New T-Shirts — and Masks!

A couple weeks ago, I shared the drawing below, and mentioned that I was thinking of using it for a new T-shirt — one that could spark bookish conversations wherever one wore it.

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The response was incredible. So I got right to work with CustomInk setting up a fundraiser.

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Amazingly, within 24 hours, over 200 T-shirts were sold. (If you want one, click HERE to get to the fundraising page.) And almost as soon as the fundraiser went live, people starting asking if I could get my art on a mask. Fortunately, CustomInk recently began making masks. And so I got to work with them setting up a fundraiser for those.

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I shared THIS fundraiser yesterday morning, and as of this post — less than 24 hours later! — over 250 masks have been sold. (If you want one, click HERE to get to the fundraising page.) I’m blown away, and beyond grateful for the encouragement and support that I continue to receive from you all. Together, we’ve done a great deal of good.

THANK YOU.

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Adrianna Cuevas!

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My name is… “What’s for dinner?” No, that’s not right… “Where’s my PE shirt?” That can’t be it either. “Mom!” Well, kind of, but only for the last twelve years. I don’t suppose my husband and son would agree to “She Who Must Be Catered To And Obeyed.” One can only hope…

I am a… teller of fart jokes, baker of pastelitos, kayaker of Texas rivers, and wrangler of house pets. Sometimes I even manage to write stories.

As a kid, I was… in Miami, living almost entirely in my imagination while I consumed vast quantities of Cuban food. Now I’m in Texas, living almost entirely in my imagination while I consume vast quantities of Cuban food.

Writing is… how I preserve my family history, show my son that kids like him can be heroes, and put all the worlds and characters swirling around in my brain to good use. It is somehow miraculously accomplished while listening to both K-pop playlists and my son explain the deep intricacies of Minecraft.

Reading is… a way to escape and discover new worlds, new people, and new experiences. And it’s everywhere! Novels, comics, graphic novels, webtoons, manuals, encyclopedias… I even read a really fascinating bottle of face wash the other day.

Books are… FREAKING AMAZING! Like, seriously, don’t you walk into a bookstore or library and think “Holy crap!” Because I do. Some books that recently made me lose my minimal chill are Lupe Wong Won’t Dance by Donna Barba Higuera, In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby, the 13th Street chapter book series by David Bowles, and A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi.

Did you know… that the gastric-brooding frog from Australia gives birth through its mouth? This was easily one of my favorite animal facts I learned while researching The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez. It’s horrifically fascinating and I both want to and really don’t want to try to picture it in my head.

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You can find me… on Twitter (@acuevaswrites) sharing equal parts books news and silly things my son says, and on Instagram (@adriannacuevas) sharing stacks of books I pray I’ll have time to read as well as recipes I’ve attempted to varying success.

“Welcome, Geeger!”

GEEGER THE ROBOT GOES TO SCHOOL hits shelves in less than two months, and more reviews are rolling in! Here’s some of what Kirkus Reviews had to say about the book:

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If you want to check out Kirkus’s full review of the book, you can do so here!

As always, preordering is HUGELY appreciated. And if you decide to preorder GEEGER THE ROBOT GOES TO SCHOOL and/or GEEGER THE ROBOT LOST AND FOUND, I highly encourage you to do so from your local independent bookstore. If you don’t have one in your community, consider using IndieBound.com or Bookshop.org. And if you want your books signed and personalized by me, you can always order from MY local indie, Porter Square Books!

THANK YOU!

~ Jarrett

Graphic Poetry

Way back at the beginning of the year (before we knew what 2020 had in store for us), I was given the opportunity to work with Scholastic to create a brand-new feature in their Storyworks Jr. magazine — Graphic Poetry. I made a comic “adaptation” of a lovely poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, “A Circle of Sun.”

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I was excited about this project for many reasons. For one, it happened to coincide with my working on some illustrated poetry of my own. (I hope to share more about all of that soon!) For another, I think that this sort of out-of-the-box exercise could be an excellent way for kids to explore both poetry AND comics. The sort of evocative, figurative language so often found in poetry lends itself wonderfully to visual adaptation, and comic-loving kiddos (and there are a lot of them out there!) might find, in poetry, a rich world of content to use to help them develop and flex their creative muscles.

All told, this was a fun, challenging project, and collaborating on it with the Storyworks team was a total blast. I’m grateful to the great Lauren Tarshis for thinking of me for this in the first place, and for giving me a great deal of creative freedom to explore the possibilities of this concept. If you don’t know about Scholastic’s collection of classroom magazines, check them out — and look for more Graphic Poetry in forthcoming issues of Storyworks Jr.!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Larissa Marantz!

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My name is… Larissa Brown Marantz.

I am… an illustrator, art teacher for little kids, big kids, and college kids, a cartoonist, a wife and mother, and I’m searching for Zen in a crazy world. I am Filipina and Black and have a multiracial family. I love seeing books with families that look like mine, so I aim to create picture books that represent my own family. I meditate daily, practice fasting, but love to eat pizza, brownies, and bacon cheese burgers with fries. I try to practice moderation in all things but sometimes go overboard and need an adjustment back to the middle. I love teaching art almost as much as I love making it and I love sharing what I do with people.

As a kid, I was… a voracious reader, too scared to ever speak up in class, but very imaginative. I loved to people-watch and I still do. I fell in love with drawing in kindergarten when I first mixed blue and red and discovered how to make purple (my favorite color) and I still love mixing colors to this day. As a kid, I was the only Black student in my grade at school and felt out of place for most of my childhood. I often wished I had long blonde hair like most of my classmates instead of the curly afro style I wore, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned to embrace who I was, inside and out.

Writing is… hard, so I leave it to my husband, Keith Marantz, who writes books for me to illustrate. Sometimes I have good ideas and we’ll write things together, but mostly I like to put the finishing touches on the books we write and leave the heavy stuff to him. We do a lot of talking about writing, and we talk a lot about story when we watch TV shows and movies. We know writing takes a lot of character development, plot development, and nuance, and we love to talk about that while we go on walks, or while lounging in the pool on a hot summer day.

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Drawing is… pure magic. As a very shy kid, drawing helped me to find my voice. There is no better feeling than to make something out of nothing that elicits an emotional response from a viewer (that goes for any type of creating, be it writing, cooking, performing, but I’m only really good at drawing and painting!). Drawing is also hard! But I love learning how to improve and I also love to teach others how to improve at their drawing. Drawing is a skill that can be learned, but one has to be willing to do a lot of bad drawings before they can get to the good ones. Not everything you draw will be great, but as long as you enjoy the process of creating, you’ll inevitably get to a point where you’ll make something that you love, and others will too.

Reading is… what I do to learn about myself, discover new worlds, fall in love with new characters, and connect to other people. My favorite things to read are graphic novels and esoteric books that help me find my Zen, like Eckhart Tolle. I have always loved reading biographies and have been inspired by the way people overcome adversity. Reading about the lives and experiences of other people builds compassion, tolerance, and understanding for the world around you.

Larissa_Marantz_Promo_May2020Books are… a way to find comfort and solace in these trying times. I once heard an incredibly moving and inspirational commencement address from one of my child’s teachers and she talked about growing up extremely poor. She talked about her love of reading and her thirst for knowledge as a child. By reading books, becoming educated, and focusing on increasing her knowledge about math, science, and the world around her, she was able to lift herself up. Thanks to the treasure of our public libraries, we have free access to books that can open up our world to entire universes of knowledge. Of course, the internet can do that now, too. Where webpages are “bookmarked” and scrolled for continued reading, I feel like books are a tangible place that readers can revisit and get lost in over and over again, in a truly focused way without the itch of opening a new tab or chiming notifications or banner ads and dancing gifs stealing our attention away from the printed word.

Did you know… that I can say my artwork was hanging in the White House? In 2008, my paintings of Barack Obama were featured in two galleries – the Democratic National Convention and the Manifest Hope: DC Inauguration gallery. After Obama entered the White House, I sent illustration prints of my work to the curator of the gallery shows who handed them out to people all over his office. At the time I was unaware that he recently began working for Valerie Jarrett at the White House. He told me, “Your art is up all over the place!” Had President Barack Obama seen my work? I think it’s very likely. Although sadly I can’t confirm it, but I like to think he had. Also, two of my paintings were selected by Senator Kamala Harris to be displayed in her Washington DC offices in 2019.

You can find me… AND CLYDE

On his website: ClydeTheHippo.com

On Twitter: @clydethehippo

On my website: LarissaMarantz.com

Teaching online art classes: OCArtStudios.com

Talking about my upcoming Graphic Novel: Making a Graphic Novel

On Twitter: @LarissaMarantz

On Instagram: @larissadrawsstuff

On Facebook: @LarissaMarantzArtist

THE ENGINERDS STRIKE BACK — Cover Reveal!

Yesterday, I revealed the cover of the third book in the EngiNerds series, The EngiNerds Strike Back, at the MG Book Village — the site I co-founded and continue to help run. Even though I’ve set up and hosted dozens, maybe even over a hundred, cover reveals for others, this morning’s reveal constituted my first official one. Typically I just post the covers onto social media, along with a whole bunch of exclamation points and emojis.

If you want to learn more about The EngiNerds Strike Back and hear some behind-the-scenes stuff about the cover, you can click HERE to check out my interview at the Book Village. And if you just want to take a look at the cover — created, once again, by the incredible Serge Seidlitz, here you go!

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The book is due to hit shelves on February 2nd, 2021, but is available for preorder wherever books are sold! If you’re considering preordering, please consider doing so from an independent bookseller — your local one, if you’ve got one! As always, if you order from my local indie, Porter Square Books, I’ll swing by the store once the book is out and sign your copy.

THANKS!

~ Jarrett

Activity BOOKS!

I’ve spent the past six weeks working pretty much every waking moment on a project that I haven’t yet been able to share about. But I finally got the go-ahead today to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! So, here you go:

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That’s a (heavily doodled-upon) contract for not one, but TWO activity books! They’ll be published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, and the first book, Give This Book a Title, will be out THIS October 27th. Starting today, however, you can preorder it wherever books are sold!

To be making a pair of books that will directly help kids explore and develop their creativity is a DREAM. And to do so with my incredible team at S&S/Aladdin is a DREAM on top of a DREAM. And none of it would’ve happened if it hadn’t been for the support of all of YOU!

The love and support you showed my activities and approach to kids’ creativity this spring meant the world to me, and always will. It also signaled to my publisher that these activities could be a hit in book form. So, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

I have no plans to remove the activities on the ACTIVITIES page of this site. Those will be there (free to all to use for educational, not-for-profit purposes) in perpetuity! And I’ll be sharing more about Give This Book a Title in the coming months, both here and, especially, on social media.

THANK YOU once again!

~ Jarrett

This School Year…

For many kids, teachers, and librarians, the school is coming (or has just come) to a close. And what a strange school year it was. Especially the last quarter of it. None of us could’ve foreseen that we’d be told to cancel all our plans, to stay at home — and to figure out how to teach a country full of kids remotely.

Last week, Amy Holmes — an educator from Waterford, Michigan — reached out to ask me whether I was planning to create some sort of “end of the school year” activity sheet. I hadn’t been, but thought it was a great idea. I figured both kids AND adults could benefit from some solid reflection after the past few months.

And so, I created this activity sheet:

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My hope is that the prompts are broad and open enough to get anyone’s brain churning, and that they lead to some positive, productive thinking. You can download a free, printable version of the activity sheet by clicking HERE. You can also find it at my ACTIVITIES page along with all my other activities.

Here’s hoping next school year is as “normal” as it safely can be. And here’s to never again taking for granted the time we get to spend teaching (and learning from!) kids in schools and the wonderful spaces — the classrooms, libraries, hallways, and fields — that they contain.

~ Jarrett

MORE The World Needs Your Story Shirts!

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Last week, people began receiving my The World Needs Your Story T-shirts that they ordered during my fundraiser for the Author Experience and continued kids’ book access efforts. Lots of people reached out to me to say that they forgot to order a shirt, and wanted one, or were just seeing the design for the first time and would love to get one.

So, we’re doing another round of fundraising! This time, however, proceeds from sales will be evenly split between the Author Experience and We Need Diverse Books, an incredible “non-profit…grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry.” We Need Diverse Books’ aim is “to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.”

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If you’re not familiar with We Need Diverse Books and all the wonderful work they do, I highly encourage you to visit their site and social media feeds and learn more. You can also, of course, donate directly to We Need Diverse Books — now, or after this T-shirt fundraiser ends.

In case you missed the link up top, click HERE to get to the T-shirt fundraising page. And as always, THANK YOU!

~ Jarrett