Jesse Kuhn, 29

E 14th St between First and Second Aves.


Photograph: Jay Muhlin

What are you up to? I'm on my way back from UPS.

What were you shipping? Nothing illegal, I swear. [Laughs]

Damn, then what will we talk about? I know, I know. I was shipping conference materials for my children's book company.

What's the company? We publish a series of children's books called "The Quirkles." They teach science through literacy skills. There's one for each letter: Andy Acid, Botanist Bert, Colorful Caroline...

Do you have to understand what goes on in kids' little brains? An important component of it is revisiting how you felt at that age. I feel like a part of me can get down on my knees, to their level.

Where is that accent from? You've got those open vowels. I grew up just outside of St. Louis.

Have your sweet Midwestern sensibilities gotten knocked out of you yet? No, I think I'm able to maintain some of that but grow my New York skin as well.

And hair. [Laughs] Yeah. It's usually a full-on mohawk, but it's relaxed this morning.

Do you ever worry about being taken seriously with that thing? You know, I don't. I'm knowledgeable enough in the education community to hold a conversation with a scientist or educator to disprove any preconceived notions they have of who I might be based on my external looks. Though I'll throw on a collared shirt for conferences. [Laughs]

More from Jesse

"I'm in illustration... Do I get drawer's block? That's when I take a jog or a walk or go to UPS and run into you guys on the street."

"I thought Where the Wild Things Are was amazing. It speaks to certain individuals—kids who are trapped in adult bodies. Those are the people who really connect to it."

"I run my own design and illustration studio, Raw Toast Design. Illustration has become something that enables me to be pretty free—I love freelancing. I can basically pack up my studio in a laptop bag and work from wherever I need to. I get seasonal depression here, so last spring I shot down to Miami for a month to soak up some Vitamin D."