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Meet Zachariah OHora

author_ohoraMy love of reading and picture books goes back to a very young age. I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire the oldest of five children.

My parents didn't believe in television so my siblings and I eagerly looked forward to our weekly visits to the library. On Saturdays we would go to the main branch of the Manchester Library. It was one of the few places that my parents left us alone to explore and we explored for hours.

But it was combing the kids section for books with interesting illustrations that was the most fun. After I had carefully selected my stack of ten or twelve books, I would take them home and copy or trace the characters in them. I loved Syd Hoff, Margaret Bloy Graham, and anything by Richard Scarry. Later on it was The Chronicles of Narnia, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Harriet the Spy, or The Great Brain. Basically, any book where the kids were either spies or were demonstrably smarter than adults.

I won my first book award in third grade with a story titled Barney and the Basketball. It was about a boy who almost loses his basketball to some bullies. I have no idea why it was about basketball but it was a real edge of your seat thriller. It was exciting to get some recognition, but equally exciting was the table of doughnuts and apple cider waiting to be served after the awards ceremony.

My parents moved around a lot and I constantly had to go to new schools where I didn't know anyone. I quickly found that doing some drawings could bring some level of acceptance and even notoriety. In fourth grade, if you wanted a Smurf or an accurate portrayal of Garfield® on your book cover, I was your guy. Plus I conveniently accepted payment in candy bars and M&M's.

In high school I was the President of the Art Honors Society. I'm pretty sure it was by default because nobody else ran for the position. It was probably on these dubious laurels that I was voted Class Artist. I spent most of my senior year painting murals of horses and knights (school mascots) in the hallways.

Around this time I also discovered The Beats, most importantly Jack Kerouac's, "On the Road," and I spent the next year hitchhiking around the country and ending up in San Francisco.

I worked for a number of years in a small sign shop as a sign painter. Realizing I wasn't cut out for a lifetime of this sort of work, I applied and was accepted to the California College of Art to study Illustration and Printmaking. I spent many happy hours there making woodcuts and monoprints and discovering lots of art including the German Expressionists.

My junior year I won a Hamaguchi Award for Printmaking and was selected to study abroad at the Hochschule Der Kunst in Berlin, Germany. Living and creating in the birthplace of the German Expressionist movement was incredibly inspiring. I was printmaking less, but I was incorporating the strong black line of woodcuts into my drawing and painting more and more.

The Birth of Bernard

fuzzyUpon graduation I moved to New York, and it was a very difficult time. I was trying to do freelance illustration at night and working various office jobs during the day.

On top of that, my wife Lydia and I were also having a hard time getting pregnant. So I made this otter picture to cheer her up and to remind us to stay positive. We realized this little fuzzy guy was perfect for a picture book and we began to brainstorm scenarios for the story. When my wife made a list of annoying things I do and suggested that any one of the things on the list could make a great book, I saw snoring at the top, and it all clicked.

Otters sleep on their backs (like I do) and so he became Bernard the snoring otter.

I'm not saying this otter was magic, but it wasn't long before we were pregnant and shortly after that Henry Holt bought "Stop Snoring, Bernard!" Since then "Stay Fuzzy and Hopeful" has become a mantra of sorts and a theme that runs through all my work. I think it's a good reminder to stay childlike and positive in your approach to life.

Zachariah OHora is an award-winning illustrator and children's book author. Stop Snoring, Bernard! (Henry Holt) is his first book for children and it is the recipient of the 2011 Society of Illustrator's Founders Award. He illustrates posters, album covers, toys, and his clients include The New York Times, The Atlantic, Philadelphia Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, and NPR. He just finished illustrating Pet Project (Atheneum) written by Lisa Wheeler and is hard at work on his next book "No Fits, Nilsson!" (Dial Books Spring 2013) about little girl and her fit prone best gorilla friend.

Zach lives and works in Narberth, PA with his wife Lydia, and sons Oskar and Teddy. 

 

What People are Saying About Stop Snoring, Bernard!

"Jaunty compositions, with animal characters busting out of the frames, makes for audacious humor, and hand-painted lettering signifying Bernard's snoring and the animals' admonitions adds visual zing. Young children will fall for Bernard's over-the-top noisemaking and relish joining in with the quickly familiar phrase, ‘Stop snoring, Bernard!'" - Booklist

"Gentle text and a low-key story line allow debut talent OHora to put lots of energy into his spreads ... A promising debut."
- Publishers Weekly

"An artist to watch." - Kirkus Reviews
"The endearing tale-told in simple images whose heavy black outlines and graphic shadows are sometimes reminiscent of century-old Arts and Crafts woodcuts-follows Bernard's travails with humor but also a good dose of empathy." - Time Out New York Kids

"Here's a debut that's sure to make a splash ...This is a crowd-pleaser sure to send youngsters clamoring for more from snoring Bernard."
- Shelf Awareness

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