When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, I was never my teacher’s favorite student. Not even close. I goofed off like crazy, told jokes, and doodled when I was supposed to be paying attention. Now I get paid for doing these very same things. How completely ironic is that?!
The first children’s book I ever illustrated was French Fries Up Your Nose: 208 Ways to Annoy People (Avon Books). It was written by thirteen-year-old Alden Nusser, and I’ll bet that he was probably not his teacher’s favorite student either.
I have written and illustrated several joke books, including You Must Be Joking!: Lots of Cool Jokes, Plus 17 1/2 Tips for Remembering, Telling, and Making Up Your Own Jokes and You Must Be Joking, Two!: Even Cooler Jokes, Plus 11 1/2 Tips for Laughing Yourself into Your Own Stand-Up Comedy Routine (Cricket Books). Besides jokes, they also include tips for remembering and telling jokes, plus how to perform them like a stand-up comedian. They have become bestsellers, found in many public and school libraries across this country, as well as in international schools in a number of other countries. I believe joke books can seek out the reluctant readers, and then prep them for many more fun books to follow. School Library Journal said, “In his introduction, Brewer explains the value of laughter, points out that wordplay helps to ‘fire up the brain,’ and informs readers that telling jokes will allow them to practice their verbal abilities…The cartoon sketches scattered throughout the text add to the humor. A gem among joke books.”
I illustrated the popular “Robert” series of chapter books for grades 2-3, written by the late Barbara Seuling. Oh No, It’s Robert, Robert and the Attack of the Giant Tarantula, Robert Takes a Stand, and Robert and the Practical Jokes are just a few of the thirty-one books in the series, with over a million copies in print since 1999. Published by Cricket Books in hardcover, they were also available in Scholastic paperback in stores and from the Scholastic Book Club. Reviewers have raved about these humorous school stories, describing the artwork as “quirky,” “offbeat,” and “funny.”
My full-color picture books are How to Trick or Treat in Outer Space and Clip, Clip, Clip: Three Stories about Hair. Both were published by Holiday House and written by my wife, Kathleen Krull. School Library Journal found, “great wit and a wild palette of colors” in the “vibrant” illustrations.
Kathleen and I have collaborated on writing a number of books over the years. In 2008 we brought Fartiste (Simon & Schuster, illustrated by Boris Kulikov) to the world of humor. It is the true story of Joseph Pujol, the man who could make his pants dance. His performances in the 1890’s at the Moulin Rouge in Paris are legendary. And yes, they were quite a gas, if you know what I mean. School Library Journal wrote, “Written in well-rhymed couplets, this gleefully tasteless tale reads easily. Kulikov’s illustrations allude to the age of vaudevillian stage performance, painted playbills, and fire-hazard footlights that bronzed everything nearest them in golden warmth.”
In 2010 we published Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country) (Harcourt Books, illustrated by Stacy Innerst). Lincoln had a great sense of humor and loved to make people laugh. Our main purpose in the book was to show the fun side of Lincoln that many people are probably not aware of. School Library Journal wrote, “Children will be drawn in by the straightforward prose, and librarians will enjoy sharing the book aloud. Innerst’s colorful and unconventional acrylic illustrations cover the entire page and are the perfect complement to both the text and the subject matter, making this a standout biography.”
We wanted our next book to be about someone famous who also had a great sense of humor. With our love of music, we realized that our all-time favorite band, the Beatles, fit the bill perfectly. The four lads from England–John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr–were not only great musicians who produced some of the most famous songs of all time, but all four of them were hilarious, especially when they were interviewed by the press. Ridiculous questions got silly answers, everywhere they went. In 2013 we published The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) (Harcourt Books, illustrated by Stacy Innerst). Publishers Weekly wrote, “The trio behind Lincoln Tells a Joke crafts a witty chronicle of the Beatles’s rise to fame, with special attention to their humor and nonchalance. . . . Readers will certainly want to hear the songs that ‘changed music forever’—maybe even on vinyl.”
Kathy and I have also written three books for the grade school textbook publisher, Heinemann. Robots in Space is about using robots for dangerous space travel. The Theremin: Play, But Don’t Touch has got to be about one of the most unique and strangest sounding musical instruments ever. The last book, April Fool’s Day Pranks, will fool you every April 1st!
Our next trade book is Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson (Crown Books, illustrated by Frank Morrison). It is now in the hands of the illustrator who will bring the book to life with his wonderful artwork. Neil deGrasse Tyson is America’s most popular astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. The book is scheduled for a 2018 release.
Kathy and I live in San Diego, California. We have two daughters, Jacqui and Melanie, an eleven-year-old grandson, Ethan, and a five-year-old granddaughter, Ruth.