly realized that reading aloud to the children was a great way to discover their likes and dislikes for different types of children’s literature. Surprise! Surprise! Books that involved the reader and created an interaction proved to be the most popular books. It was this realization that an idea for a board book was born, Don’t Push the Button! The wildly popular book eventually became a series unto its own, including Don’t Shake the Present! His most recent title is Five Little Monsters Jumping on the Bed.

The interactive theme throughout your books is simple yet effective.  How did you come up with this idea?

Bill Cotter: It’s so hard for a toddler to sit still for a story, and I found that the more interactive the book was, the more the little readers were engaged. This was also around the time that iPads were becoming mainstream, so it made sense to create interactive books purely as a way to compete with the other media that are part of kids’ everyday life.

How do you come up with the different versions?

I spend a lot of time playing music, so I can’t help but compare it to writing a blues song. It mostly has the same structure as all the blues songs that came before it, but the possibilities of what you can apply to that framework is endless. Button gave us a great framework to work from, and it’s been really fun riffing off of it. It might not be as artistically fulfilling as making something totally brand new, but if it gets kids to read more and grow up to be more literate adults, then that’s really the only important thing to me.

What do you like more – writing or illustrating? 

It’s funny, I went to art school and really only thought of myself as an illustrator for many years, but now I would identify as a writer who illustrates. Being a writer is like being an architect. You come up with an initial concept and make the blueprints for the overall project. Illustrating is more like the construction – building the structure brick by brick from the ground floor.

What is your favorite part of creating a children’s book?

My favorite part of the whole process is hearing a kid laugh while reading my books. After all the rewrites, countless sketches, and navigating the ins and outs of the publisher and the retailers, hearing readers laugh is the clearest sign that I’ve bridged the gap between concept and final product. The whole goal is for them to experience the book as if it were being created for them spontaneously right there on the spot.

Favorite children’s book?

That’s a tough one! Though I can definitely say that the work of Chris Van Allsburg inspired me to be an illustrator. I used to be obsessed with his masterful illustrations in The Polar Express and Jumanji. I’m also a massive Calvin and Hobbes fan and absolutely love the books of Roald Dahl.

What is next for you?

Japan! Currently, Don’t Push the Button is the number one picture book in that country, so I’ve been working with a publisher to create two new Larry books just for the Japanese market. It’s such an honor to see the book do so well there, and it’s truly a treat to see how the book connects with children in a totally different part of the world. It reminds me that before we get shaped by culture, parenting styles, or personal trauma, we all start as curious, positive, positive, and playful creatures….and it’s up to us to stay that way.

Buy the BookFive Little Monsters Jumping on the Bed

Written and Illustrated by Bill Cotter

Publisher’s Synopsis: A new take on the classic rhyme, Five Little Monkeys! Larry the monster is back in this perfect read-aloud from Bill Cotter, creator of the USA Today bestseller, Don’t Push the Button.

Larry is back! And this time he has enlisted his monster friends to cause monster mayhem! Prompts to “pet,”; “press,”; and “tickle”; the monsters make this a fun, interactive story that little ones will enjoy.

Five little monsters jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“No more monsters jumping on the bed.”;

Ages 0-4 | Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky | January 7, 2020 | ISBN: 978-1492687467

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Buy the BookDon’t Push the Button!

Written and Illustrated by Bill Cotter

Publisher’s Synopsis: There’s only one rule in Larry’s book: don’t push the button.

(Seriously, don’t even think about it!)

Even if it does look kind of nice, you must never push the button. Who knows what would happen?

Okay, quick. No one is looking… push the button.

Uh, oh.

Ages 0-4 | Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky | June 1, 2015 | ISBN: 978-1492607632

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Buy the BookDon’t Shake the Present!

Written and Illustrated by Bill Cotter

Publisher’s Synopsis: Go on a festive and fun-filled adventure with Larry in the hilarious holiday edition of the USA Today bestselling series, Don’t Push the Button

Hi! I’m Larry. This is my present.
I REALLY want to open it, but I’m not allowed.

Larry the loveable monster has received a present, and he’s desperate to know what’s inside. He needs your help to figure it out.

But whatever you do…


Ages 0-4 | Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky | October 1, 2019 | ISBN: 978-1492691662

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About the Author

Photo of Bill Cotter

Bill Cotter

Bill Cotter is the author and illustrator of the bestselling Don’t Push the Button! series, now with over 1 million copies sold worldwide. He has traveled to visit schools in China, Japan, and the Middle East to share his work with children. When he’s not making books Bill likes to play video games, write music, and hang out with his cat Button.

http://cotterillustration.squarespace.com/ | Instagram | Twitter

This interview—Bill Cotter Knows the Secret to Keep Kids Reading—was conducted between Bill Cotter and Anna Iacovetta, Ph.D.. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with and .

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Dr. Anna Iacovetta, classroom teacher who taught every grade, K-12 together with undergraduate students. Her passionate interest in children's literature led her to earn a doctorate in Literature for Children and Young Adults from The Ohio State University. Anna is currently a part-time professor and book reviewer who resides in Cleveland, Ohio where she lives with her husband and two young children. Twitter: LiteraryGal82

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