SPARKY & SPIKE author, Barbara Lowell

My guess is you already know the stars of the book Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever. You don’t think so? Well, maybe these two clues will help:  Charlie Brown and Snoopy.


This book, written by Barbara Lowell and illustrated by Dan Andreason, takes us to the childhood of Charles M. Schulz and introduces us to one very special dog.

This is what Kirkus had to say about the book:

“A fetching story, perfect for budding artists and lovers of the funnies.”

And, in a starred review, Booklist called it:

“Doggone fun.”

Nice, huh?

I’m so happy to welcome Barbara to Read Local OK!

Barbara, congratulations on Sparky & Spike being named a Junior Library Guild Selection. What an honor! How you did you come up with the idea for this book?

Thank you, Tammi! I’ve always loved the comic strip Peanuts. I thought that a biography of Charles Schulz would make a fun picture book. I was surprised and happy that no one had written one before.

I first wrote a manuscript about Charles that began when he was about six years old and ended on the day Peanuts first appeared in print. Charles was an adult for a good part of the manuscript. I sent it to a freelance editor who suggested that I focus on Charles as a child and his relationship with his dog Spike. So, I did. Amy Novesky, my editor at Cameron Kids, asked me to add sections from the first manuscript, when Charles is a child, into the second. This turned out to be a great idea.

You’ve written many nonfiction books (biographies, narrative nonfiction, etc.) for kids. Please share some advice for those of us who might want to give nonfiction a try.

I grew up reading lots of nonfiction books. I think a writer needs to have a passion for nonfiction and research. It can take a long time to research a subject and having that passion makes researching fun, not a chore.

Of course, as with any project, a writer needs to read books in their genre. I primarily write picture book biographies and have read hundreds of them. It’s a good idea to take online and/or in person classes about writing nonfiction for children. The Highlights Foundation has excellent classes and does offer scholarships. And subscribe to Melissa Stewart’s blog. She is a great resource. Her blog address is:

What are three fun facts that you learned in your research that didn’t make it into the book?

Charles Schulz named several characters after his friends: Charlie Brown, Linus and Frieda.

He always thought that he would write an action-adventure comic strip not one about children. In Peanuts, Snoopy seeks adventure by leading his Foreign Legion patrol through the desert and fighting the Red Baron atop his dog house.

At first, Charles decided to name the dog in Peanuts, Sniffy. But he discovered there was already a dog with that name in a comic magazine. He chose Snoopy because his mother had once suggested that as a good name for a dog.

You have an upcoming event at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. Tell us a little about this opportunity.

Cameron Kids, an imprint of Cameron + Company is located in Petaluma, California, not far from Santa Rosa. I have been working with Cameron Kids’s publicist, Emma Kallok. She approached the museum about hosting me. During my research for the book, I visited the museum’s online website many times. I’m excited that now I will be visiting the museum in person.

Scoop time! What’s next for you?

My Mastodon, based on a true family that lived in a natural history museum with their “pet” mastodon, will be released in Spring 2020. Behind the Bookcase: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place will be out in Spring 2021. It’s a biography of Miep Gies and her relationship with Anne Frank. Miep was one of the people that helped hide Anne Frank. She is responsible for saving Anne’s diary. I recently finished a picture book about a mischievous kid, and I am working on two more nonfiction picture books.

Thank you, Tammi for inviting me!

Thank YOU for stopping by. barbara


Barbara Lowell is the author of Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever; Daring Amelia; Alexander Hamilton, American Hero and more books for children. She is a member of SCBWI.


Twitter: @barbara_lowell