Wednesday, November 30, 2011

remembering the beloved lunch lady from my elementary school

I was so very saddened to learn of the passing of my childhood lunch lady, Jeannie Carigilia. As I am sure you are aware, it was my chance encounter with her in 2001 that got me to thinking about the lives of lunch ladies outside of the cafeteria. It's a funny thing, how a reunion, though very brief, can forever change the trajectory of your life. The Lunch Lady series has connected me with young readers in a very big way. I receive fan letters from all corners of the country, I've seen the books displayed in Times Square and a trick-or-treater even turned up on my doorstep on Halloween night dressed as my hero in yellow.

Shortly after the book series' launch at the Worcester Public Library, Jeannie sent me a letter thanking me for the books. She wrote about how much she cared for and loved her students. She said that her days working in the Gates Lane Elementary School cafeteria were among the best days of her life.

And so because of my chance encounter, I've become an unexpected champion for lunch ladies. I've created a figure that encourages kids to look at their lunch ladies in a new light, look beyond the spatulas and hair-nets and wonder about their lives. Just as I did when I struck up a conversation with Jeannie in 2001.

I am incredibly proud of this fact. As I travel the country, I meet our nation's lunch ladies. They are dedicated, hard-working individuals who care deeply for their students. And because of Jeannie's dedication, lunch ladies everywhere have a hero who brandishes Fish Stick Nunchucks and a Spork-Phone.

You can read Jeannie's obituary here.

Here is a photo from the 2009 launch of the books at the Worcester Public Library. That's Jeannie on the left and her sidekick, Betty, in the middle.

A Joe and Shirl Scholarship story

Fourteen year old "K" lives in Worcester, MA and she's being raised by her grandparents. She has a passion for art and has been taking painting courses at the Worcester Art Museum this year. All courtesy of the Joe and Shirl Scholarships.

This brings me so much happiness! I'm beyond excited to help kids like her connect with an arts education.

Help me help these kids by bidding in this year's auction!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Annual Joe and Shirls Scholarships Auction begins today!

I'm ecstatic to help kids in my hometown connect with art classes at the Worcester Art Museum. Especially kids who are in familial situations that are similar to the one I grew up in.

This year, I am offering up four items for bidding:

A full-color painting of Lunch Lady and Betty. (The first of its kind!)

A triptych of three of my characters—Baghead, Chicken and Ollie!

I will design your school mascot! And I'll give you he copyright, so you can put it on T-shirts, tote bags, whatever you wish!

Lunch for you and a friend at my studio! (Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Last school visit of 2011

Ms. Butler and the kids at Nayaug Elementary went all out to prep for my visit to their school. They downloaded a lot of the activities from my website and put together some fun ideas of their own. They even wore bagheads to my presentation and took them off to reveal they all had crazy hair! Check out these pictures from the great visit:

And I loved this nod to Ralph:

You can download free activities from my website, too! They're organized in two categories:

Pre K - 2nd grade
3rd - 6th grade

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book trailer for the Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady sketchbook

And don't forget -- the annual Joe and Shirl Scholarships Auction starts this coming Monday! Want a portrait of Lunch Lady? Care for me to design your school mascot? This and more on the auction block starting on November 28th!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Artist Who Punked Out a Blue Horse

Here is my contribution to Eric Carle's Blue Horse Auction, which benefits NEA's arts and literacy initiatives. Bidding happens here and ends in a few days.

While you're over at eBay, check out the contributions from the other artists as well!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ollie the Purple Pumpkin

School librarian Heather Jankowski continues to explore her inner Martha Stewart with her storybook pumpkins craft with her students. This year, she made an Ollie pumpkin, complete with tail!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This is dedication from an elementary school principal at its best!

Principal Mr. Ksanznak from Hamagrael Elementary gets his Lunch Lady on! He served lunch to the kids in this getup today!

(And we bonded over consonant-heavy last names.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Extra hand-drawn sketches

When you order the print edition of Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady in the next month, you'll receive extra hand-drawn sketches in your book.

And the best part—you're helping underprivileged kids in unique familial situations take art classes for free.

Order your copy today!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sketchbook Saturday

I've neglected my weekly sketches here. Nothing like a book tour, an exhibit, deadlines, an almost-three-year-old and an expectant wife to throw you off track. Still, no excuse.

Perhaps I'll sketch something new for next week. In the meantime, head on over to and pick up Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady. You'll get to learn about the creative process behind each of my books and you'll be helping connect underprivileged kids with an arts education. Win, win!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Print Edition of Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady now available!

And man does it look sharp! I couldn't be prouder with how my sketchbook looks in print.

It can take up to a month for stock to get to Ingrams' warehouse, so in the meantime, I'm taking individual orders from my website. (I can get quantities now.) If you work at a bookstore and want to stock Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady, you can put your order in with Ingrams. The ISBN is 9780983854517. Librarians can also order the book wholesale through Ingrams. 

And if you can't wait, then you can order your copy right now!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Key to the City of Worcester

I am so honored that my hometown has awarded me with the Key to the City as an alumnus who serves as an example to the students of the Worcester Public Schools. The Worcester Educational Development Foundation honored me with one of the Distinguished Alumni and Friends awards.

Sadly, I was unable to attend last evening's ceremony. As we anxiously await the birth of our second child, I'm keeping things closer to home these days. But that doesn't diminish how much I am honored by this recognition. I wrote my very first book as a third grader while enrolled in the city's P.E.A.K. program and I carry those lessons with me to this day. I have many fond memories of my time with friends and the excellent teachers at Gates Lane Elementary School. Back then, it was a K-8 school and I spent all nine years there. It was a wonderful community to have grown up in.

I will display this key in my studio with great pride!

You can download my third grade literary effort by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A few days left to catch the Worcester Art Museum exhibit

My show at WAM comes down at the end of the weekend. So now is your last chance to catch the art on the walls!

Here are a few pictures from the opening reception, which was a phenomenal event. We raised a ton of money for the Joe and Shirl Scholarships. (And will again in a few weeks when the annual Cyber Monday auction goes live!) Thank you for all of your support!

I was astounded to see my first grade teacher, Mrs. Alisch, in attendance. I have such wonderful memories of her classroom.
Joan and Caroline drove 12 hours from Virginia to catch the show! They win the prize!!!

Jeanne Birdsall took care of her holiday shopping list!

Lunch Lady art next to publisher proofs.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Support your local indie bookstore, buy eBooks via their website

My sketchbook, Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady, is now available as an eBook via Google Books, which can be purchased on your local bookstore's website.

Here is a link where you can learn which indies are selling eBooks.

Here is my sketchbook via my local bookstore.

In an effort to promote eBooks through indies, I won't be releasing my sketchbook to any other e-outlets. Google Books can be read on just about any tablet computer.

And remember, my sketchbook benefits the Joe and Shirl Scholarships, which connects kids with an arts education.

Here's a look at what you'll find inside my sketchbook:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Girl Scouts' The Studio

I'm delighted to have created content for "The Studio", a new initiative by the Girl Scouts of America. Girl Scouts will earn badges while learning all about how I wrote and illustrated Ollie the Purple Elephant.

Perhaps I'll see one of those badges when they are selling Girl Scout cookies outside of my local supermarket. I can't get enough Do-si-dos. Seriously, I buy about $100 worth when I see them being sold and mostly love the expressions on the kids' faces. I just LOVE THOSE COOKIES!!!

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Annual Running of the Illustrators

This Sunday at 4:30 p.m., hordes of children's book illustrators will descend upon the R. Michelson Galleries for the annual Children's Illustration Exhibit . Hopefully nobody will be gored. See you there!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

RISD's XYZ Magazine

I'm honored to have been featured in a special book-themed issue of RISD's alumni magazine along with Brian Selznick and David Wiesner. You can read the article below! You can also flip through the entire issue to read about RISD alum doing great work on the printed page. (Just a head's up, not all of the subject matter in the other articles is kid-friendly.)

November issue of Parents magazine

I gave tips on raising a reader, along with a bevy of kids' book authors, in the November issue of Parents magazine. Check it out on newsstands or click over to the Parents website.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Radio chat with Monte

Before Mother Nature dropped buckets of snow on Western Mass, radio host, pal and all-around-good guy Monte Belmonte visited the studio.

Listen in here.

A.P.P.L.E. program in Henderson, NV

ATTENTION AUTHORS! Await for your invitation to Henderson, NV's A.P.P.L.E. (All People Promoting Literacy Efforts) partnership's annual Celebration of Reading and accept immediately! What a wonderful program and I am honored to have been a part of it. It has everything. Schools need to win the author visits by accruing reading hours in the previous school year. Every school I visited, the kids were pumped. At an event at the public library, teens put on a Punk Farm play. Art classes entered paintings in a contest (winning entries get displayed at city hall). I even had the opportunity to visit art students at a local high school and junior high kids in an after school program. And Mayor Hafen presented me with the key to the city.

Not to mention that the local media gets behind this reading initiative in a big way. There were articles in Henderson Press and Las Vegas Review Journal. The local PBS station covered the events here. And the local Fox affiliate also stopped by.

Here are a few pictures from the festivities:

My welcome sign needed a slight adjustment.

1st prize in art contest

2nd prize in art contest

My characters aligned the walls, welcoming me to school

Teens perform as Punk Farm at the public library!

Now it takes a lot to embarrass me. But I was told I turned thirty shades of red when the Mayor of Henderson, in front of the entire City Council and all those gathered, brought up Fuse #8's Hot Men of Children's Literature. Yes, a half a decade later and when he looked me up on Google, he found this.

Thank you to Evelyn Walkowicz and all of the hardworking people of Henderson who made this trip a reality!