Sniffie by Angelo DeCesare

Flip's Fantastic Journal


Author/illustrator Angelo DeCesare is the creator of Flip's Fantastic Journal and the Flip's Journal series. He is affiliated with Puppetry in Practice, a nonprofit literacy organization based at Brooklyn College. His popular programs promote writing, reading, drawing, memoirs, community studies, early math, anger management and anti-bullying. He is known as Mr. Angelo to the thousands of students and teachers he visits during the school year.

If you look for me during the school year, you'll most likely find me in a classroom, showing students how to have fun through writing and drawing. Flash back to my grade school days, and you might see me doing the same thing with a group of classmates during an indoor recess period. I love to create, and to help others find the creative person within. And they don't even need a flashlight!

I grew up in the Bronx, New York, and I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. Due to the early loss of my father, our household was often an unhappy place, and I used writing and drawing as an escape. I would sometimes draw and write comic stories about my friends (including my sister Martha/Sniffie and my best buddy, Andrew "Muzz" Mussolini). The nuns at Our Lady of Grace School saw me drawing and made me the "class artist." The rest of the time they told me to stop talking and pay attention.

I was first paid for my artwork at the age of 15, when I worked in the Cardinal Hayes High School audio-visual center. The exceptional man that I worked for, Fr. Bernard Corrigan, had me producing hundreds of educational "transparencies," even though I knew nothing. After high school, I attended Pratt Institute for a few years but left to become a famous comic-strip artist like my hero, Charles "Peanuts" Schulz (which, 30 years later, still hasn't happened. It's a good thing I changed my plans).

My first "real" job was at Harvey Comics, where I worked in the art department and wrote and drew my first published comic-book stories. The people I met there, Ernie Colon, Lennie Herman, Sid Jacobson, Stan Kaye, Warren Kremer, Paul Maringelli, Rick Parker and Ken Selig, became part of my extended family. Since then, I've written and storyboarded hundreds of comics for Marvel, Harvey, and Archie. Even though comic books are not as popular as they once were, I still love writing comics as much as I did when I was a kid.

In 1980, I began working in the art department of King Features Syndicate. I stayed there for eight years, during which time I honed my writing skills, usually when my boss wasn't looking. I also met my wife, Maria Carmicino, the best thing that ever happened to me.

In 1993, with the help of Rick Parker and Lisa Trusiani, I entered the first Dr. Seuss Picture Book Award contest, in which applicants were required to write and draw an original children's book. Although I didn't win, my book was the only entry out of 1,200, aside from the winner, to be chosen for publication. In March 1996, Anthony the Perfect Monster appeared as part of Random House's Beginner Book series. In 1997, Anthony was selected as a Children's Choice award winner in a joint project of the Children's Book Council, the International Reading Group, and my mom.

Thanks to my dear friend, Vicki Irgang, I began working as a visiting author for the Center for Educational Change at Brooklyn College. I visited 10 New York City public schools my first year, with a program that I designed to foster creativity. A few years later, I met a brilliant educator, Dr. Tova Ackerman, the director of PIP (Puppetry In Practice), an organization that promotes literacy through the arts. Tova put me in even more schools, where I became known as "Mr. Angelo." If anyone can remember what my last name is, please let me know.

Tova suggested using an unpublished book that I'd written, Flip's Fantastic Journal, as the basis of a new writing/drawing program. The story of Flip, a cartoon dog who learns to enjoy writing by using his imagination, is inspired by my childhood experiences, or lack of them. Flip proved very successful in helping reluctant readers and writers. PIP published the first Flip Journal in 1998. In 1999, Flip's Fantastic Journal was published by Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin/Putnam.

The success of the Flip program led to a series of Flip books, each printed by PIP and covering a different aspect of the school curriculum. We've also done a series of workbooks, and Pip's residents artists have created some amazing Flip puppets. Today, I visit schools throughout Greater New York, including Rockland County, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey.

The work that I do is sometimes difficult. Some of the children that I meet have had experiences even harsher than those of my own childhood. Through my books and my interactions with them, I try to let these children know that it's possible, with the help of people who love you, to overcome a tough beginning. I would not trade places with anyone. I know that I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do, and for that I'm very grateful.

I currently live in Manhattan with my wife and our wonderful daughter, Gina.