These are some of the things that kids have asked Diane deGroat in the past:

Why does your name begin with a small "d?"
Are you related to Tomie dePaola?
Do you know J. K. Rowling?
What kind of animal is Gilbert?
Why did you make Gilbert a possum?
Where did you get the name "Gilbert?"
How old is Gilbert?
How do you get your ideas?
Are you going to do a St. Patrick's Day book?
How about a 4th of July book?
How about a book where Gilbert goes to second grade?
Is Mrs. Byrd a penguin?
How do you make your books?
How do you get the cover hard?
How do you get the cover to be shiny?
How many books have you done?
When did you make your first book?
Why did you start writing books?
Which do you like better - writing or illustrating?
Do you meet the authors?
How long does it take to make a book?
What was your favorite book as a kid?
What's your favorite book that you made?
Do you have any kids?
Do you have any pets?
What's your favorite color?
Where do you live?
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Do you write about your own childhood experiences?
What do you do for fun?
Can I be in one of your books?



Why does your name begin with a small "d?"

My ancestors were probably Dutch, and that's the way they would have spelled it.
Many names from the Netherlands begin with small letters. back to top



Are you related to Tommy dePaola?
No  back to top


Do you know J. K. Rowling?
No. back to top


What kind of animal is Gilbert?
Gilbert is an opossum - or possum as I say it. Patty is a hedgehog, Margaret is a badger, and Lewis is a beaver or a woodchuck. You can't really tell because I don't show his tail. I had trouble figuring out how the clothes would fit on the animals - it was easier if I just left out the tails! back to top


Why did you make Gilbert a possum?

Possums are not too brave, and not too timid. I think they are the kind of animals that things just happen to. And that's what Gilbert is like. Things happen to him, and he has to figure out what to do. back to top


Where did you get the
name "Gilbert?"

I wanted to use a name that wouldn't be very common. It would be boring if the students in Mrs. Byrd's class had names like Michael, John, Emily or Megan because so many kids have those names already! back to top


How old is Gilbert?

Gilbert is in first grade, so he is about 6 or 7. I haven't decided when his birthday is yet. His sister Lola is about 3.  back to top

How do you get your ideas?
For the Gilbert books, I think of a holiday or a major event like the first day of school to write about. Sometimes I talk to first grade teachers about my ideas before I write the book to get their opinions and suggestions. Then I have to come up with a funny title, and I write the story to go with the title. This is a backward way to work, but I'm locked into having those funny titles. P.S. I'm running out of holidays and funny titles. Send me your suggestions! back to top

Are you going to do a St. Patrick's Day book?
No. Even though my characters act like kids, they are obviously animals. I feel weird giving them a religion or a nationality. Can a possum be Irish? Does Lewis go to church? Like the "tail" problem (see "What kind of animal is Gilbert?"), I chose to avoid this dilemma. The Christmas book, Jingle Bells, Homework Smells, mentions Santa Claus, and the Easter book, Last One in Is a Rotten Egg, is about an egg hunt, but that's about as far as I'll go with religious holidays. back tp top

How about a 4th of July book?
Probably not. This holiday occurs in the summer, so teachers would not be reading it to their students. Since my greatest audience is in the classroom, the publisher feels that not enough people would buy it. back to top

How about a book where Gilbert goes to second grade?
Right now I feel that Gilbert should stay in first grade.
I still have a lot of ideas for Gilbert's adventures in Mrs. Byrd's class. back to top


Is Mrs. Byrd a penguin?
No, Mrs. Byrd is a bobwhite quail. I saw a photo of a bobwhite in a magazine, and I liked the black stripes on its head, so I chose to use it for Mrs. Byrd. What I didn't know at the time was that a bobwhite was really quite small. In real life, a bobwhite is half the size of a possum. Imagine if I made all the animals in the class their actual size. The students would be twice the size of the teacher!
But as the artist, I can make them any size I want, and I think the teacher should be taller than the students. Don't you?
(And Mrs. Byrd is, I found out MUCH later, a male bird.) back to top


How do you make your books?
How do you get the cover hard?
How do you get the cover to be shiny?

I don't "make" the books. I write the story and I paint the pictures using watercolor paints. I use pencil for black and white art. I also do some of the artwork right in the computer, using a special tablet to draw on. A printer "makes" the books. A special camera takes a picture of my artwork and prints it onto paper. Then the pages are sent to a factory, where they are sewn together. Open a book up real wide and look down into the binding. You can see the thread. The cover is varnished to make it shiny. That helps to keep it clean. Then the cover is glued onto cardboard, and the books are ready to go into stores. back to top

How many books have you done?
I've illustrated over 130 books for other authors, I've painted almost 200 book jackets, and I've written 24 books that I've also illustrated. back to top

When did you make your first book?

I've been illustrating books since 1970. My first illustrated chapter book was Luke Was There, by Eleanor Clymer. My first picture book was Little Rabbit's Loose Tooth, by Lucy Bate. It's become a classic, and a new edition was just published in 2006. back to top

Why did you start writing books?
After 20 years of illustrating, I wanted a new challenge, so I tried writing my own stories. I found out that writing is REALLY a challenge! Everything I wrote got rejected at first. I often think that if I had read more as a kid, I would have been a better writer today. (And, by the way, you get twice as much money if you are the writer AND the illustrator of a book. That's a good reason to learn to write!) back to top

Which do you like better - writing or illustrating?
I like to illustrate more than I like to write because it's easier. Writing is very hard for me. Luckily, I have a good editor who makes me do my stories over and over until they're the best they can be. back to top

Do you meet the authors?
I rarely get to meet the authors whose books I've illustrated. The publisher buys their story, then hires the illustrator (me) to make the art for it. Sometimes I meet authors at conferences or on school visits, though, and it's a real treat for me. I like to get their books autographed! back to top

How long does it take to make a book?
A Gilbert book takes about a week to write, but it may take months to come up with the story! I have the whole story in my head before I start to write it down. Then there are the rewrites. That can take another month. The artwork may take a few months for the whole book. So it takes about 6 months altogether. Then it takes at least a year for the book to get printed and bound. back to top

What was your favorite book as a kid?
I didn't like to read when I was a kid. I took books out of the school library to look at the pictures. One of the books I remember was about Raggedy Anne. I especially liked the way the artist painted her dress and her hair. And the background was black. I remember that very well. But I don't remember the story. back to top

What's your favorite book that you made?
Out of all the Gilbert books, I like the story best in Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo. As far as the art, I think I did the best job in Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite! I like the dark scary paintings. back to top



Do you have any kids?
I have a daughter Amanda, born in 1976. She's an animator for TV shows. I have three grandchildren too: Max was born in 2007, Naomi in 2012 and Arlo in 2013. Maybe they will grow up to be artists too! back to top
Do you have any pets?
My cat Pepper died in 2006. She was 22 years old!
back to top


What's your favorite color?
My favorite color is the deep blue of a
winter sky, but I can't duplicate it with paint. back to top
Where do you live?
I live in Amherst, Massachusetts. There are many children's book authors and illustrators in the area. I belong to the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is just minutes from my house. back to top

Do you have any brothers or sisters?
I have two brothers and two sisters. None of them are authors or illustrators, but they each have their own talents. back to top

Do you write about your own childhood experiences?
My two younger sisters were definitely pests. Gilbert treats his sister Lola better than I treated my sisters!
(P.S.: we're friends now.) back to top

What do you do for fun?
I like working in my garden. Plants and trees and flowers can be used just like paint to create art in nature. I like to canoe on the Connecticut River and cycle past the beaver pond on the bike path.
I love to travel, whether for fun or to visit schools. I always take a camera with me wherever I go. I love to eat, watch TV,and read. Sometimes all at the same time.
I love to sleep late in the morning,
drink English tea, and work late into the night, listening to books on tape. I do volunteer work for Big Brothers Big Sisters. My most favorite non-paying job was to work in my sister's bakery in Tennessee. I got to eat all the cake batter I wanted! And cookies! And pie! back to top


Can I be in one of your books?
I've used many children as models for books that require my "realistic" style. I take a lot of photographs, but if I needed to take additional pictures, it would be best if the child lived close by. When I visit schools all over the country, I often see children that I think would be good models for my books. But if I needed to take more pictures, I'd have to fly back to their school! back to top

Have I missed anything? You can write to me with your questions. Maybe I will add them to the list!