The Punctuation Station Q&A with Brian P. Cleary

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

Brian P. Cleary has been publishing books with Lerner Publishing Group for more than a decade. He’s the author of the best-selling Words Are CATegorical series as well as the Math Is CATegorical, Adventures in Memory, and Sounds Like Reading series. The über-productive Cleary has also written the picture book Peanut Butter and Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book and several other titles about wordplay for upper-elementary students. His newest picture book, The Punctuation Station, has just come out.

Punctuation cover Q: Where did you get the idea to write a picture book about punctuation?

A: I like all things grammatical, and I had already written several books about parts of speech, and even the alphabet, so everything that makes up a sentence and even a word was covered EXCEPT for punctuation.

Q: What was the hardest punctuation mark to write about?

A: Quotation marks are a little tricky for youngsters, so that was sort of a challenge.


note: Click on the image above to enlarge. This is the first of two spreads in the book devoted to quotation marks.

Q: Your books involve a lot of wordplay. Were you an English major in college?

A: I majored in Communications.

Q: Who are some of the people who inspired you to become a writer?

A: Easy: Ogden Nash, ee cummings, Muhammad Ali*, Mad Magazine**, Shel Silverstein.

*Ali example:
You may talk about Sweden,
you may talk about Rome,
but Rockville Center’s
Floyd Patterson’s home.
A lot of people said
that Floyd couldn’t fight,
but you should have seen him on the comeback night.

**Mad example:
(sung to the tune of Bicycle Built for Two)
Charley, Charley,
We’ll lead the gang right through,
On your Harley
Down Central Avenue
We’ll tear up the town till sundown
Old ladies we will run down
And we won’t stop
For no dumb cop on our Harley that’s built for two.

Q: Do you have a favorite punctuation mark?

A: I love the semicolon; it’s unnecessary, but graceful and sophisticated.

note: This picture book is for elementary-age students, so it does not include the semicolon. If you’re curious, you can read more about this tricky punctuation mark here.