Dave Reisman is the publisher and author of the children’s picture storybooks Cows Can’t Jump and Cows Can’t Quack, and is happily working on the forthcoming follow-up Cows Can’t Spin Silk – all about things animals make. The forthcoming title will also be illustrated by Jason A. Maas, who illustrated Reisman’s first two books, too. He was Reisman’s children’s elementary school art teacher.
Dave Reisman was kind enough to chat with us about some of his favorite books, the inspiration for creating his own series of children’s books and the reasons he champions literacy alongside ROR GNY.
Reach Out and Read of Greater New York: Which books are among your childhood favorites?
Dave Reisman: A Fish out of Water written by Helen Palmer, illustrated by P.D. Eastman.
It’s about a boy who gets a goldfish. Mr. Carp, the pet shop owner, says don’t feed him too much. The child overfeeds the fish and he grows so big that he ends up in the town pool. To me, it was just this crazy fantasy that just really stood out in my mind. I read it to my kids, and they love it. For some reason, my son calls it “Fish Boom.”
You can read books like this, that you love, to your kids and it’s like passing along a tradition. Reading a book you’ve read a million times before with your kids is just a great experience.
ROR GNY: What are your favorite titles of today?
We also love The Little Red Car by K.K. Ross. It’s just one of these mini chunky books that’s very simple, but the illustrations are great. You turn the page because there’s something new that’s going to happen. The book is like a long chain reaction of events. When you find a book you hadn’t seen before and you fall in love with it, it’s a special feeling.
ROR GNY: What’s your favorite childhood reading memory — whether of reading to yourself, or of someone who read to you, or something you imagined?
Dave Reisman: I have a very distinct memory of my parents. They were always reading. We may not have read together every night, but they were always modeling reading and a love of books.
I must have been 5 or 6, there was a book called, The Adventures of Bob White; I think it had a pink cover. I remember sitting on my dad’s lap in his chair, reading aloud to him. It was really special because it didn’t happen that often.
ROR GNY: What was your biggest idea or inspiration that came from reading?
Dave Reisman: Discovery. You pick up a book and you never quite know what it will introduce you to and how it might change you. Books were kind of a gateway — before the internet, reading filled a gap. Books were a way to see things that were out there in the world, and books were the best way to find out about them.
ROR GNY: What is your favorite word?
Dave Reisman: Perspective — it’s almost like the golden rule but in one word. Perspective is the ability that some people have to be empathetic, because they can see where the other person is coming from. Perspective gives people the opportunity to see things differently. I think a lot of the problems could be solved if try to see things from others’ perspectives.
ROR GNY: If you were going to be anything other than a writer, what would you be?
Dave Reisman: Being a writer and publisher is a dream come true. I’d always been involved in creative activities. I worked on high school newspaper, worked in college radio, always had publishing and media in my blood.
ROR GNY: How did you become inspired to write? Why children’s books?
Dave Reisman: I saw the fact that “A cow can’t jump.” I immediately thought, “This is a children’s book.” I wondered how I could create something out of this. Then, I remembered that cows can swim. So, it became a book about the things that we aren’t able to do, but also the special talents that we all also have. Having three kids and reading children’s books a lot, it was a natural reaction to create something from that fun fact.
ROR GNY: Why is Reach Out and Read of Greater New York important to you?
Dave Reisman: I’m so fortunate to be able to combine what I’m doing with helping great organizations. There are all different ways for people to give back; I get the most out of activities that help younger kids achieve their greatest potential. What could be better than helping a child learn how great books are? Without reading, everything is going to be more difficult. Reading opens so many doors for kids who may not otherwise have the same chances.
ROR GNY is great for so many reasons. It’s such an efficient model. It makes so much sense once we realize literacy is a health issue. How brilliant to work on this issue through doctors. Doctors have credibility and access to families in need. If a doctor says something, the parent will consider it seriously. By giving them a book, it takes away any excuse.
Everything about ROR GNY resonated with me. That’s why I got involved, because I just wanted to help promote this cause. I thought, there’s got to be a way for me to work with ROR GNY to use my books to meet their needs. Through a collaboration with The Elkes Foundation, we were able to provide about 10,000 books for ROR GNY to distribute.
Thank you to Dave Reisman for the time, the chat, the support, and the inspiration!
Look for Cows Can’t Jump and Cows Can’t Quack and be sure to order them through smile.amazon.com and choose Reach Out and Read of Greater New York as your charity of choice.