Thaler, Mike 1936–

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Thaler, Mike 1936–

(Michael C. Thaler)

PERSONAL: Born 1936, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Ben (in sales; also a poet and sculptor) and Jean (Rosensweig) Thaler; married Laurel Lee (a professor and writer), March 3, 1995. Education: Attended University of California, Los Angeles. Hobbies and other interests: "Collecting art, netsuke, model and toy race cars, t-shirts, and laughter."

ADDRESSES: Home and office—P.O. Box 1007, Canby, OR 97013. Agent—Andrea Brown, 1076 Eagle Dr., Salinas, CA 93905. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Author and illustrator, 1961–. Also works as songwriter, sculptor, game designer, teacher, and lecturer. Public Broadcasting Service, creator of "Letterman" for the children's television series The Electric Company. Teacher of workshops on making riddles, making creative books, stories, and creative dramatics. Designer of software and computer games, including The Riddle King's Riddle Magic (software), and board games, including Scrambled Legs and The Riddle King's Riddle Race.

MEMBER: PEN International, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

AWARDS, HONORS: Children's Choice citation, International Reading Association and Children's Book Council, 1982, for Moonkey.

WRITINGS:

The Magic Boy, Harper (New York, NY), 1961.

The Clown's Smile, Harper (New York, NY), 1962, new edition, illustrated by Tracey Cameron, 1986.

The King's Flower, Orion Press (Columbus, OH), 1963.

Penny Pencil: The Story of a Pencil, Harper (New York, NY), 1963.

Moonboy, Harper (New York, NY), 1964.

The Prince and the Seven Moons, illustrated by Ursula Arndt, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1966.

(Editor, with William Cole) The Classic Cartoons: A Definitive Gallery of the Cartoon as Art and as Humor, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1966.

The Rainbow, illustrated by Donald Leake, H. Quist (New York, NY), 1967.

The Smiling Book, illustrated by Arnie Levin, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (Philadelphia, PA), 1971.

My Little Friend, illustrated by Arnie Levin, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (Philadelphia, PA), 1971.

The Staff, illustrated by Joseph Schindelman, Random House (New York, NY), 1971.

How Far Will a Rubberband Stretch?, illustrated by Jerry Joyner, Parents Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1974.

Magic Letter Riddles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1974.

What Can a Hippopotamus Be?, illustrated by Robert Grossman, Parents Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1975.

Wuzzles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1976.

Soup with Quackers!: Funny Cartoon Riddles, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1976.

Riddle Riot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1976.

(With William Cole) Knock Knocks: The Most Ever, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1976.

Funny Bones: Cartoon Monster Riddles, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1976.

Silly Puzzles, Xerox Publications (Middletown, CT), 1976.

Dazzles, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1977.

(With William Cole) Knock Knocks You've Never Heard Before, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1977.

(With William Cole) The Square Bear and Other Riddle Rhymes, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1977.

Never Tickle a Turtle: Cartoons, Riddles, and Funny Stories, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1977.

There's a Hippopotamus under My Bed, illustrated by Ray Cruz, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1977.

What's Up, Duck?: Cartoons, Riddles, and Jokes, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1978.

The Chocolate Marshmelephant Sundae, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1978.

The Yellow Brick Toad: Funny Frog Cartoons, Riddles, and Silly Stories, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1978.

(With William Cole) Give Up?: Cartoon Riddle Rhymes, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1978.

Madge's Magic Show, illustrated by Carol Nicklaus, Franklin Watts (Danbury, CT), 1978.

(With William Cole) Backwords, Random House (New York, NY), 1979.

Picture Riddles, Random House (New York, NY), 1979.

Unicorns on the Cob, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

Screamers, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

Steer Wars, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

The Nose Knows, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

Grin and Bear It, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

Toucans on Two Cans, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

The Complete Cootie Book, Avon (New York, NY), 1980.

My Puppy, illustrated by Madeleine Fishman, Harper (New York, NY), 1980.

Moonkey, illustrated by Giulio Maestro, Harper (New York, NY), 1981.

The Moose Is Loose, illustrated by Tony Gaffr, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1981.

A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher, illustrated by Jared Lee, Avon (New York, NY), 1981.

Oinkers Away: Pig Riddles, Cartoons, and Jokes, Archway (New York, NY), 1981.

Scared Silly: A Monster Riddle and Joke Scare-a-thon Featuring Bugs Mummy and Count Quackula, Avon (New York, NY), 1982.

Story Puzzles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1982.

The Pac-Man Riddle and Joke Book, Archway (New York, NY), 1982.

Paws: Cat Riddles, Cat Jokes, and Catoons, Archway (New York, NY), 1982.

(With William Cole) Monster Knock Knocks, Archway (New York, NY), 1982.

Owly, illustrated by David Wiesner, Harper (New York, NY), 1982.

The Moon and the Balloon, illustrated by Madeleine Fishman, Hastings House (New York, NY), 1982.

Stuffed Feet, Avon (New York, NY), 1983.

It's Me, Hippo!, illustrated by Maxie Chambliss, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.

Riddle Rainbow, Hastings House (New York, NY), 1984.

Montgomery Moose's Favorite Riddles, illustrated by Neal McPheeters, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1985.

Cream of Creature from the School Cafeteria, illustrated by Jared Lee, Avon (New York, NY), 1985.

Funny Side Up!: How to Create Your Own Riddles, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1985.

Upside Down Day, illustrated by Jared Lee, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.

King Kong's Underwear, Avon (New York, NY), 1986.

Hippo Lemonade, illustrated by Maxie Chambliss, Harper (New York, NY), 1986.

Mr. Bananahead at Home, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

Hink Pink Monsters, illustrated by Fred Winkowski, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

In the Middle of the Puddle, illustrated by Bruce Degen, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

Pack 109, illustrated by Normand Chartier, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.

Come and Play, Hippo, illustrated by Maxie Chambliss, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.

Godzilla's Pantyhose, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.

Frankenstein's Pantyhose, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.

The Riddle King's Camp Riddles, illustrated by Paul Harvey, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

The Riddle King's Food Riddles, illustrated by Paul Harvey, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

The Riddle King's Pet Riddles, illustrated by Paul Harvey, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

The Riddle King's School Riddles, illustrated by Paul Harvey, Random House (New York, NY), 1989.

Catzilla, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Seven Little Hippos, illustrated by Jerry Smath, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Cannon the Librarian, illustrated by Jared Lee, Avon (New York, NY), 1993.

Colossal Fossil, illustrated by Rick Brown, W.H. Freeman (New York, NY), 1994.

Miss Yonkers Goes Bonkers, illustrated by Jared Lee, Avon (New York, NY), 1994.

Earth Mirth: The Ecology Riddle Book, illustrated by Rick Brown, Scientific American Books for Young Readers, 1994.

Bad Day at Monster Elementary, Avon (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Janelle Cherrington) The Puppet Club, illustrated by Ana Lopez Escriva, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

Little Dinosaur, illustrated by Paige Miglio, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY), 2001.

Imagination, photographs by Sherry Shahan, R.C. Owen (Katonah, NY), 2002.

Pig Little, illustrated by Paige Miglio, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of cartoons to magazines, including Harper's Bazaar, Horizon, Humpty Dumpty, and Saturday Evening Post.

"BIBLE STORIES TO TICKLE YOUR SOUL"; ILLUSTRATED BY DENNIS ADLER

Moses, Take Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2000.

Adam and the Apple Turnover, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2000.

Daniel, Nice Kitty!, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2000.

David, God's Rock Star, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2000.

Elijah, Prophet Sharing, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2001.

The Prodigal Son, Oh Brother!, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2000.

Paul, God's Message Sent Apostle Post, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2000.

David and Bubblebath-Sheba, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2001.

John the Baptist: Wet and Wild, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2001.

Heroines of the Bible: God's Fair Ladies, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2002.

Mike Thaler Presents … Action Heroes of the Bible: The Sermonators, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2002.

Prophets of the Bible: God's Anchormen, Faith Kids (Colorado Springs, CO), 2002.

"LAGOON ELEMENTARY" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY JARED LEE

The Teacher from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

The Principal from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.

The Gym Teacher from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

The School Nurse from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

The Librarian from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

The Cafeteria Lady from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

The School Bus Driver from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

The Music Teacher from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.

The Custodian from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

The Class from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

The Class Trip from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

The Talent Show from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Class Election from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Class Pet from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

The Halloween Party from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

The Science Fair from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

The New Kid from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

The Bully from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

The Field Day from the Black Lagoon, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

"BULLY BROTHERS" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY JARED LEE

The Bully Brothers Trick the Tooth Fairy, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1993.

The Bully Brothers: Gobblin' Halloween, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1993.

The Bully Brothers: Making the Grade, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

The Bully Brothers at the Beach, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1996.

"FUNNY FIRSTS" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY JARED LEE

Camp Rotten Time, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1994.

Fang the Dentist, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1994.

My Cat Is Going to the Dogs, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1994.

The Schmo Must Go On, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1995.

I'm Dracula, Who Are You?, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1996.

Love Stinks, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1996.

Moving to Mars, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1996.

"LAFFALONG" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY JERRY SMATH

Never Mail an Elephant, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1993.

Uses for Mooses and Other Popular Pets, Troll Communications (New York, NY), 1993.

Never Give a Fish an Umbrella, Troll Comunications (New York, NY), 1996.

"HAPPILY EVER AFTER" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY JARED LEE

Cinderella Bigfoot, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Hanzel and Pretzel, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

Schmoe White and the Seven Dorfs, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

The Princess and the Pea-ano, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1997.

ACTIVITY BOOKS; WITH JANET PULLEN

The Riddle King's Giant Book of Jokes, Riddles, and Activities, Modern, 1987.

The Riddle King's Jumbo Book of Jokes, Riddles, and Activities, Modern, 1987.

The Riddle King's Super Book of Jokes, Riddles, and Activities, Modern, 1987.

The Riddle King's Book of Jokes, Riddles, and Activities, Modern, 1988.

RECORDINGS

The Riddle King Tells His Favorite Riddles, Jokes, Stories, and Songs with Steve Charney, Caedmon (New York, NY), 1985.

The Riddle King's Riddle Song: Scholastic Songs with Steve Charney, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.

Other cassette recordings include These Are the Questions, My Blanket Is the Sky, and Sing Me a Rainbow.

Thaler's books have also been published in France and Japan.

ADAPTATIONS: The "Bully Brothers" series was optioned by the American Broadcasting Companies and Columbia Broadcasting System for a television series.

SIDELIGHTS: An author and illustrator of numerous picture books, beginning readers, and original joke and riddle books for children, Mike Thaler has teamed with illustrator Jared Lee to produce scores of entertaining and well-received works for children. In a review of Hanzel and Pretzel, Schmoe White and the Seven Dorfs, and other books in their "Happily Ever After" series, Cincinnati Enquirer commentator Sara Pearce dubbed Thaler and Lee "the court jesters of children's literature." Through each of his books for children, Thaler shares his lighthearted vision of life and encourages young people to indulge in their natural sense of wonder.

Thaler attended classes at the University of California, Los Angeles before breaking away to follow his dreams. "What I really hoped to earn a living at was doing cartoons for adults," Thaler once told CA. "Actually, they weren't even funny cartoons, they were the 'save-the-world' kind. Then one day Ursula Nordstrom, an editor at Harper & Row, saw a picture story I had done for Harper's Bazaar ‖ and asked if I had ever thought of doing children's books." Thaler completed his first book for children, The Magic Boy, in 1961. The story of a young boy who could juggle rainbows that never dropped, The Magic Boy was the first in a long line of books for children by this prolific writer-illustrator.

"Writing a story is like painting a picture," Thaler once explained to CA. "You put down one color, and then you put down a second color next to it, and it changes the first color. You put down words next to words and they change, too. So when you put two or three words together, there's an interaction." During the writing process, Thaler tries to tap the feelings of his inner child—"I sort of feel like I am more of a receiver than an originator, that I am merely the radio the music plays through. It's like the stories are already there. I am simply putting them down on paper."

Among the many picture books Thaler has written, and often illustrated, is Owly, the story of a young owl full of curiosity about the world around him. Owly has a never-ending list of questions for his busy mother, who, instead of answering them, sends the young owlet out into the world to discover the answers for himself. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviewer Zena Sutherland found the book to have "a loving relationship and an interesting concept as appeals." The beginning reader It's Me, Hippo! contains four stories that feature the portly title character involved in a range of activities alongside a group of his African animal friends in what a Publishers Weekly reviewer called a "buoyant collection." Animals are also featured in In the Middle of the Puddle, in which Fred the frog and Ted the turtle find their comfortably sized puddle stretched into a sea after a long rainstorm. "Paced by the phrase repetition that small children rel-ish … this charmer will delight youngsters on rainy and sunny days," predicted Beth Ames Herbert in her review of the picture book for Booklist.

"When you do children's [picture] books, there can be no waste, no fat," Thaler explained. "It has to be all muscle and bone. There has to be character development, plot and depth, all in thirty-two pages. And it has to be beauty and energy." According to the author, the words under the illustration are what fuel the story. "Words give an emotional feeling. They give you energy." While Thaler once believed children's books should also contain a message, he has since changed his mind. "Just the laughter of children is the message. Laughter is a message in itself."

Thaler claims to have a poor reputation for understanding other people's jokes, so in his books he finds it simpler just to make up his own. He tries to extend that originality to every part of each of his riddle books—from jokes and riddles to the stories and drawings that he includes alongside them. While many riddle books contain just lists of riddles, Thaler's books are unusual in that he uses his ability as an artist to play up the visual humor through comic illustrations. In Never Tickle a Turtle: Cartoons, Riddles, and Funny Stories, which is illustrated with black-and-white cartoons, Thaler appeals to a variety of ages by featuring visual puns along with his jokes and riddles. The Yellow Brick Toad contains an entire collection of jokes, riddles, stories, and cartoons featuring the high-hopping amphibians. Similarly, Oinkers Away! is full of swine humor, complete with illustrations by Thaler that add to the fun.

In addition to working on new books, Thaler travels to schools across the country, reading from his books and encouraging the children he meets to develop their own creativity. "I find riddles to be a valuable educational tool," he noted. "They get kids into all sorts of things—synonyms, rhythm, spelling syntax, syllables and, more importantly, into the dictionary, a marvelous source of riddles." During his visits to schools Thaler encourages students to make up their own stories, draw their own cartoons, and write their own "books" in order to help them build on their personal creativity and developing sense of humor. "There is pure creativity when you are around kids," he exclaimed. "The energy of children is the most amazing, important source of energy in this whole country. It should be protected and helped to develop. Teachers to me are the most important people in the world because they are shaping the future. The possibilities of kids are the possibilities of the future."

"There was a time in my life when everything had to be serious," Thaler once admitted to CA. "Now I have learned that laughter is important, and I feel it is important for children to have a good body of humor, an intelligent body of humor." Thaler weaves his belief in the power of humor into each of his many books, joining it with another principle. "Love and creativity are the two basic elements of life to me," he explained. "If you put love and creativity into everything you do, you've got it made. This is the philosophy I live by, and the philosophy I teach."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 1977, p. 1008; June 1, 1988, Beth Ames Herbert, review of In the Middle of the Puddle, pp. 1679-1680; September 15, 1990, p. 173; April 1, 1991, p. 1578.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1979, p. 90; July-August, 1982, Zena Sutherland, review of Owly, p. 216.

Cincinnati Enquirer, March 18, 1997, Sara Pearce, review of titles in the "Happily Ever After" series, p. C5.

Junior Bookshelf, February, 1978, p. 15.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1979, p. 131.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1975, p. 285; December 2, 1983, review of It's Me, Hippo!, p. 86; March 8, 1993, p. 77; September 20, 1993, p. 30.

School Library Journal, December, 1975, p. 49; April, 1977, p. 72; May, 1978, p. 82; March, 1979, p. 122; November, 1981, p. 83; September, 1982, p. 112; December, 1983, p. 80; December, 1988, p. 94; August, 1991, p. 156; November, 1991, p. 107.

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Thaler, Mike 1936–

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