Why was Arthur named Arthur?
Arthur began as a bedtime story for my son Tolon. I was searching for an animal character that was underserved in the pantheon of children's literature. Aardvark popped up, and I was thinking “A.” Then “Arthur” popped up.
How did you decide to tell more stories?
After that first story, Arthur’s Nose, I realized that not only did Arthur have a problem (he thought his nose was too big), I had a problem. I was out of work. I’ve been writing Arthur books ever since—45 years.
Why does Arthur wear glasses?
I think the best ideas come from real life. I remember picking my son up from school after he had first gotten glasses. The first thing he said to me was, “Dad, I thought all my friends were better looking!”
What is your favorite Arthur episode from a book?
The book I most enjoy reading to kids is Arthur's Teacher Trouble. I love the episode “DW Copycat,” where she is annoying Arthur by dressing like him and mimicking everything that he says and does. It's so childlike and so like my younger sisters growing up!
Why do you think Arthur has such an impact?
We always tell kids the truth. We respect the dignity of childhood and we want to reflect real life. And Arthur has always told the truth. I also think that he's relatable—he’s like a real kid. He makes mistakes and he sometimes needs help from his friends and his family. I think most of all what we see in Arthur is that he's a good friend and he has a good heart.
Who is your favorite character?
It's DW, hands down. I grew up with three powerful little sisters, Bonnie, Coleen and Kim. I combined all three of them to make DW. When I write things for her to say, I love getting inside her head. It's like a whole other part of me that I discover when I do that.
How did you learn to draw?
I have a lot of erasers, I make a lot of mistakes. After I get a story finished for a book, the reward for me is drawing all of the pictures. I think of myself more as an illustrator than an author. The best thing that anyone who wants to become an illustrator can do is keep a sketchbook. Draw something every day. If you want to now the secret formula for drawing Arthur, I’ve made a video about it.
How did the books turn into a television program?
One day when I was working on Arthur's New Puppy, Carol Greenwald at GBH contacted me. She had this great idea to use television and animation to get kids to read. I think at that point I had sold about 5 million Arthur books. As soon as Arthur went on television the number of books sold jumped up to 50 million! Getting kids to read draws them into the library and they discover that there are all kinds of books there.
Tell us about the origins of the Arthur theme song.
We were collectively crafting the theme song and Carol had the wonderful idea of approaching Ziggy Marley. He was just the right person to deliver the opening and invite us into the stories with such joy. When I visit schools, I love when the kids sing the Arthur theme song. And Chance the Rapper covered it—his version is so dreamy.
Why did you make the Arthur characters animals?
I think the beauty of Arthur and working with animal characters is that any child, no matter what the color of their skin, can jump into their world and identify with any of these characters.
What’s next for you and Arthur?
What we're looking to do now with Arthur is to reach kids on other platforms. We’ll do a podcast featuring Arthur and all his friends and also lots of new video shorts. One of the things I'd love to address with Arthur is school safety.
Tell us about your new animated series.
It's a new animated series called HOP. It's something that I've been wanting to do for a few years now. It's for younger kids, preschoolers. It’s a world where there are no adults, just these little animal characters. It focuses on the power of friendship and kindness and what kids can do collectively to solve problems
Watch the Arthur Marathon—with more than 250 episodes—starting on February 16 at 9am through February 21 at 5pm on the PBS Kids 24/7 Channel and on YouTube. Four new episodes will follow on GBH 2, including one called “All Will Be Revealed” that will answer some long-burning fan questions, and “All Grown Up,” which will provide a glimpse of characters’ futures. The new episodes will also stream on pbskids.org.
This Q&A is based on GBH’s Ask the Expert event in January 2022, hosted by Carol Greenwald, executive producer of Arthur. Brown and Greenwald have worked together on the series for more than 25 years.