Shin-high stanchions are a first for the Please Touch Museum. The temporary barriers went up about a month ago between the permanent exhibits Roadside Attractions and Space Station and the traveling show "The Fantastic World of Dan Yaccarino.” The low wires protect 70 artworks by the prolific children’s illustrator, author, and animator.
Original art (and stanchions) are a departure for an attraction whose manifesto is all about physically interacting with exhibitions. The aim of the art, according to museum representatives, is to expand the Please Touch’s reach to a slightly older demographic — up to, and possibly through, third grade.
For Yaccarino, whose exhibition has been traveling the country for five years, something else is new: the play areas for littler kids. Alongside his gouache and alkyd character from Trashy Town, Alfred the pug from Unlovable, would-be TV chefs Henry and Ellibelly, and his great-grandfather from All the Way to America, the Please Touch has added a mock TV cooking studio, faux campfire, doghouse and yard, and light table for Magna-Tiles.
Yaccarino will see the Please Touch rendition of the exhibition for the first time Saturday. Chances are, between meet-and-greets, he’ll do some observing, too.
The author, who has also designed for Nickelodeon’s The Backyardigans and created the shows Oswald and Willa’s Wild Life, relies on kids themselves to inform his work. Here, he holds forth on secrets to his success in the children’s market — including children of his own.
This is your first visit to this exhibit in a while. Will your family come with you?
It’s just myself for the day. My kids are 18 and 16. My son  is in college, and my daughter has activities all day.
It must be pretty cool to have you as a parent.
I’ve never been a celebrity in my own house. I’m Dad. I might as well be a steam-pipe fitter. But that’s great. It keeps you humble and puts things into perspective. I’m sure Obama’s kids still roll their eyes at their father.
Hopefully, you’ve mined them for material.
Absolutely. My first book [Big Brother Mike] came out in 1993, five years before my son was born. Certainly now, my work is based on firsthand experience. Before that, it was a little theoretical. Having kids totally changes the way that you view the world, so that gets interpreted into my work.
Every Friday is based on what I did with my son from pre-K up to elementary school. We’d walk through the city to go eat pancakes every Friday.
Contemporary children’s books are often geared toward adults. Are yours?
Sometimes. In that particular story [Every Friday], it’s about enjoying and being present in the moment, enjoying what’s around you. The little stops the father and son make along the way to breakfast, that’s life. Adults sometimes forget that.
Now that your own children are grown, where do you get your ideas?
I do school visits about once a week. They connect me with my audience, my people. I need them, to take their temperature. If I lose them, I lose the sense of who I’m writing for.
They’ll say, “You’re my second-favorite author.” It’s sort of wonderful. Kids are honest. They don’t edit themselves. If they don’t like it, they’ll tell you.
I always, always ask them: What are you reading? What do you like? What aren’t you interested in? What are the games that you’re playing, the shows that you’re watching?
Have the responses changed through the years?
The answers are always the same: They love when they know more than the adult in the room. That’s delightful to them. They like that.
They ask: How old are you? How much money do you make in a year? These questions I don’t answer, but I do answer the others.
I don’t know if we give kids credit for their curiosity. They need a chance to speak. They need a chance to express themselves. If you give them a little time and a chance, they’ll be engaged — very engaged.
They’re always curious about what it takes to do a book. I try to go backwards and show them how it’s done. I break it down to give them a sense that these books didn’t magically pop up on the library shelves. There are people behind them.
Where else do you find inspiration?
I try to find things that are interesting that happen to coincide with what kids think is interesting. When I was a kid, Jacques Cousteau was a giant hero of mine. Recently, he was slowly moving off the radar for the general public. I wanted to do a picture-book biography about him that would reintroduce him to a lot of the teachers and librarians and, ultimately, to the kids.
Some books take a year and a half to two years, so you have to love what you’re doing.
"The Fantastic World of Dan Yaccarino," author meet-and-greet, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Exhibit open through May 14, Please Touch Museum, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, 215-581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org.