Cover of Pizza Pickles and Apple Pie, illustrated nonfiction by david rickert

Teacher-cartoonist David Rickert on PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE

On Oct. 31st your book, PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE came out from Kane Press – congrats!!! Tell us about the book.

It’s a non-fiction middle grade graphic novel that tells the history of everyday foods in a fun, lively way.

Cover of Pizza Pickles and Apple Pie, illustrated nonfiction by david rickert

You're a high school English teacher, and you're also a cartoonist. How long have you been a teacher? When did you decide to pursue comics seriously, as well?

I have been teaching for 27 years, the vast majority of which has been as a high school English teacher. When I was in high school I seriously considered going to school to become a cartoonist, but I chickened out. I did, however, make a compromise. I went to the Ohio State University which is home to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and also the place where Jeff Smith got his start doing a daily strip for The Lantern, the OSU school newspaper. Like Jeff I too did a daily strip while I was a student there, and learned a lot about comics and drawing from that. 

Once I graduated I focused on my job, but eventually remembered how much I enjoyed drawing comics. I grabbed my drawing table and old art supplies from my parents’ house and started doing some new comics which found their way into the educational market.   

David Rickert, nonfiction cartoonist and author of PIZZA PICKLES AND APPLE PIE

What was your favorite part of the process of creating PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE?

I love looking at historical figures and finding funny ways to draw them.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panels: comic about history of dessert

How does your experience as a teacher inform what you do as a writer and artist?

It’s made me very kid-centered in my work. I’m always thinking about what kids will find entertaining more so than adults. I try to make the kind of comics that I would have read as a kid.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panels: how to become a sushi chef comic

You're a parent as well as a full-time teacher and graphic novelist. How do you balance everything? How did you complete this book on deadline while doing everything else you have on your plate?

The biggest thing for me is that writing and drawing comics is the way I wind down, and something I look forward to every day. When I get in the zone with that, there’s no better stress reliever than that. It’s easy to prioritize work that has that therapeutic value to it.

Beyond that, I’m not going to lie – there were times when I was working on the book in school because it was more urgent than keeping up on grading. And there were also times when I would work in the evening after dinner instead of watching television with my family. But they are very understanding that this is something I wanted to do with my life and they see how much joy I get from it, too.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panels: comic about pickles

Given all your classroom experience, I imagine you must have ideas on how schools could use graphic novels and your books in particular most effectively. What would you say about that?

I’m a big fan of using original graphic novels in the classroom like Maus and Persepolis. I’m less of a fan of using graphic novel adaptations of classic works to make is easier for kids to understand the content. If graphic novels are to be thought of as a legitimate literary form, then teachers can’t just use them as a substitute. They need to be seen as valuable in their own right. 

Now that you’ve finished PIZZA PICKLES, what are you working on now? 

My next book is about the history of medicine.

pizza pickles and apple pie by david rickert interior panel (1)

Do you do school visits? If so, what do you focus on in your presentations?

I haven’t done too many yet, but kids seem interested in the process of creating comics from start to finish, and how you can create expressions by just altering an eyebrow or mouth. I also talk about the process of conducting research, how to create a food history comic, and other topics related to non-fiction and comics.

Where can people connect with you and find out more about PIZZA, PICKLES, AND APPLE PIE?

Go to my website: You can also go to Instagram: @rickertdraws. 

 Find out more about PIZZA PICKLES AND APPLE PIE here.