Every "Arthur" story is based on real life, said Brown, from the topics they cover to the characters. He draws inspiration from letters he receives and his own family.
"I get about 100,000 letters a year from kids and many of them are ideas that they want to see Arthur and his friends have in book or television form," said Brown. "Arthur is sort of me while I was in 3rd grade; I looked exactly like him. My sister who is a teacher in the area and lives in Saratoga Springs was my inspiration for Francine and another of my sisters was the inspiration for DW. I had a teacher that was like Mr. Ratburn and Grandma Thora was our grandmother who told us wonderful stories growing up."
Brown said he turned down two other offers from network television to turn "Arthur" into an animated series before settling with PBS.
"I wanted to use TV to make kids want to read. I thought of my good friend Fred Rogers who I felt was brilliant in the way he used TV to help children and he was a mentor to me in encouraging me," said Brown.
Brown said in the first 20 years he wrote "Arthur" books, around 5 million were in print. After "Arthur" debuted on the small screen, that number jumped to 50 million and now sits somewhere around 68 million. He's been on a writing and illustrating hiatus for several years now, he said, but for the birthday celebration he's taken up a routine again.
"I go to work every morning around 8 a.m. over the barn behind our house in Martha's Vineyard and feel like the luckiest person in the world because I get to do what I love doing, everyday. It doesn't get much better than that," said Brown.