Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays! (plus downloadable activities)

If Santa doesn't come, Ralph is a solid back-up. Hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday season. See you in 2010!

In the meantime, here are some downloadable activities to keep you busy.

Finish the Story!
Download a high res version at

Paper Doll Fun

Download a high res version at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta - on shelves today!

Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta hits shelves today!

Dee, Terrence, and Hector are very excited about Author Visit Day. Lewis Scribson is the author of the famous Flippy Bunny books, and Hector is a huge fan! And it gets Dee and Terrence out of math class.

But something is a little off about this special guest. And Coach Birkby, the gym teacher, mysteriously disappears the day of his visit.

What evil designs does this world-famous writer have on his agenda? Lunch Lady’s going to get to the bottom of it, even if she has to kick some bunny butt!

Lunch Lady Photo Contest WINNERS!

*house lights go down*

*theme music kicks in*

*curtain opens, spotlight goes up*

Welcome to the official announcement of the winning entries of the Lunch Lady Photo Contest! Our judges have been working tirelessly, agonizing where to place the many wonderful entries! So without further ado...

The third runner-up is
....... *drum roll*

The fabulous lunch lady of Smith Elementary in Frisco, TX!

Say the judges:
MATT: "Very glamorous."
ELEANOR: "So fashionable!"
ERIC: "She looks like she could conjure up a lunch that's magically delicious."

*clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*

The second runner-up is....... *drum roll*

The mad scientist lunch ladies of SandPine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel, FL!!!

Say the judges:
MATT: "Love those goggles they have. I may need to get some."
ELEANOR: "Great Glasses!"
ERIC: "No doubt these lunch ladies can reanimate leftovers better than anyone."

*clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*

The first runner-up is..... *drum roll*

The CSI lunch ladies of W.G. Coleman Elementary in The Plains, VA!!!

Say the judges:
MATT: "Looks like they're dishing out some serious justice on that turkey!"
ELEANOR: "Lunch Ladies with powerful turkey attack!! They're amazing!"
ERIC: "This lovely legion of lunch ladies gets extra props for their extra props."

*clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*

And now...the moment that you all have been waiting for....the grand prize winner is.... *drum roll*

The unstoppable lunch lady of Stenwood Elementary in Vienna, VA!!!

Say the judges:
MATT: "Decked out in yellow with a fierce gleam in her eye, this one's the winner. Criminals (and lunch-line cutters) beware!"
ELEANOR: "Love the matching color scheme!!! :D"
ERIC: "Evil-doers and/or mystery meat beware this lunch lady's powerful stare! She looks like she could serve up some serious justice with that spatula."

*clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*

Thank you to all who entered! The winners announced here will be receiving special prizes in the first week of the new year! Thank you to the judges for their insight and hard work. And mot importantly, thank you to lunch ladies everywhere for keeping us all well nourished and safe from evil-doers!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mystery Judges Revealed!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls....announcing the mystery judges for the Lunch Lady Photo C0ntest!

*insert drum roll here*

*curtain opens*

First we have Matthew Holm, illustrator of the trailblazing Babymouse graphic novel series!

*clap clap clap clap clap*

Next up, we have Eleanor Davis, author/illustrator of the brilliant Secret Science Alliance!
*clap clap clap clap clap*

And last, but certainly not east, we have Eric Wight, author/illustrator of the innovative Frankie Pickle series.
*clap clap clap clap clap*

They are, at this very moment, putting their lunch lady expertise to good use, pouring over the entries. These fine judges also have extensive experience with super-sleuthing, which will come in handy as they select the lunch lady photo that best exemplifies crime-fighting capabilities.*

And most importantly—they are some of the most talented people making comics for young people today! I am an enormous fan of each of theirs. Are you looking for a gift for a young reader this holiday season? (Or will you be looking for something to buy with those gift cards come January?)

Check out one of the many Babymouse titles.
(Book 12...TWELVE! will be out on 1/12/10)

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copy Cat Crook
(I am hoping for sequels and will wait patiently.)

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom
(FP2 will be out on 1/19/10)

Stay tuned! The winners will be announced right here on Tuesday, December 22nd!

*Please note that I am removing myself completely from the judging process.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Punk Farm in Texas

Eiland Elementary in Houston, TX hosts a Young Author's Day every year. To help get the students psyched up about literature, the teachers dress up as book characters. Check out the 2nd grade teachers below. ROCK!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

ten years ago

This past week, I marked the anniversary of a major turning point in my career. I consider December 10th the anniversary of when I "made it". Ten years ago, on December 10th, I walked into the offices of Knopf Books for Young Readers at Random House Children's Books for the first time.

I had previously illustrated a few readers for an educational publisher in January and March of 1999, but those were books that I didn't write and I'm sure that you didn't see them. It's doubtful that you will find them—my name was misspelled (and differently) on both books. It wasn't exactly a very creative process, most things were dictated to me. I was thrilled to have the professional experience, though, and the books themselves proved that I could illustrate characters consistently throughout a story.

In September of that year, I finished what was my fourth summer working at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and moved to Somerville, MA. It was my first year out of college and I was ready to conquer the world. I already had a good amount of rejection letters under my belt. Thinking that I could get the storied rejections out of the way while still a student, I began submitting to publishers during my junior year. Some of the rejection letters were nice (although it would take me some time to fully understand that) and some were generic (one rejection came on just a half sheet of paper!) So I figured that now that I was a college graduate, these rejection letters would be a thing of the past.

I produced a batch of postcards featuring my latest illustrations and sent them out to a flurry of art directors. I sat back and waited for the phone to ring. It of course, didn't. I submitted my books to more publishers and still—no interest. I joined the SCBWI and read every piece of literature they gave me. I tinkered on my portfolio website, even though I was told that art directors simply weren't looking at art on the web. I sent out more postcards, I submitted more manuscripts and book dummies. Still nothing. Time went by and I still had nothing but rejection letters to show for my efforts. My grandfather, who had just invested a significant amount of money in my college education, would call and ask, "So . . . do you have a job yet?" I would reply with, "I do, I write and illustrate children's books." My grandfather would follow with, "Who pays you for that?" He had me there. Nobody did.

I continued to create. I wrote new stories, painted new illustrations. I remained connected with former RISD classmates that were perusing similar goals. Through them I met more alumnae that were also working in the field of children's picture books. We emailed, got together and shared work and our own personal stories.

I had the opportunity to bring my portfolio into a few publishers, but nothing came from any of those meetings. I began to get bold. I picked up the phone and called some of the art directors to see if they had received my postcards. The majority of the people I spoke with were nice. Yet, the conversation that I can replay in my mind, with crystal clear clarity, wasn't quite that. "It would be a waste of my time to meet with you," said the voice on the other end of the phone.

I was teaching at a few art centers and working at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp's fall weekend reunions, but it was becoming obvious to me. I needed to make a living at something. And it was beginning to look as though writing and illustrating children's books would not be that. In November of that year, I wrote two new stories, one of them being Good Night, Monkey Boy. I reached out to one of my new alumnae friends, whose first book had just been published and who happened to live just down the street from me. It was Grace Lin. We met for coffee at the Someday Cafe in Davis Sq and she gave me a key piece of advice. "You should send your postcards to the editors," she suggested.

It was a Monday at the end of November 1999 that I took a batch of postcards to the mailbox. I was sending, this time, to editors. As melodramatic as this sounds, I really thought to myself that should nothing come from this mailing, I was going to have to find another line of work. I had, at that point, been submitting my work to publishers for nearly two years. This is the illustration that I featured on that postcard:

On Thursday of that week, I checked my email and could not believe what I saw. There was an email from someone who had as their email address and the subject line read, "nice work". An editor was writing me! With a subject line that read "nice work"! Here is an excerpt from that email:

"Hi Jarrett,
Just got your card in the mail and visited your website portfolio. I like your sense of color and quirky characters . . . So keep me on your mailing list and if you're in NYC, come show me your portfolio."

Wanting to seem cool about it, I waited a day to call. "I'm going to be in New York next week!" I claimed. I of course, was being generous with my geography. I had plans on being in CT that next weekend. We set up a meeting for that next Friday. Not knowing what would come of the meeting with Random House, I hung up the phone and called a second publisher. Now that I had the clout of being invited in by a publisher, that second publisher set time aside to meet with me. As did the third and fourth publisher that I called.

I lugged my portfolio into New York City and the first publisher that I met with gave me a contract then and there. I couldn't believe it. I ran to a pay phone and called my grandfather at work and my grandmother at home to share the good news. I remember that moment so vividly—the cold New York City air, the joy in my grandparents' voices. Unfortunately, that book contract and my relationship with that publisher didn't bare any fruit. The editor and I couldn't find a meeting point for the story and the book was never published.

My meeting at Knopf had a much different outcome. They took copies of a few of my book dummies and emailed me that next Monday to say that they wanted to publish Good Night, Monkey Boy. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I still can't.

Good Night, Monkey Boy was published on June 12, 2001 and I have been busy ever since. I have had the privilege to work with a magnificent team at Knopf who continues to support my work. I get to live in my imagination, dream up characters and places. Over the years, I've made the most incredible friends—authors, artists, teachers, librarians, book store owners and employees, you name it! I have traveled the country, seeing places I never thought I'd see. I've received letters and pictures from kids that have both inspired me and assured me that I was creating something of interest to their young imaginations. And by my estimation, I have screamed, "Eee I, eee I, oh!" about six-thousand times.

So thank you. Because if you are reading this post, you care somewhat about what I do. Thank you for reading my books, for supporting my work, for helping to create an atmosphere in which I can continue to pursue my childhood dreams.

And as you have been reading all of this, you may be wondering, "How do you remember that December 10th was the day that you took that meeting?" Because the security guard at the Random House building gave me a sticker to wear on that visit. And at the end of the day, I took the sticker and slapped it into my sketchbook.

Sketchbook Saturday

sketches from Bubble Bath Pirates!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Entries due today!

The entries for the Lunch Lady photo contest are due today! Send a photo of your crime-fighting lunch lady to

The mystery judges will be announced next week and the winners will be announced on December 22, the same day that LL3 hits book shelves.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grace on Today!

A few weeks back I had a chance to reunite with old friends at NCTE. Gina and I grabbed lunch with Grace Lin and Alvina Ling. Because of blogs and Facebook I feel like I see them all the time, but in reality, it's been some time. We failed to get a good group picture, but at least managed to get this shot:

(pic lifted from the Blue Rose Girls Blog)

And here is Grace with Al Roker on the Today show!!!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

NCTE with the Holm siblings

Dr. Joan Kindig organized quite the graphic novel party at the NCTE conference back in November. Matt and Jenni talked Babymouse and I talked Lunch Lady.

Afterward, Matt and I swapped identities (maybe falling down stairs in an 80's movie?) and drew each other's characters. We took suggestions from the audience for the subject matter.

Here are the results:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Long Ways to Christmas

Ralph had better buck up.

funny kid quote

Robon Landry, librarian extraordinaire, was prepping her students for my upcoming school visit.

"Well, what does he look like?" the students asked.

Mrs. Landry opened one of my books to the back flap and showed the students my author photo. "He looks like this," she replied.

An inquisitive student studied the photo.
"He's tiny!"

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Ambassador Has Spoken

Ambassador Scieszka appeared on the CBS Early Show to recommend books for holiday gift-giving. Check it out. I am honored that the Lunch Lady series is on the list.

Looks like I'll need to slip a five dollar bill in Jon's holiday card this year . . .

Lunch Lady at Halloween in PA

Erin Stephens of Lower Macungie Library in Macungie, PA got into the Halloween spirit by dressing up as Lunch Lady for storytime. Ms. Stevens is also known to host "Storytime: the concert", which features the Punk Farm books. I am truly honored!

Friday, December 04, 2009

1 week left to enter the Lunch Lady photo contest!

There is only one week left to enter the Lunch Lady photo contest. All photos must be sent in to by December 11th. What are we looking for? Photo evidence of your lunch lady fighting crime. Does she wear a cape? Does she have secret powers? If your photo is chosen, you will win a piece of original artwork for your school. Honorable mentions will win Lunch Lady books for their schools. Winners will be announced on December 22nd.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Borders in Braintree

A little late for a post on a Halloween, I know, but I left my camera at the store and only recently got it back. Stacey at Borders in Braintree, MA really threw herself into the role of hostess to a Lunch Lady event. At the costume party, she was Lunch Lady and dished out helpings of dirt pudding to the guests waiting in line for a signed book. I don't think I stopped laughing once!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Slug in InStyle

"They're saying orange is the new black."

My Buddy, Slug is in the December issue of InStyle magazine. Truth is, I have no business being in a style magazine. (My wife dresses me.) But Rachel Bilson, of O.C. fame, lists Slug as one of her staples in children's book gift giving.