I grew up on a farm with two older brothers and a lot of animals in Three Bridges, NJ. After graduating Columbia University, I got a job in New York selling buffalo wings, and then worked as an architect’s assistant, a small-town newspaper reporter, and a computer programmer before settling down to write and illustrate children’s books. It really, really helped that my grandfather, Ludwig Bemelmans, had created the Madeline books and left a story unfinished for me to work on. At author’s events I often get called Mr. Bemelmans, and people occasionally speak to me in French, which is problematic. Before starting in publishing, my standing as an Italian-American had pretty much gone unchallenged. To tip the scales back the other way a little, I wrote the story of my other grandfather in an op-ed for the New York Times, which had the wonderful effect of putting me in touch with my long-lost Calabrian cousins.
In addition to continuing the Madeline series, I now write and illustrate my own children’s stories, as well as books on the origin and history of words. In 2010 I curated the exhibition Drawn in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Public Library, which featured 34 children’s book artists and showed why my borough is the center of the world in at least one industry. I’m also a member of Book Maker’s Dozen, a group of children’s book illustrators who create reproductions of our art and organize group exhibitions. For more, you can check out the Book Maker’s Dozen blog, Facebook page, or Etsy shop. My own website is here, and you can find me on Facebook here.
I currently live in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn with my wife Andromache, daughter Galatea, and cats Maud and Liddy. (In Brooklyn we name our pets like people and our people like obscure cultural references.)