This is the first illustration of the little fool to appear in Sir Little Fool and the Skeptical Princess, my second children’s book. He came a long way in the two years I was teaching myself to be an illustrator. See below.

On the left is the opening illustration of Somebody Grab That Dog, my previous book; on the right is my initial drawing of the little fool, looking very much like my original protagonist—he was my starting point.


But what palette and what drawing tools should I choose, I wondered, for Sir Little Fool and the Skeptical Princess—a more ambitious undertaking? What did I want my fairy tale world to look like? Bright? Pastel? How detailed?

At Amsterdam Art, I discovered pastel markers that I tried out to get more subtlety in my colors—also, a rapidograph ink pen that, with the finest nib, allowed me to explore intricate textures.


Soon my figures, unaccountably, became chunkier and more squat. I would trace them and try out a number of small variations in their poses before choosing the final one.


I call this my Sinuous Period, when my figures wavered, sometimes looking like they didn’t have skeletal structures.


Next came my Bulbous Period when I began to draw round shapes to construct my figures. My first versions were spontaneous scribbles in regular pencil. But as I refined the illustration, I sometimes felt that it was losing too much of the energy and expressiveness of the original—and I went back to study it to see where I was going awry.


Then one morning I woke up and found myself in a quandary. Whereas before my compulsion was to draw curved lines, now I found I could only draw straight ones—which ushered in my Prickly Period when all my figures looked faceted.


It was during my Prickly Period that I really got the hang of drawing the little fool.


The problem with markers, however, is that the backgrounds come out blotchy or ribbed, as you can see in my Sinuous Period. So I tried watercolor.


But I was unused to a brush and quickly shifted to colored pencil, both because I had better control—and because I could erase.

Only now I stumbled upon a new problem. Because I wanted the outlines to be as unobtrusive as possible, I continued to use my rapidograph pen, its nib about the diameter of a coarse hair. But trying to combine these two mediums proved foolhardy: Dust from the colored pencils kept clogging the nib, which then had to be replaced—and they weren’t cheap. Of course, I’d have the guy at the local art store try to unclog the nib first. Sometimes he’d succeed, but he was so klutzy, his efforts invariably resulted in some minor catastrophe, like the time he shook the pen and spattered permanent ink all over my favorite sweatshirt.

In the end I abandoned the pen and started doing the dark outlining in black colored pencil, though the dust from it smeared and muddied the nearby colors as my hand dragged over the image during drawing.

But now, all these years later, I can restore the clarity of the colors using various tools in Photoshop!



Once upon a time there lived a skeptical princess. She was so skeptical, in fact, that she didn’t believe in fairy tales! “I’m too grown-up for such nonsense,” she would sniff with her haughty little nose in the air.

One morning, down by the lily pond, she spied a golden ring, shining on a lily pad. It was shaped like a dragon and had a bright emerald eye. “Finders, keepers!” she crowed with satisfaction, for it coiled around her finger as though it were made just for her.

The very next afternoon she was complaining rather peevishly that she wished she had someone to play with, when suddenly the dragon ring spun around her finger and its emerald eye began to glow.
Below her window a little fool appeared, dressed in stripes and bells.
Now, this little fool was nobody’s fool. Not only could he sing and play the lute, but he was a juggler and acrobat too. So naturally the skeptical princess summoned him before the throne and decreed that he should be her very own little fool.

All went well—they went boating together and horseback riding…

…and played hide-and-seek and knights-and-dragons. They even had pillow fights!

Then one evening, long past bedtime, he told her this story:

                  “Once upon a time, in this very castle, there lived a crabby old wizard. He was crabby, people said, because in all his long life he’d never had a wink of sleep—which was no small misfortune for the kingdom because the crabbier he got, the more magical mischief he made.

                  “One summer night, in the midst of a blizzard he’d conjured up, a little weaver appeared, shivering, on his doorstep.

                  “‘If you will give me shelter, your wizardship,’ he said with a bow, ‘I’ll repay you with more than gratitude.’ And he spread before the wizard a beautiful cloak made of woven flowers.

                  “The crabby old wizard, who hated uninvited guests, snatched up the cloak and pulled it over his shoulders, without so much as a thank-you. As he was considering whether to turn the little weaver into a toad or worse, a sweet fragrance made him drowsy, and he sank to the floor in a swoon.

                  “When he didn’t wake up after a week or a month, there was bewilderment throughout the kingdom.

                  “‘Why, the cloak is woven of magical dream flowers,’ explained the little weaver, ‘and the wizard will sleep for as long as he wears it.’

                  “Then the people, rejoicing, decided there was nothing to do but proclaim the little weaver king and live happily ever after. And that is what they did, leaving the crabby old wizard to his well-deserved rest.”

“Wizards!” scowled the skeptical princess when the story was over. “I may believe in magic rings, but wizards? I’m too grown-up for such nonsense!” And she flounced scornfully off to bed.

That night she dreamed she was in a dark, spooky room, trying to find a spell to banish scary things. But when she woke up in the morning, the dream had faded from her mind.

Later that day, when she and her fool were playing hide-and-seek, the princess peered behind a tapestry and discovered a door and a passageway that led deep down under the castle to a musty room full of dusty bottles of powders and potions and old, yellowing books of spells.

She gazed around, perplexed, wondering why it all looked so familiar…until she saw a bulky shape under a flowery blanket. “I’ve found you, little fool!” she sang out, pulling the covering away.

There on a narrow shelf lay a withered old man. The next instant the wizard himself sprang to life, free from the spell of the magic cloak.

“Quick!” cried the little fool, jumping from his hiding place. “Wish him to sleep with your magic ring!”

But before she could, a great black bird flew from the folds of the wizard’s gown, plucked the ring from her finger, and swallowed it down. Furious about being wakened from a sound sleep, the wizard grabbed the princess by her collar and the fool by his cap, and, fuming and sputtering incantations, he flung them high in the air.

The skeptical princess and the little fool plopped down magically on the far side of the castle gate. Unfortunately, now they were dressed in rags, and everything around them had changed.

“Of all the impertinence!” raved the skeptical princess.

“Now do you believe in wizards?” sighed the little fool.

All that day they chased the raven—and never caught more than a tail feather.

That night the clever bird perched on a castle turret far out of reach.

“It’s hopeless!” wailed the skeptical princess.

But the dauntless little fool climbed a great tree and lassoed the turret with a vine. Then he tightrope-walked out to where the raven was sleeping. No sooner had he seized the raven than a gust of wind blew him off balance. The startled raven spit out the ring, and the skeptical princess caught it in mid-air.

“Let everything be as it was before!” she rashly pronounced.

The dragon ring spun around her finger, its emerald eye began to glow…

…and the next moment she found herself safe and snug in her own bed. The raven had vanished. But so had the ring…and the little fool!

Through all the cheerless days that followed, the skeptical princess missed the little fool sorely. Morning after morning at first light, she dashed down to the lily pond to see if the magic ring had reappeared on a lily pad. Night after night she started awake, thinking she heard singing, only to find, when she stumbled to her window that it was just the trilling of a nightbird or the whistling of the wind.

Weeks passed, then months, and the skeptical princess pined away of loneliness…

…until one brisk morning a small horseback rider came galloping over the hill.
“Why, you’re not the little fool,” she cried, blinking back tears as he knelt before her.

“But I am!” he protested. “Only now you must call me ‘Sir Little Fool,’ for while I was away I tamed a dragon and saved a kingdom, so they made me a knight of the realm.”

“A dragon?” the skeptical princess frowned. “I may believe in magic rings and wizards, but dragons? I’m too grown-up for such nonsense!”

And as many times as he told her the story, she always remained…

…a little skeptical.



In a faraway kingdom in a long-ago time, a baby was born—with a lock of yellow hair and eyes like bluebells—a boy so fair, he could only have been a prince. And since that is what he was—and bonny too—he was called Prince Beauregard, which means “beautiful.” At his first cry of life, trumpets blared, rainbow banners unfurled, and shouts of celebration rang throughout the kingdom.

A happy beginning, if that had been the end of it…but, of course, it wasn’t, for not five minutes later, in that very same bed, a twin prince was born—with a lock of yellow hair and eyes like bluebells—and, in the middle of his forehead, a small purple horn. No sooner did the queen set eyes on him than she fainted away, and the king set to roaring that this was no child of his but a thing bewitched, and before the queen could recover her senses, he had him whisked away.

“A horn?” you ask. A “bump” if you will—a nubble, a button, a defect quite small, if truth be told, and not worth a fuss, in my humble opinion, but I’m not a king, so what do I know?

Then the bonny baby was swaddled in the softest linen and lifted by his proud father to a castle window for his first view of the kingdom and its first view of him, while the beastly one was hustled to the stable, popped in a gunnysack, tied to a saddle, and ridden by a horseman straight out of the realm.

Well, the horseman rode hard and hardly glanced back, so he never noticed that when the bundle broke loose and landed in the road with a rather hard thump, an uncommon thing happened: the wee beast began to cry…and with his very first tears, his forehead flushed red, his horn set to glowing like a very hot coal, till crick-crick-crack, it magically sprouted a bit more from his brow.

Soon a traveling circus rolled up in three bright-painted wagons and stopped to see what lay wailing in the road. With “oohs” and ahs” they gaped and exclaimed and decided on the spot to claim him for their own.

And so it was that bonny Prince Beauregard wore lace-trimmed gowns and shoes of tooled leather and was borne everywhere in his parents’ arms, for they were so fond of him they could barely bear to put him down, except at night, under a downy blanket in a golden cradle, to be rocked and sung to sleep.

Meanwhile, his hapless brother, being only a beast, was bundled in rough skins and carted about in a straw-filled cage from town to town to be exhibited to crowds for a penny a peep. And needless to say, they were happy to pay…for when they poked and prodded through the bars of his cage and made frightful faces, what do you suppose happened? Why, with his very first tears, his forehead flushed red, his horn set to glowing like a very hot coal, till crick-crick-crack, it magically sprouted a bit more from his brow.

Time passed, of course—for who can stop it?—and little Prince Beauregard grew rosy and strong. He learned to crawl and then to walk and then to run and then to ride—his very own pony, with a gilded saddle and white-braided mane—and he did all these things most excellently, as befits a prince. But there was a thing he could not do—though the king coaxed and the queen wheedled and the court tried everything they could think of to tickle his fancy—he could not laugh. Day in and out—and month and year, too—his sad little countenance never changed.

As for the Beast Baby, he grew to be a Beast Boy and learned to do all the things his princely brother did, though it was no white pony he rode, but a great black bear. And, as if that weren’t enough, he learned the twitter of the bird, the chatter of the monkey, the roar of the lion, the growl of the bear—the languages of all the beasts, for they were the only family he knew—and he spoke to them as plainly as I’m speaking to you.

Now, it came to pass on Prince Beauregard’s eighth birthday that the circus was invited to entertain at court. And what do you think happened when a beastly boy, clothed all in skins, with a horn on his head, came riding out on a great black bear, and with a whisper, not a whip, made the bear twirl and the monkeys do somersaults and the birds fly through hoops and the lion purr? Were the king and queen pleased? Well, not one whit. The king shuddered and the queen covered her eyes with her veil, and though the little prince clapped his hands with glee and cried, “What a wonder!” the king ordered the circus players from his sight and charged them never to set foot in his kingdom again.

At this angry pronouncement, the Beast Boy hung his head, his eyes filled with tears…and, before the horrified eyes of the court, what do you suppose happened? Why, his forehead flushed red, his horn set to glowing like a very hot coal, till crick-crick-crack, it magically sprouted a bit more from his brow.

And so, in disgrace, he ran away from the circus to hide in the woods, where he thought no one would ever laugh and stare and taunt him again. But on the edge of the forest, a stonemason lived, who caught him in a trap and chained him to a boulder at the bottom of a pit and pressed him into hardest labor. Each dawn to dusk he had to swing a great pick, breaking rock for his cruel master till his little hands bled, living only on water and crusts of bread. Yet he worked with a will and shed no tears, except in his sleep, unknowingly. And each time he did, his forehead turned red, his horn set to glowing like a very hot coal till…well, I expect you can guess what happened next.

Soon his horn became so huge and heavy he could no longer stand but had to crawl about on all-fours like other beasts. Then he was good for nothing, so the stonemason split his chain with a grumble and an oath and set him free…and he crept deep into the woods, where he thought no one would ever find him.

One glorious summer morning, just after dawn, when the Beast Boy was singing with the first birds, bonny Prince Beauregard woke and heard a sweet chorus and slipped from his bed to get a better listen. From the hall to the garden, where a guard stood snoring, from the garden to the wood…one step led to another, as steps often do, and then he was lost, and oh, what a bother! He tramped and tramped, but only in circles. Then he climbed into a treetop—the very tallest one—from branch to jagged branch, to see if he could see the turrets of the castle, but all in vain. By now his fine nightgown was tattered and his bare feet bruised, for in his hurry he’d gone off without his boots.

And so when he came to a silver pool and he looked in and saw his own reflection, he hardly recognized himself, with his tousled hair and grubby cheeks…and, growing out of his forehead, a great purple horn. He blinked and stared and stared and blinked till the Beast Boy, who was hiding in the water, came up gasping for air. Then the little prince was so astounded he fell right in and would have drowned if the Beast Boy hadn’t caught him by his torn hem.

When the two had shed their dripping clothes and skins and shaken the water from their eyes, they looked each other over in wonder, for truly they were—eye for eye and nose for nose—even fingers for fingers and toes for toes—exactly the same. Now this was quite a conundrum, too much for two little boys to figure out, even if one of them was a prince, so the Beast Boy summoned the bear from her lair and the raccoon from his hollow and the beaver from her lodge and the fox from his den and the owl from her nest—for she was wisest—and asked them all how such a thing could be. And after much deliberation they gave their answer: “In our considered opinion you two are brothers.”

By then it was getting dark, for deep deliberations take time, so the two brothers curled up together under a great sheltering oak, as they had in their mother’s womb, and they dreamed the very same sweet dreams.

But back at the castle, things were in an uproar. When the king discovered his son was missing, he ordered his horsemen to search the kingdom from end to end and not show their faces again till they’d found him. When, by evening, not one had reappeared, the queen shut herself in her room and refused to come out, while the king beat his breast, convinced that goblins had stolen his beautiful son because he had tossed away his beastly one—and now it was his punishment to have no son at all.

The following morning the two brothers went hand in horn, one walking, one crawling, back to the castle, for the animals, who knew the forest like the backs of their paws, showed them the way.

When they reached the throne, where the king had sat up all night, so burdened with grief he could not get up, he threw open his arms to embrace them both—and sobbed so loudly he woke all the court in their beds. Then the Beast Boy wept too—a single tear, for he was trying to be brave. But with that solitary tear—of joy, not of sorrow—his forehead flushed red, his horn set to glowing like a very hot coal, till CRICK-CRICK-CRRRAAACK!—what do you suppose happened? Why, it magically broke off and clattered to the floor. So great was the happiness of the moment, Prince Beauregard had to smile, then to giggle, then to laugh, till his merriment filled the great hall like sweet music, and the queen and the courtiers came running in their bedclothes to see what had happened.

So it came to pass that the Beast Boy was no longer a beast, but a prince at last. He was called Prince Goodwin, or Winnie for short, which was his brother’s idea because it means “good friend.” And did they live happily ever after? Of course they did…as happily as two brothers ever have. And when as young men they came to rule, they ruled together as one king.



           Somebody Grab That Dog is the first children’s book I ever wrote.

                                                       Below is the dummy.