G. Neri is the author of the new children's picture book When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel. His other books include Tru & Nelle and Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. He has worked as a filmmaker and animator, and he lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Q: Why did you decide to write a picture book about Simon and Garfunkel?
A: After completing my picture book bio Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, which told of the history of American music in the first half of the 20th century, I felt there was a great story to be told about the birth of rock n’ roll.
The Cash book takes us up to that remarkable moment in Memphis in the ‘50s with Johnny, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins but so many great bands from the ‘60s came directly out of hearing those songs on the radio and feeling like they could do it too.
I learned about the childhood friendship of Simon & Garfunkel completely by accident, but that friendship hit all the things I wanted to express about this important cultural shift. And most people had no idea of their amazing teen years and what lead up to the seminal "Sound of Silence."
Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?
A: Everything was surprising, from the fact that they met in a 6th grade production of Alice in Wonderland to them having a hit rockabilly record at 16 years old under the names Tom and Jerry, to the wild story about how they reformed as a folk act after years of failure.
I tried to use them as source material via hundreds of interviews in print, radio, and TV spanning 1957 to today.
Q: How much do you think kids know about Simon and Garfunkel, and what do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: Most kids know very little but there is a hardcore fan base amongst certain poetic angst-ridden teen girls.
To me, it’s more important that they learn about the history of American music from the ‘50s to the ‘70s and how vital and earth-shattering it was. A lot of the story is about never giving up and overcoming adversity, which is always important for young people to see.
Q: What do you think David Litchfield's illustrations add to the book?
A: David’s work is fantastic and brought a whole dreamy, child-like quality to the story. It really elevated the book and gave it a groovy New York vibe.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: So many things. Have two graphic novels coming up. The first, Grand Theft Horse, is due in November. Doing a sequel to Ghetto Cowboy too. And a book about my adventures in Antarctica this past year!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I feel blessed to be writing about so many different kinds of real-life stories. And my readers are wonderful!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with G. Neri.