Jess likes to draw "animals, mostly". The animals he draws are generally not realistic, "not regular animals like Miss Bessie or the chickens, but crazy animals with problems - for some reason he liked to put his beasts into impossible fixes". Jess uses a lot of imagination in his drawings; an example of his creative renderings described in the book is "a hippopotamus just leaving the edge of the cliff, turning over and over...in the air toward the sea below where surprised fish (are) leaping goggle-eyed out of the water". Jess's drawings also have a humorous, cartoonish element about them. The picture of the hippopotamus includes a text balloon, with the hippo commenting drolly, even as he tumbles end over end in space, "Oh...I seem to have forgot my glasses".
Jess would like to show his work to his dad, but he remembers his father's reaction when, in the first grade, he had expressed his desire to become an artist when he grew up. His dad had not been impressed; in fact, he had expressed the opinion that drawing was somehow an effeminate activity, not something he would like to see his son engaging in. Jess's teachers did not like his drawings either. When they'd catch him scribbling in class, "they'd screech about waste - wasted time, wasted paper, wasted ability". Mrs. Edmunds, who came to the school once a week to teach music, was the only educator to whom Jess dared show his work. She appreciated his talent, as did Leslie, his friend (Chapter 2).