What IS a “Graphic Novel Chapter Book”?

My publisher calls the books in my Hunger Heroes series “graphic novel chapter books.” As I start to share more about the first book in the series, Missed Meal Mayhem (out 10/26), I thought it’d be useful to explain this terminology.

The stories told in the Hunger Heroes books are the size/scope of many early chapter books – comparable, for instance, to the books in my Geeger the Robot series. Missed Meal Mayhem contains 8 chapters (well, actually 8 and one half…).

While the stories are told almost entirely in comic format, you will find occasional blocks of text in the books. These are never longer than one whole page, and often contain both narration and dialogue (this is done on purpose!).

Our hope, of course, is that these books are enjoyed by all readers. But the book was also designed and formatted to hopefully serve as a “bridge” for a variety of readers…

For those kids who aren’t as comfortable reading blocks of text, we hope the careful integration of them into this graphic novel helps build their confidence and stamina, maybe opening them up to stories that rely more heavily on text.

For those kids who are just learning the language of comics, or who find the abundance of verbal AND visual information/stimulation in graphic novels overwhelming, we hope the bits of text offer moments to pause and catch their breath.

We also hope that these occasional juxtapositions of text and comic shine a light on the unique abilities and benefits of both verbal and visual storytelling, and also make plain how their different vocabularies appear on the page.

I hope, too, that the combination reminds all young creators that they don’t have to pick one or the other form – that they can express the stories they have inside them using words, pictures, comics, or a combination of that and more.

Once again: the first book in the Hunger Heroes series, Missed Meal Mayhem, is out October 26th, but is available for preorder NOW wherever books are sold! And thanks to all who preorder – it really is a great help to creators!

~ Jarrett

A WORK IN PROGRESS

Here it is! The book I alluded to yesterday morning on social media and here on my blog.

A Work in Progress is an illustrated novel in verse based on my own experiences with body image, body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and self-worth, and will be published Fall of 2022 by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin.

I’ll be sharing much more about the book and the decade-long process behind its creation in the coming months. For now, I just want to thank everyone who sent messages of care, support, and encouragement yesterday after I shared all I shared and announced the book. It all truly means the world to me. I feel like I’ve spent the past 20 years walking around with a rock in my shoe, and like I’ve just finally gotten it out.

~ Jarrett

Last night…

Last night I shared on social media that I’ll be helping Alyson Gerber celebrate her new book, Taking Up Space, next week. I said we’ll be having “an honest, personal conversation on why we need to talk to kids about body image, food, and self-worth.”

Some people may have wondered why Alyson asked ME to be at one of her events for the book. Which would be totally understandable – body image and its relationship to self-worth is not something I’ve ever really spoken about on here.

But these are things that I have quietly – for a long time, even secretly – struggled with for going on 25 years now. So, why have I decided to start talking about them now?

My mission as a children’s book creator is to help kids: help them fall in love with reading, help them discover all the things that books can do for them, help them find their creative voice and learn how to most powerfully use it.

A year or so ago, it occurred to me that I could potentially help kids in another way by sharing a part of myself, an aspect of my story, that I had never really shared before. And so, eventually, I made the decision to share it.

I dusted off an old manuscript based on my own experiences with body image, body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and self-worth (or extreme lack of it) and committed to finishing it. (I did. And will share more about all of that soon).

And now, starting with Alyson’s event next week, I am ready and even a bit excited (if also kind of nervous) to share my story and ongoing struggles – in, of course, appropriate settings and situations and, I hope, useful ways.

I’m grateful for Alyson and creators like her who have shown me how to begin to do all this, and who have helped make me feel strong enough to do it, and who have made plain all the potential good it can do.

Alyson’s new book, Taking Up Space, is not only an excellent book in and of itself. Like all her novels, it tackles tough, important topics in brilliant ways and, though it’s not even officially out yet, has already done a ton of good.

I’m also grateful to Alyson for giving me an opportunity and a place to begin sharing my story and discussing these topics and issues. As with all of my work – the book-making and beyond – I sincerely hope it helps some kids.

~ Jarrett

(If you want to join Alyson and me next week, head to my Appearances page and use the link provided to register for the event.)

GIVE THIS BOOK A COVER pub day!

Today’s the day!

My second activity book, Give This Book a Cover, is officially here!

Thanks to everyone who has used and shared my activities — it’s in large part thanks to YOU that these activity books (which I’ve been wanting to make for years and years!) are a reality. Now, I hope they help turn tons of kids into more confident, capable creative forces!

And just a reminder: if you want signed copies of Give This Book a Cover, or ANY of my books, you can always order from my local independent bookstore, Porter Square Books. Click HERE to check out all my books at their site!

~ Jarrett

GEEGER THE ROBOT GOES TO SCHOOL on the SSYRA Jr. List!

Yesterday, Geeger the Robot had a very good day.

At 10 o’clock yesterday morning, I learned that Geeger the Robot Goes to School had been included on this year’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award Jr. list. What does that mean? It means that kindergarteners, first-graders, and second-graders all across the state of Florida will be reading Geeger the Robot Goes to School this coming year, along with the 14 other book that were named to the SSYRA Jr. list. Then, in April, all those kids — tens of thousands! — will vote to decide which book is their favorite. The book with the most votes gets the award.

Two years ago, another one of my books — EngiNerds — was on the SSYRA list (not the Jr. list, but the one for third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders). I was honored, of course, and excited — but I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea just how creative, energetic, and enthusiastic Florida librarians, educators, and KIDS are — and especially when it comes to BOOKS. Because of EngiNerds‘s inclusion on the list, I met hundreds of educators and librarians and connected with thousands of kids that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise met and connected with. Getting a book on an SSYRA list is kind of like getting invited to a year-long party — and everyone at the party is a big ol’l BOOK NERD.

Here are the other books keeping Geeger company on the the SSYRA Jr. list.

I’ve read — and loved! — about half of these other books, and being on the list along with them makes the honor all the more awesome. I plan to read the rest over the course of the year (or, you know, maybe just over the course of this weekend…). But anyway, I can’t recommend them enough. And I can’t recommend enough that you check out the SSYRA lists for Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8. The committees put together some truly exceptional lists. (You can find those lists, plus past ones, and learn more about SSYRA in general by clicking HERE. More info about SSYRA Jr. can be found HERE.)

Thank you to the SSYRA Jr. committee for including Geeger the Robot Goes to School on this year’s list, and thank you to the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) for all the work they do to create such a robust and joyful culture of reading in their state and its schools. Let the party begin!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Shelley Johannes!

My name is… Shelley Johannes.

I am… the author and illustrator of the Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker chapter book series, and other exciting things to come!

More randomly, I am a hoper, dreamer, and over-thinker. Lover of people, process, and celebratory pizza. Former architectural designer. Sappy parent, bird nerd, and brand-new guitarist. Most of all, I am a kid whose biggest dream came true, and I am ridiculously grateful.

As a kid, I was… nicknamed Sonar because I was always listening in on the conversations around me, often from the way-back of our wood-paneled station wagon. I had high hopes and big dreams, and an epic pair of cloud-patterned bellbottoms to accompany them.

Writing is… the way I process the world. I’m a slow processer, but that struggle to conjure vague thoughts into something tangible is a compulsion I couldn’t live without.

Drawing is… a haven. There’s nothing as relaxing as disappearing into the page and letting everything else fall away.

Reading is… my favorite way to connect.

A friend bought me Alice Ozma’s memoir, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, as a birthday gift when I was a fairly new parent. Alice and her dad’s sweet, awkward, messy story of connecting through books impacted me deeply. Especially the idea that sharing books is sharing ourselves. Before I finished the last page, I vowed to cherish and protect reading time with my kids as a gift to all of us. A promise to be in the pages together for a lifetime. My boys are now twelve and fifteen, and reading together each night is still the best part of our day, and we defend that time like the precious thing it is.

I love that publishing has extended that reading connection to include an even broader family, and has woven threads of connection all over the place.

Books are… magic.

I’ve always wanted the power of teleportation. Books perform that magic every day. They take us endless places. They make us laugh and cry and learn and see and heal and grow. They challenge us, expose us, and enlarge us. My favorites make me pay attention and appreciate being alive—and see the wonder all around.

Did you know… my debut picture book, More Than Sunny, releases from Abrams on Tuesday, May 11th? I hope it brings readers as much joy as making it brought me. If you pre-order from Literati Bookstore by May 10th, you’ll receive a signed copy of the book, plus two free signed art prints with each purchase!

You can find me… working at home in my studio most days. Extremely high odds I’ll be in my yellow hat with a bird or two on my shoulder!

You can also find me at www.shelleyjohannes.com and—sharing birds, doodles and more!—as @shelleyjohannes on Instagram and Twitter. 

Get to Know… Elizabeth Eulberg!

My name is… Elizabeth Eulberg.

I am a… connoisseur of cheese and cupcakes, a lover of long walks around London and the Green Bay Packers, an avid singer of karaoke and dancing around to boy bands while cleaning, a player of the piano, guitar, clarinet, AND drums, the proud mother of a stuffed Baby Yoda. Oh, I also write books.

Elizabeth’s next novel, The Best Worst Summer, comes out on May 4th!

As a kid, I was… not the best student. Or reader. I was put in remedial reading in first grade and really struggled with school. I remember feeling very frustrated that my friends could easily pick up reading while I couldn’t. In second grade, I had to take a test, where we found out I have a couple learning differences, including dyslexia. Around fourth grade, I really started to love to read and became a stronger student thanks to my mom and teachers. I ended up graduating high school and college with honors. But I still think of the little girl who was so down on herself because she felt “dumb” and got bullied for her big buck teeth, glasses, and frizzy hair. And you know what, she turned out okay! 

Writing is… a necessity. It helps keep all those voices in my head in check. Wait, having voices in your head is normal, right? RIGHT?! 

Reading is… magical! How else can you go on mythical adventures, solve a crime, go back in time, or have a meet-cute without leaving the couch? It’s all just a turn of the page away.

Books are… THE BEST! I recently moved to a different country and had to go through alllll my books. It was really, really hard! I donated most so they could have a good home, but there were some that I refused to part with. But no matter where my favorite books are–in London, in storage in NYC, or on a school bookshelf–they’ll always have a place in my heart.

Did you know… that I only listened to music that came out in 1989 while writing part of The Best Worst Summer? Since half of the book takes place in 1989, I had a special playlist of fun songs from that time. Full disclosure: most of it was the New Kids on the Block. Hands off, Joey! He’s mine! 😉 

You can find me… wandering tiny alleys and courtyards in London. Or you can follow my British adventures online at www.elizabetheulberg.com, Twitter: @ElizEulberg, and Instagram: @ElizabethEulberg.

Independent Bookstore Day Giveaway!

Today is the last Saturday in April, and that means today is Independent Bookstore Day — a day where the book world comes together to celebrate and support independent bookstores and all the ways in which they contribute to their communities and the book industry as a whole. To help celebrate the day, and to send a bunch of support toward a bunch of different indies, I’m doing a giveaway:

That’s right — if you purchase or preorder ANY of my books from ANY indie this weekend, you can be entered to win one of three $100 gift certificates to the independent bookstore of your choice. All you have to do is send proof of purchase and/or preorder to JarrettLernerBooks@gmail.com. And I say “and/or” because if you get multiple books of mine, you will be entered into the giveaway multiple times.

Don’t have a local indie? Consider ordering from mine, Porter Square Books. Bonus: if you get any of my books from Porter, I’ll go sign them! Click HERE to check out my page at Porter Square Books.

If you decide to enter this giveaway, let me say THANK YOU for the support — not just of me, but also of independent bookstores. Independent bookstores enrich their communities in countless ways, and are a vital part of the book world. Without them, we’d all be worse off. If you value them, make sure you show them, however you are able and whenever you are able — not just today, but as much as possible throughout the year.

~ Jarrett

GIVE THIS BOOK A COVER Preorder Giveaway!

In three short weeks, on May 4th, my second activity book — Give This Book a Cover — hits shelves. The book offers more of the sort of creativity-boosting activities that can be found in Give This Book a Title — How to Draw instructions, writing/drawing prompts, and Finish this Comic comics — while also challenging those who’ve used the previous book to explore some imaginative territory they may not have before. I hope these carefully crafted and thoughtfully arranged activities not only give kids something fun and creative to do, but get them excited about using their creativity, and also help train their brains to see the potential stories both all around and within them.

If you have, or plan on, preordering the book, make sure to enter the Give This Book a Cover preorder giveaway. What can you win? a 30-minute visit with me! It can be used as a classroom, library, or whole school visit (if you are in a school or wish to donate the visit to one); it can be used as a small-group workshop (for a comics club or during a birthday party, for instance) or one-on-one lesson; it can be used as a consultation (if you are an author, illustrator, or author-illustrator looking for some insight or advice); or it can be used however else you wish!

To enter the giveaway, send proof of your preorder to LernerPreorder@gmail.com. And as always for my preorder giveaways, if you get your copy (or copies!) from an independent bookseller, you’ll be entered into the giveaway twice.

Thank you, as always, for the support, and I hope you and/or the young creators in your life enjoy this next batch of my activities!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Lisa Fipps!

My name is… Lisa Fipps.

I am an… introspective extroverted introvert. I love being around people, especially people I can laugh or have a deep, meaningful conversation with, but then I need to escape, retreat to my quiet, private space. When I’m extroverting (I love to make nouns into verbs), not only do I like to have fun and explore the world, but I also gather in my brain basket everything I see, hear, and feel. Then when I’m introverting, I process it all to use it in my writing. Natalie Goldberg describes this process perfectly in Writing Down the Bones. “Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life … But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time.”

As a kid, I was… the good girl, the responsible one, the resourceful one, the problem-solver, the fixer, the glue. Even though I come from a dysfunctional home and am the survivor of several childhood traumas, as a kid I was terrified of losing my family. So, I assumed the above-listed roles. The weight of the world was on my shoulders. All. The. Time. I think that’s why I gravitate toward issue-oriented books for kids. They’re living tough topics. They need books about tough topics.

Writing is… my life. I don’t write. I’m a writer. It’s who I am. I never feel more me than when I’m writing or hanging out with other writers. We see the world differently. We experience it differently. We’re our own artistic creatures that others often don’t understand.

Reading is… part pleasure and part pain. I love reading a good book. Some make me laugh. Some make me cry. Some make me think. Some teach me. Some do a combination of those things. That’s the pleasure part. But as a writer, I often find myself studying how the writer wrote the book. You know how a new mechanic will take an engine apart to identify and understand each piece and how it all goes together? That’s what I do. I dismantle the plot, dialogue, conflict, and so on to figure out how it all comes together, how it works. That gets to be a pain when all I want to do is enjoy a book.

Books are… my escape. When I was struggling with a lot of things as a kid, I could open a book and instantly be transported to England or Florida or another galaxy – far away from the chaos of home. I loved feeling like I was the character in a book and living a different life. If only for a while.

Did you know… I used to test-drive cars and write about them from a consumer point of view. That’s when I was a journalist. A limited-edition Camaro. Convertibles. A new car every week to drive as much as I wanted – I only had to put gas in them if I ran out – for several years. I’ve always had a thing for cars, especially new ones with all the bells and whistles. I never knew my dad because he died when I was 13 months old, but I’m told he was the same. Must be in my genes. 

You can find me… writing, doing school visits and events, reading, dabbling in art (watercolor and photography), and driving. Driving relaxes me. Oh, and you can find me virtually through my website, https://authorlisafipps.com/, or Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Just search for Author Lisa Fipps.