EVEN MORE #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-Shirts!

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You asked for it, so here it is: a third round of #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-shirt fundraising! I worked with Custom Ink to try to satisfy all the requests you shared with me over on Twitter. Which is why we have two different fundraising pages. On the first, you’ll find a variety of new unisex color options. On the second, you’ll find both V-neck and long sleeve options.

As before, proceeds from this fundraiser will go toward kids’ book access efforts. THANK YOU again to everyone who has supported and/or shared this cause. I continue to be blown away by this incredible community.

~ Jarrett

REVENGE OF THE ENGINERDS in paperback!

If you follow me over on the social medias, you might’ve seen that the paperback edition of REVENGE OF THE ENGINERDS recently became available for preorder.

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Sure, it doesn’t come out for another five months — but imagine how happy you’ll be when, in the depths of winter, a slim little package shows up on your doorstep, and you open it to gaze upon a little green tooting alien. Won’t you be glad you preordered? 🙂

Below is a link to the Indie Bound preorder page, but you can preorder the book anywhere books are sold — including directly through your local independent bookstore!

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THANKS!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Jamie Michalak!

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My name is… Jamie Michalak. As in Mc – CAL – ick. My last name rhymes with metallic, which worked better as mnemonic device in middle school when I had a mouthful of braces.

I am… a daydreamer. Lately I daydream about being a surfer. Last year, I made big plans in my head to own a food truck. For days, I 100% believed I’d drive a food truck called Disco Pancakes with a big spinning disco ball on top. But then I wrote a story about it instead. In fact, my next three books are all about food. That’s the great thing about writing — you can live out your dreams in your stories. Even if in your book you’re, like, a baked bean.

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As a kid I was… painfully shy in school. But in the familiar comfort of my neighborhood, I was adventurous and take-charge (read: bossy). I grew up in a city, and my street was lined with two-family houses full of kids. At age ten, I loved to organize backyard variety shows, form clubs, and issue a monthly newspaper called “The Biltmore Street News.” I’d interview my neighbors and reveal a little too much about their personal lives in my articles. Then I’d sell the paper door to door, and my parents would get phone calls.

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Writing is… easier than speaking for me. As a part-time shy kid, I sometimes had a hard time speaking up in a group or saying exactly what I meant. It was incredibly frustrating because I knew the me most people saw didn’t match the real me. But when I wrote, I could make my thoughts flow out the way I wanted them to. Writing became my outlet and keeping a journal was great practice for an aspiring author.

Reading is… a ticket to explore the world and beyond, a closet of different lives to try on, a time travel machine, a seat in wizardry school, and more. Best of all, you don’t even have to leave your bed. (Pajamas rule.)

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Books are… taking over my nightstand! I like to read several books at once, and then I have other books on deck under the ones I’m reading. It looks like a Jenga tower ready to topple.

Did you know…. that I’m also a writer at a toy company? A favorite part of my job is naming new toys.

You can find me… 

  1. watching gourmet cooking shows while eating cold pizza
  2. daydreaming
  3. doodling
  4. singing the wrong lyrics to songs in my car while my kids beg me to stop
  5. reading in my favorite chair, warming my feet by my good dog, Lucy Caboose
  6. at my website
  7. at The Little Crooked Cottage
  8. on Twitter
  9. on Instagram
  10. traveling with Frank and Bean on their 2019 Blog Tour!

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#KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-Shirt Fundraiser Update 3

At midnight last night, the second round of #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds fundraising ended. The numbers in the image below represent the combined total over both rounds of fundraising.

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I am as amazed and proud of this incredible kid lit community as I’ve ever been. THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, to every single person who showed up and supported these efforts. That $19,120 is going to help get LOTS of books into the hands of kids!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Hena Khan!

My name is… Hena, which is pronounced “hen-na,” like the tattoo (never “hee-na” please, which is a pet peeve). My last name, Khan, is pronounced from the throat but most people, including me sometimes, say “con.” I’m named after the plant that is dried into the dark green strong smelling paste used for making deep orange henna tattoos. My mom said she named me after a girl in her grade school in Pakistan who she admired, and even though I didn’t love my name growing up, I’m happy with it now. And I kept my last name after marriage because I couldn’t imagine being called anything else!

I am a… scaredy cat. I hate thrills of all kinds. I’ve never ice skated, clung to the walls the few times I stood on roller skates, avoid theme parks, and despise roller coasters. I’m a big fan of naps, drinking good coffee and baking delicious things, and going for walks, which I know makes me sound pretty boring. But I will feed you something tasty, tell you interesting stories, and listen to yours, if you want to hang out with me on solid ground!

As a kid, I was… self-conscious, awkward and a bit of an old soul, and I still feel the same way on the inside as an adult. I’ve gotten a little better at hiding it, most of the time. I like to think that I was kind and a good friend, too.

Writing is… something I’ve done since I was a little kid, in one form or another. I never expected an audience, even when I wrote a family newspaper. And I didn’t dare to dream I would write a book, or books, or imagine that it was something possible. I’m still amazed that I get to do what I do when I stop to think about it.

Reading is… a gift. I still remember my mother teaching me how to read, and being super proud of me when I started sounding out words that I didn’t understand. She used to make me perform in front of her friends. And as bored as they probably were, I never forgot her pride and the feeling that what I was doing was something special and important.

Books are… some of my most prized possessions, along with photos and old letters and cards that I can’t part with. I just recycled some of my old outdated college textbooks, and it was hard to say goodbye to them. I feel guilty when I turn a book upside down to save my place, but I do it sometimes. I NEVER turn down the corners of pages though and feel sad when I see bent pages of a library book.

Did you know… that I have lived within the same five-mile area for my entire life? But I’ve also been lucky to have studied in Spain for a semester when in college, and to have traveled to 35 different countries, on four continents. I haven’t visited nearly as many American states as countries, but being an author and visiting schools has taken me to a bunch of new ones. And I hope to explore a lot more of both the US and the rest of the world in the future.

You can find me… at home, cooking, baking, writing or procrastinating, when I’m not traveling. And you can connect with me online through my website, www.henakhan.com, on instagram and twitter @henakhanbooks, and on Facebook @hena.khan.books, which I hardly use anymore.

Get to Know… Aron Nels Steinke!

My name is… Aron, spelled with one “A” because my great-grandfather’s name was spelled that way. Nels, because of my Finnish grandfather’s nickname. It’s still unclear to me if it was his nickname or the name that appeared on his birth certificate. And Steinke, which is German for “stone cutter” because the Steinkes in my family were 1800s German immigrants.

For years I was embarrassed by my name and I used to get teased because of my last name as a kid. I wish I had known how to deal with it better.

I am a… cartoonist. That means I draw and write comics. I am both illustrator and writer. I am also a teacher. I like being both but I struggle with that dual identity. Am I taken less seriously as a teacher because I devote so much of myself toward making books? Am I taken less seriously as an author because I spend a majority of my energy toward teaching?

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As a kid, I was… lucky because I had access to roam around hundreds of acres of forests. I grew up on eleven acres in rural SW Washington State. My brother and/or my friend and I would just wander through neighboring forests and fields. Ducking electric fences and scaling barbed wire. I got to know crawdads and frogs pretty well. Snakes, newts, and garden spiders too. If I was bored in the house I’d just go outside on my bicycle and ride down “the trail,” which was a path that connected the road in front of our house to the road way in the back of our house. I became a connoisseur of huckleberry and thimbleberries. I ate wild hazelnuts from the filbert bushes and made arrows from the same plant and used red alder for bows and swords sharpened from hours of whittling with my pocket knife.

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Writing is… something that I didn’t love or feel I understood at all until I started making comics. I love writing now but that only happened because I forced myself to get better at it. I still find it very difficult, but I now have a strategy to get better at it. Writing is re-reading. Writing is continually editing and putting down things that don’t work and chipping away at it until it does.

Writing plot is so very hard. I never want to write something that is contrived. I don’t want my work to be obviously derivative of other popular works or predictable for any age of reader. I want my writing to feel like it’s a real conversation happening in front of you. I want it to feel authentic and natural.

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Drawing is… something that always came natural for me. There are so many styles and ways to make art—how can we settle on a form or a material? For me I settled on a cartoony style but it took me until I was twenty-five to find that style. My early illustrative work and animation was derivative of the people I was influenced by. You could tell when I was really into Miyazaki or Sendak. Now I feel like my style is just a natural amalgamation of the hundreds and possibly thousands of visual influences I’ve had in my life.

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Reading is… something we should all have more time for. I love getting lost in a book and learning from books. I get distracted easily and because of that I’m a slow reader.

It took me a while to connect with reading as a kid. I loved reading the comic strips in my newspaper and I read collections of Garfield and The Far Side. I would often check out books from my library that I couldn’t actually access because of either my lack of reading stamina, my lack of a strong vocabulary, or both. I remember checking out a novel with a wizard and a wolf on the cover in third or fourth grade. I’d carry this book around with me and pretend I could read it because I thought of the book’s cover and what must be inside as an extension of my identity.

When I first discovered the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz I had that feeling of a book that finally connected with me. It was the short story format, allowing me to skip around the book, and the content that appealed to my abilities and interests. I read those books over and over. The illustrations by Stephen Gammell haunted me.

When I was in seventh-grade my friends and I started reading the Anne Rice vampire books and we had a teacher who gave us a long silent sustained reading period. That was very important for me. I didn’t really give myself chunks of time to read for pleasure at home so here I was forced to just sit and read. My peers were reading and I wanted to perform as well as them and to keep up with the conversations afterward. Reading those books felt like I was getting away with something. Those books were scandalous for a middle schooler. I remember thinking, “What if my teacher actually knew what I was reading?!”

In some ways reading prose is more private. Comics, on the other hand, telegraph exactly what you’re reading to the outside observer because it’s immediately clear to others what you’re reading. They can glance over and accidentally read your book.

That’s really the only limitation I see comics having, if it is a limitation. Maybe it’s not a limitation but it does make it hard for those who feel a stigma in our society about reading comics. I’m speaking about adults or kids who want to read outside of their perceived demographic. They may censor their public reading choices because their reading choice is out in the open. I make comics and I love reading them but I still feel a little daring when I’m reading a graphic novel out in the open at a coffee shop, on the bus, or on a flight.

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Books are… always going to exist in print. As a teacher it is very clear. The novelty of reading on a screen has some merit for some kids but nothing can replace the physical act of turning a page.

I do think reading is one of the coolest things you can do. When I first met my wife she was very relieved that I read books for pleasure and for personal fulfillment. She reads very quickly and is always getting something new from the library.

To help raise readers we need to model to kids that we are readers ourselves, not just of articles on our phone, but of real, physical books. So if you’re a parent or teacher and kids don’t see you read for yourself maybe think about how you can better model your love for reading to them.

I also think it’s important to model that you read across demographics. I’m thinking specifically about how much adults would benefit from reading children’s nonfiction picture books. I’m lucky because I get to do it as part of my teaching job. That’s not to dismiss kids’ fiction books. I write children’s fiction but I just know that with children’s nonfiction I’m always learning something new very quickly. They’re designed to communicate ideas efficiently.

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Did you know… my third middle-grade graphic novel in the Mr. Wolf’s Class series, Lucky Stars, is coming out on September 3rd?! And, I’m busy working on a fourth Mr. Wolf’s Class book due out next year!

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You can find me… at www.mrwolfsclass.com, on twitter as @mrwolfcomics and instagram as @aronnelssteinke.

T-shirts, T-shirts, T-shirts!

As far as I’m concerned, teachers and librarians are the closet thing we’ve got to ACTUAL superheroes in this world. And it looks like I’m not the only one — check out this art made by students of Kristin Rambo, second grade teacher in Pottstown, PA!

To reflect this belief, and to help teachers and librarians everywhere proclaim there awesomeness, I designed some new T-shirts!

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I shared this last night on Twitter, and right away someone asked, “What if you’re a teacher librarian?” Well, that’s a lot to fit on a T-shirt. But I might just have to whip up a new design to give all the teacher librarians out there some love. (Someone also suggested I make an “editor” version of the shirt!)

If you’re interested in getting a shirt, either for yourself or for an awesome teacher or librarian in your life, you can check out the teacher version here and the librarian version here.

Proceeds from these T-shirt sales will be used to help get high-quality, high-interest books into kids’ hands, through donations to organizations (such as First Book and We Need Diverse Books) and direct purchases and distribution.

And in case you missed it, you’ve still got a couple weeks to get a #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-shirt (click here). Just the other day, this second round of fundraising broke the $4,000 mark!

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Together with the first round of fundraising, nearly $18,000 has been raised! And if you’ve already got your shirt, don’t forget to post a #ShowMeYourShirt pic to enter to win some books and art!

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You can see some of First Book’s favorite pics and read more about it all in this post they put up last week. And more pics can be found by searching the #ShowMeYourShirt hashtag on Twitter or Instagram. One of my favorites so far wasn’t actually a picture, but this drawing that Shannon, a 4th grader from Hawaii, did of her teacher wearing one of the shirts!

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Thank you all once again for your incredible support and generosity!

~ Jarrett