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Spotlight on Ben Clanton

Photo courtesy of author.

About the Author:

Ben Clanton is a lot like a mutant potato. He too enjoys mud, eating stuff, and playing games. When Ben isn’t doing these things (and sometimes when he is), he likes to make books. Books like the Tater Tales series, It Came in the MailSomething Extraordinary, and the New York Times bestselling Narwhal and Jelly series. See what he is up to at

Spotlight on The King of the World!

The King of the World!
Illustrated by Ben Clanton

Rot is ready for another adventure and this time he’s going “Spudlunking!” But while Rot is excited to dig through the muck for treasure, all his friends seem to be more interested in their own plans.

When Rot uncovers a shiny old crown, he’s sure it’ll change their minds. And it does…in a most unexpected way. When Rot wears it he feels powerful…He feels invincible…He feels like…the King of the World! And everyone has to do what the king says.

But when Rot realizes he’s the only one having fun in his kingdom, suddenly he wonders whether he might have let the crown go to his head…

Check out a Read & Draw video from Ben and SimonKids!


Q: The Tater Tales series is so delightfully fun. Did you have any real-world inspirations for sibling’s Rot, Snot, and Tot?


 Thank you! Yes, definitely some real-world inspirations for that lot. A couple of sources actually. The dynamic between Rot and Snot finds its roots in my relationship with my sister. Growing up no one knew how to get under my skin like my older sister. My nickname for her became Mean Green Samanta Jean, which is part of why I picked green to be Snot's color. We get along pretty well these days! Though perhaps that has something to do with us living in different states . . . The other source of inspiration for the tater trio is my own trio of kids (ages 2, 5, and 7). They are a constant source of cuteness but also chaos. One moment they'll be arguing over a toy none of them has touched in months and the next they'll all have forgotten said toy again and be playing some new game together as if there had never been any issue. 



Q: What are the biggest differences between writing for picture books versus writing for graphic novels?


A lot of the time picture books have more narration (plenty of exceptions though!), while typically graphic novels have a lot of dialogue. I like the immediacy of dialogue, which puts the character(s) at the forefront. For me the characters are at the heart of the stories I tell. In the Narwhal and Jelly books I rely almost solely on dialogue and the pictures. Tater Tales is a different case, though. The narration plays a pivotal role in the books but so too does the dialogue. The format, to my mind at least, is a mix of formats, which has been oodles of fun to explore.


Another interesting difference that was pointed out to me recently by my friend Jessixa Bagley (author of DUEL as well as the creator of many other books) between picture books and graphic novels is the question of who is picking them out. Kids tend to start to have more of a say about the books they read when they start reading graphic novels, whereas picture books are often selected for kids by adults. I think that makes it easier when writing a graphic novel to worry less about the opinions of adults. To worry less about adult gatekeepers and instead get to focus when creating it even more on making a fun and interesting book that kids will want to read. 


Q: How does being an author and an illustrator impact the way you tell stories?


The question of whether the words come first or the pictures is one that I get a lot. But for me the two are inextricably linked. When I set out to make a book both the words and pictures are coming at the same time. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, or perhaps Narwhal and Jelly? (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!) My stories usually need both elements working together, each adding something unique to the conversation. It is a "yes, and . . ." dynamic. 


Q: What is your favorite book that you’ve worked on and why?


That is such a tough question, but the second Tater Tales installment, The King of the World, is really high up there for me. I think it might just be my best book so far (a.k.a. My Best Book in the World!), or at least the one I feel best about? When making the book it felt like everything just clicked. The characters (really had fun with the additions of Rooty the mole and Burgundy the gnome), the pacing, the pictures (got to draw DOODLES of things I like to draw), the themes . . . the story is super silly but still explores some big issues, including things I struggle with. I just really dig this one and how the ingredients all came together.


Q: Are there any important teachers or librarians that have impacted your life/your work specifically?


So many! But the one that jumps immediately to mind is a substitute teacher, Mr. Fischer. I loved when he substituted for any of my teachers because it meant we'd get to hear stories. He would always find some time in the day to read to us. That was the case when I was in 3rd grade and that still was the case when I was in 8th. He did the most extraordinary read alouds. He always picked the funniest books and he didn't just read them . . . it was a performance! He once got so into the reading that he kicked a desk over when in character. I struggled with learning to read, but Mr. Fischer showed me how fun books could be. My memories of those readings have helped inform my approach to writing and drawing and making characters and stories come to life.

Rot, the Cutest in the World! Read-Aloud with Author Ben Clanton

Also by Ben Clanton

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