I first began working with William Steig in 1987, the summer before one of his less commercially-successful picture books, The Zabajaba Jungle, was published. “Working with” is a lofty way of describing what I was doing: I was fresh out of college and had just been hired as an editorial assistant at FSG. One of my first tasks on my way to earning my whopping $11,500 annual salary was to pack up and send Bill a box containing his ten contract copies of the book.
After poring over Zabajaba’s lush 32 pages, I was a Steig convert. The quirky, funny story was a hoot; a few surreal touches added a certain special something; and I admired how it introduced kids (and me) to the word cloaca. Also, it starred a plucky boy hero named Leonard, hacking his way through the wilds to rescue his parents from under a glass jar—what’s not to love about that?