Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ghostbusters

Last summer, I had the great pleasure of getting a tour of Lucasfilm. Because they also house Industrial Light & Magic, I saw many pop-culture artifacts from my childhood up close and personal. Here are two of my favorites. 
We are hoping to make it to the movies this weekend, barring any trips to the delivery room...


Dedication

Imagine being a kid who loves to read and make comics, and you're a big Star Wars fan. Then imagine your family is having dinner at your friend's house and you're handed a Star Wars graphic novel—that has your name in the dedication!
I handed these guys an ARC of Jedi Academy: A New Class, and their faces lit up when I pointed to their names! Two more weeks until the finished version of the book is here!


We are ready for this baby boy.




Color palette, art direction and 9 months of pregnancy misery by Gina.

ILA 16 and Jedi Academy

I was supposed to be at ‪#‎ILA16‬ this weekend, but need to stay closer to home for want might be the sooner-than-expected birth of our third child. So I sent in a few hundred signed bookplates. I drew a lot of Yodas. But if you pick up a copy of Jedi Academy: A New Class and you find a drawing of Victor or Christina Starspeeder in your book—I'll Skype into your classroom! Look for copies via Scholastic and Anderson's Bookshop. NO PEEKING!!!


Rich on Tour

I recently got to see my brother play music. He's about to embark on a cross-country trip on his motorcycle. He'll start in Provincetown this week, then he'll play his banjo from town to town until he hits the Pacific Ocean. If you see a busker that looks like a younger, shaggier version of me please throw a few bills into his hat. His name is Rich, tell him I sent you.


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Three Weeks!

Three weeks to go until Jedi Academy: A New Class publishes. My pugs are waiting with bated dog breath.


Weekly Sketch Roundup

Every day I post a sketch to social media, this is my favorite this week!



I hope that everyone is having a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!

To see more visit http://www.studiojjk.com/dailysketch.html

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

THANK YOU, WINCHESTER!

Last week's event at the library in Winchester was unreal.
I arrived to the summer reading kickoff in a limo with lunch ladies (and one lunch dude). We toasted with apple cider. There were magnetic signs on the side of the limo. We had a police escort. Kids put out a red carpet for the lunch ladies (and the one lunch dude). Each lunch lady (and the one lunch dude) was called by name and got huge rounds of applause. Kids choreographed a dance for the lunch ladies (and the one lunch dude). There was a Punk Farm band at the steps of the library! They performed the songs from the books and Blitzkreig Bop by The Ramones. 
When we entered the library, a police officer read aloud from Platypus Police Squad. I gave my talk, albeit dancing around some technical setbacks, and it went very well. A good time was had by all. But it got bigger... and more important.
I signed books and bookmarks for anyone who wanted to wait in line. A family at the end put a well-loved, ragged copy of Good Night, Monkey Boy down in front of me. The dad told me that he needed to tell me a story. His girl used to have cancer when she was two years old. Same robust and beautiful, much bigger kid who stood before me. She had needed a bone marrow transplant. From my time working with this population, I knew what this meant—a perfect match and six months of isolation after the procedure. Luckily, her sister was a perfect match. But now imagine—a two-year-old in six months of isolation. Think about it. Unfathomable. 
But you know what they had? They had books. They read to their little girl while they and she fought for her life. I was lucky enough that they had my book. A book that was published 15 years ago. Wrote it 17 years ago. But about 5 years ago, unbeknownst to me, this family was reading my book in their darkest hours. The dad pulled out his phone and shared with me this video of his little girl reading my book. She'd lost her hair from the chemotherapy, but held on to her spirit.
I will hold this video with me always. A humble reminder of how important our words are. Authors, you may feel down some days. But somewhere out there, there is a kid reading. 
So there was a limo, a red carpet, sunglasses, a band...but there was a small moment between an author and a family that was everything.













A New Class

Star Wars: Jedi Academy: A New Class is within a month of publication. I can't wait for you to see the fun I had with that galaxy far, far away. On bookshelves July 26th!


American Library Association's Annual Conference

I am remiss to be missing the American Library Association's Annual Conference this year. For no greater reason because I'd love to be in that audience when Matt de la Peña delivers his acceptance speech for his Newbery Medal. Last Stop on Market Street is one of the most important picture books published in recent memory. I love reading it to my girls. Matt's books are beautiful and powerful, and I know his speech won't be anything but. 
I'll be able to catch my friend's speech on YouTube later on, but, man, if I was there? I'd be one of the first to give that man a standing ovation. In fact, I might not even wait for the speech to be over, just so I could be one of the first on my feet. 
In the meantime, I shall add a tilde to de la Peña whenever I see it missing on a poster.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

15 Years!

My first book was published fifteen years ago. Something that has been happening to me now on the road—I meet high school graduates who tell me they read my book when they were kids. Trippy. 
On the day of publication, back in 2001, I walked into a bookstore to find my book in the wild. I walked up to a bookseller and said, "I'm looking for a book that was just published. I don't know the author's name, but the book is called Good Night, Monkey Boy." The bookstore employee typed the title into the computer and then grimaced. "What's the matter?" I asked worriedly. The clerk responded, "The author has a really weird last name." I smiled as they butchered my last name and then followed them to the bookshelf where my book was. My friend Erich Birkby was with me, we had the day off from working at the The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. We were both astonished—there was my book! On the shelf! In a bookstore. 
I paid for the book with a credit card and walked away undetected. It's a tradition that I had with every on-sale date...until Punk Farm was published. Once they started saying, "Hey, Jarrett!" my jig was up...


Summer Reading Prompts

All summer long on The Book Report with JJK on SiriusXM Kids Place Live, Absolutely Mindy and I are throwing out summer reading prompts for the young listeners. When your kiddo has completed each mission, they can color in and decorate a badge. Hopefully, they will be well-decorated by the end of the summer!



Here are the archives for the first two challenges:
...See More

Weekly Sketch Roundup

Every day I post a sketch to social media, this is my favorite this week!




Summer reading (and sketching) on a Saturday morning.

To see more visit http://www.studiojjk.com/dailysketch.html

Drawings for my Daughters

Another school year is coming to a close, another year of drawing on my daughters' lunch napkins. I archive the doodles on a Tumblr so the girls can look back at them some day. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Twenty years ago I started a summer job that left an indelible mark on my life. In the summer of 1996, I traveled to Ashford, CT, to work as a cabin counselor at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. I have no doubt that I wouldn't be the person I am today or be doing what I'm doing today without my experience at this magical place.
It's difficult to put into words just what this camp is and does. Yes, it's that camp that Paul Newman founded. Yes, it is for children with critical illnesses, but no, it's not a sad place. It's the most joyous, life-affirming piece of land on this Earth. I'm lucky to have spent several summers there.
I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the fact that it's been two decades since I was introduced to this place. I'm lucky to still be in touch with several of the friends I made that summer. I'm luckier still to have created memories with some friends who are no longer with us. 
I kept copious photojournals during my time at Hole in the Wall. I wrote down stories about every camper I had the honor of taking care of. I'll be pouring over these recorded memories in the coming days. In this photo, I'm pictured with my co-counselor Joe. We were a solid team that summer in cabin Purple 10. Three months of ushering new sets of campers to P10. 
I've put nods to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in several of my books. In Good Night, Monkey Boy—look for the cowboy hat on the floor. In Baghead and My Buddy, Slug—look for the sports jerseys that call out cabins like Yellow 5 and Red 8. And this summer in Star Wars: Jedi Academy: A New Class—look for the droid named P-10.


Congratulations David Levithan!

Lucky to call this man a dear friend, lucky to have this author's books in this world. 
Congratulations to David Levithan on a citation that marks a lifetime achievement in YA literature. 
Read about the cover boy here: 

Weekly Sketch Roundup

Every day I post a sketch to social media, this is my favorite this week!



pug sketch

To see more visit http://www.studiojjk.com/dailysketch.html

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Storyfest

What a wonderful day in Columbia, SC with Lauren Castillo and hundreds upon hundreds of readers! We were in town for South Carolina State Library's Storyfest, their big summer reading kick-off. Every single kid received a free copy of one of Lauren's books and one of my books. How amazing is that?!


Sarah's Pet Services



Know what I love most about Sarah's Pet Services, LLC? When they take your dogs on hikes, they email you photos. Love getting to see my pugs when I'm away. 
If you live in the Pioneer Valley and you have dog, you should totally hire them. Tell them Frank sent you...

Book Etiquette

When you know the values you instill in your child are setting in...

Weekly Sketch Roundup

Every day I post a sketch to social media, this is my favorite this week!


The Greatest.

To see more visit http://www.studiojjk.com/dailysketch.html

Librarians


Susan Polos is an incredibly passionate and gifted school librarian. I visited her school last week, and the electricity in the air was palpable. The students' enthusiasm for books had been imparted by Ms. Polos—that's pretty much her job description. She told me that she had always wanted to host me, which humbled me. She told me this could also be her last school visit because of budget cuts, which infuriated me. 
The evening after I visited, librarian positions were eliminated in her district. Ms. Polos will retain a job, but it will be unrecognizable—one librarian for five elementary schools. Sure, it's better than no librarian—but these kids deserve better. They deserve a librarian at their school, for their school. The entire community deserves that too. 
Librarians shouldn't have to live their lives in fear of their positions getting cut every year. Nobody wins in that atmosphere. 
In this instance, there weren't enough votes to get the school budget approved—it lost by a slim margin. We all need to make our voices louder and get them heard. 
If your kid goes to a school with a dedicated librarian, maybe write a letter now to let your school's administration know how integral they are. Maybe CC the superintendent while you're at it...and the school committee...and city officials.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Toast

I used soft bread in my new toaster and LOOK—Star Wars toast! 
Beware of toast on the dark side...


Ice Cream

My kids had a great holiday weekend, hope you did too!


An Open Letter

The librarian positions at the Bedford Central School District may get cut due to budget cuts. I wrote an open letter to the superintendent.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Building Relationships and Readers

Every Friday for the last several months, members of the Los Angeles Police Department have been visiting library branches for a special program called Read Along. It was an honor and a privilege to join them this past Friday.
Officer Oseguera addressed the crowd before we got rolling. He gave an impassioned speech about his childhood and how police officers helped him in a time of need. He also spoke about the important role that the public library played in his upbringing. Through Read Along, officers are working on developing positive relationships with the youngest citizens in their neighborhoods while instilling a love of reading and literacy. It's awe-inspiring. They worked closely with the librarians to craft this endeavor, even putting themselves through the read-aloud training the library offers volunteers. (They knew a lame reading would tank the program.)
When I learned about the statistics of the area surrounding the library we were in, I was flabbergasted. About a 50% high school dropout rate and roughly 150 homicides per year. Makes you realize that public libraries aren't just a resource but a REFUGE for these kids. 
I traveled to LA just for the day because I wanted to see what they were doing first hand, and it left an indelible mark on me. Walden Pond Press brought two-hundred copies of Platypus Police Squad: Never Say Narwhal to gift to the young readers in attendance. The smiles on their faces as they were handed books will carry me for years to come.
Along with my publisher, Walden Pond Press, I've been encouraging libraries and police departments to work together though reading-aloud initiatives. The LAPD created their program contingently to our efforts, but I am so glad that we were able to link up. I've seen officers and librarians working together in various towns across the country, and I hope that you would consider building a similar setup in your public or school library. But where to start? Look for the link that I'll post in the comments section to help get you started. We created a brochure that offers tips and a reader's theater from Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked.



School Visits



Ever consider hosting an author visit with a thousand kids in the audience? It's a ton of fun and a little easier than you might think.
A few weeks back, I visited with the students of New Richmond, VA. Laura Ulrich and her diligent colleagues brought in every student from every district school to the high school auditorium throughout the day. I saw three groups of one-thousand students in grades K-5! So one day, three-thousand students! I gave everyone a high five or a handshake as they walked out. Some kids even demanded a hug.
I absolutely LOVE these opportunities. There is so much energy in a room like that. And give me a microphone and a screen to project sketches on, and you'll hear a pin drop.
Check out this great article about how it all went down:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Book Con

Dav Pilkey has started up a side business, and you'll be glad to know that he only shines shoes with clean underpants. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Free Webcasts

I will be live in my studio on Tuesday, May 17th, to celebrate the publication of the final Platypus Police Squad book! These webcasts are a ton of fun and they are completely FREE!
I'll read from NEVER SAY NARWHAL, give a tour of my art studio and draw live! I'll also take questions from classrooms across the country.
Hope to see you there!


Modern Myths

You never know who you'll run into at ‪#‎FreeComicBookDay‬....if you Mo what I mean...
Thank you for the loot, Modern Myths, Inc. Love stopping by your shop!


BookCon

BookCon is NEXT Saturday in Chicago! I'm ecstatic to take the Downtown Stage with Dav PilkeyLucy Knisley and Gene Luen Yang! It'll be a lively time, and The A.V. Club's Oliver Sava will moderate.
And get there early to see Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier's Comicstalk up The Babysitters Club with David Levithan!
I cannot wait. See you there?


School Lunch Hero Day

Thank you for celebrating School Lunch Hero Day 2016! 
Here is just a sampling of the awesomeness that I saw being shared over social media. Kids decorated aprons and showered their lunch heroes with gifts and flowers, and I love that many meals were served TO the lunch staff. Look for the massage chairs...one school brought in a masseuse! 
We'll do it again on May 5, 2017! (School Lunch Hero Day is always the first Friday in May.)
Never underestimate the power of sharing an idea. Some years ago, I mentioned the concept for School Lunch Hero Day in passing to Rachael Walker while on a trip to DC. She connected me to the School Nutrition Association, and now this joy, gratitude and love that is being spread in school cafeterias is beyond my wildest dreams.
I hope that your heart is as full as mine.
Thank you to Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips for the use of his song "Gratitude" in this video.