Novak, Matt 1962-
NOVAK, Matt 1962-
PERSONAL: Born October 23, 1962, in Trenton, NJ; son of Theresa (a factory worker; maiden name, Belfiore) Novak. Education: Attended Kutztown State University, 1980-81; School of Visual Arts, New York, NY, B.F.A., 1985. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, biking, hiking, gardening, and cooking.
CAREER: Pegasus Players, Sheppton, PA, puppeteer, 1979-83; Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL, animation artist, 1983; St. Benedict's Preparatory School, Newark, NJ, art teacher, beginning 1986; Parsons School of Design, instructor, beginning 1986; Walt Disney Studios, Orlando, FL, animation artist, 1989-92; Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, instructor, 2001—; University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, instructor, 2003—.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mouse TV was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Parents' Choice Honor recipient; Newt received the International Reading Association Children's Choice Award.
Rolling, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1986.
Claude and Sun, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Mr. Floop's Lunch, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Elmer Blunt's Open House, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1992.
The Last Christmas Present, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Mouse TV, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Gertie and Gumbo, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Newt, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
The Pillow War, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Robobots, DK Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Jazzbo Goes to School, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.
Jazzbo and Googy, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.
Little Wolf, Big Wolf, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
No Zombies Allowed, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
Too Many Bunnies, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2004.
Also author of On Halloween Street, Simon & Schuster.
Pat Upton, Who Does This Job?, Bell Books (Honesdale, PA), 1991.
Lee Bennett Hopkins, It's about Time (poems), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
Dayle Ann Dodds, Ghost and Pete, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.
Heather Feldman, Little Slugger, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Susan Hightower, Twelve Snails to One Lizard: A Tale of Mischief and Measurement, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: Matt Novak has written and illustrated a number of picture books for children. Among his most popular titles are The Pillow War, Jazzbo Goes to School, Jazzbo and Googy, and No Zombies Allowed.
In The Pillow War young siblings Millie and Fred get into an argument over who will sleep with their dog Sam. Taking up pillows, the pair begin a pillow fight that leads them out of their bedroom, down the stairs, and into the street. Soon their neighbors join in the battle with their own pillows until the whole neighborhood is in an uproar. By the time Millie comes up with the idea of taking turns sleeping with Sam, the dog has come up with his own surprising solution to the problem. A critic for Publishers Weekly noted Novak's "refreshingly quirky wit." Stephanie Zvirin in Booklist called The Pillow War "a funny-bone tickler that little ones will like."
Jazzbo Goes to School finds a young bear going with his mother to find a new school. The first one they visit is far too strict; even the birds outside are not allowed to sing during lessons. The second school, called the Willy Nilly School, is far too permissive; the children just play all day. But the third school, called the Super School, seems just right, and the teacher explains that they really need to have Jazzbo join them. A critic for Publishers Weekly believed that Novak's story could help "turn a frightening subject into utter merriment."
Jazzbo returns in Jazzbo and Googy, in which the little bear meets an eager but clumsy pig named Googy. Googy means well, but he ends up spilling things, knocking other children down, and ruining school projects. Only when he saves Jazzbo's teddy bear from landing in a mud puddle is Googy able to show that he is not so bumbling as he seems to be. "Children will see parts of themselves in the overly enthusiastic porcine," according to Sheilah Kosco in School Library Journal, "and find this tale to be reassuring."
No Zombies Allowed finds two witches, Wizzle and Woddle, planning their annual monsters ball. But when they look at the photographs from last year's ball, they remember some of the guests' bad behavior. The zombies kept dropping their eyes into the punch bowl; the skeletons called everyone else "fatso"; and the werewolves coughed up furballs. Soon Wizzle and Woddle are removing certain monsters from the guest list. This year's party will be perfect. Eventually they realize that, if they are going to be so picky about who they invite, there will be no party at all. Martha V. Parravano in Horn Book found No Zombies Allowed to be "a nice little send-up of messagey picture books, presented with the lightest possible touch." Carol L. MacKay, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, noted that "the text is engaging, the dialogue is ironic, and the characters are true to form." Ultimately, Novak "creates a bewitchingly funny world," according to a critic for Kirkus Reviews.
Novak once told CA: "My work deals primarily with nature. I want to impart my amazement at nature's beauty to children so that they may gain a sense of the importance of all of it. I grew up in a small town, surrounded by fields and woodland, so these things are important to me. A lot of children don't have the opportunity to experience living in such an environment. I write and illustrate books I would want to buy myself. That's how I judge my own work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1995, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Gertie and Gumbo, p. 89; February 15, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Pillow War, p. 1020; June 1, 1999, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Robobots, p. 1844.
Horn Book, September-October, 2002, Martha V. Parravano, review of No Zombies Allowed, p. 556.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of No Zombies Allowed, p. 1040.
Publishers Weekly, August 7, 1995, review of Gertie and Gumbo, p. 460; March 24, 1997, review of Twelve Snails to One Lizard: A Tale of Mischief and Measurement, p. 82; February 9, 1998, review of The Pillow War, p. 94; June 14, 1999, review of Jazzbo Goes to School, p. 68; September 23, 2002, review of No Zombies Allowed, p. 71.
School Library Journal, October, 1995, Marilyn Taniguchi, review of Gertie and Gumbo, p. 110; March, 1996, Sharron McElmeel, review of Ghost and Pete, p. 173; July, 1996, Gale W. Sherman, review of Newt, p. 70; May, 1997, John Sigwald, review of Twelve Snails to One Lizard, p. 100; March, 1998, Julie Cummins, review of The Pillow War, p. 185; June, 1999, Anne Connor, review of The Robobots, p. 104; August, 1999, Mary Ann Carcich, review of Jazzbo Goes to School, p. 140; January, 2000, Pat Leach, review of Little Wolf, Big Wolf, p. 108; June, 2000, Sheilah Kosco, review of Jazzbo and Googy, p. 123; August, 2002, Carol L. MacKay, review of No Zombies Allowed, p. 162.
Matt Novak's Web site,http://www.mattnovak.com/ (April 17, 2003).