30 Seconds with Children's Book Author Rick DeDonato
His job at Royal Pest—and his young daughter's imaginary friend—inspired him to write fun, educational stories about insects and nature.
Rick DeDonato//Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli
Wilmington resident Rick DeDonato is author of the popular children’s series “Pipsie, Nature Detective.” A marketing director for Royal Pest Solutions, DeDonato has gained inspiration for the STEM-oriented books through his work with Royal Pest, as well as his children, Alexis and Matthew.
How did you become a kids’ book author?
When my kids were little, my daughter Alexis used to have this imaginary friend called Pipsie. I used to write books for her about the adventures of Pipsie and Alexis.
How did your work at Royal Pest influence your writing?
One of the things I liked doing was going to schools and saying, ‘Look, we’re not bad guys.’ Everyone thinks we’re horrible because we kill bugs. I would teach kids about insects. I would say there are good bugs and there are bad bugs and sometimes, the bug is both a good bug and a bad bug. And I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great if I had a character who could do this? So I created Pipsie the Pipsqueak Entomologist.
What inspired Alfred Z. Turtle?
After my divorce, my son came to live with me, and we got a turtle and named him Alfred. My son used to put him on the skateboard and zoom around with him. So when I wanted Pipsie to have a sidekick, I came up with Alfred Z. Turtle and put him on a scooter.
What was the most unexpected part of becoming an author?
When my son moved out, I moved a little studio into his bedroom, and that’s where I wrote these books. It’s funny how you go from that to an international author. I’ve found myself part of a club I didn’t think I’d ever be a part of.
Who have you connected with through your writing?
I’ve been at assemblies where I’ve answered questions about becoming an author to fifth- and sixth-graders. I’ve gone to the Boys & Girls Club to read books. I’ve gone to the Delaware Children’s Museum, the Hagley Invention Convention. I’m reading at Elsmere Library on March 2 for Read Across America Day. I get to go in and sit down with the kids, and I love it. It’s one of the most amazing things that I’ve ever done in my life.
Why did you choose to incorporate STEM into the series?
The love of my life, Nancy, is a scientist. She appreciates the science of things and has really taught me to appreciate not just that something is cool, but why it’s cool. I’ve tried to incorporate that. She said this series is great because there aren’t a lot of girls who want to go into the sciences, and this might inspire some of them to try and do that, even if it’s through insects and nature. And so you do learn while you read, and you do learn while you’re having fun.
Do you have any plans for more Pipsie books?
Well, I do. It’s whether or not my publisher does or not.