#KidsNeedMentors: Year 2!


Once again, Kristen Picone, Kristin Crouch, and I spent a chunk of our summer poring over spreadsheets and playing matchmaker for hundreds of educators, librarians, authors, and illustrators for the second installment of the #KidsNeedMentors program. It was A LOT of work, and we’re not even quite done yet. But I think it’s safe to say I speak for Kristen and Kristin when I say that this is some of the most rewarding work we do. Getting to see the outcome of these partnerships — all the amazing, creative work they do together to benefit the kids — is tremendously satisfying, uplifting, and inspiring. If you want to see some of that stuff for yourself, I suggest you head over to Twitter or Instagram and search the #KidsNeedMentors hashtag. If you scroll back in time, you can see some of the awesomeness that occurred during last school year.

I’ll be sharing more about the program and the wonderful participants throughout the year, but now, at the outset, I’d like to highlight a couple of cool things:

— Last year, our creator list was mostly filled with authors from the United States. This year, we’ve got a whole bunch of illustrators, author-illustrators, comic book-markers, and graphic novelists. We also have lots of creators from Canada, and others who are in Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Austria, the Philippines, and the UK. We’ve also got educators and librarians in Zambia and Cambodia!

— My pairing for this year is Ms. Tilden’s 4th grade class at Brown School in Natick, Massachusetts. Now, the town of Natick is right next to Wayland — and that’s where I grew up. It’s where I made my very first comic books and wrote my very first short stories. It’s where I fell in love with books and reading. Meaning that, when I go to visit Ms. Tilden’s students, we’ll all be just a handful of miles from where, when I was their age, I was first beginning to dream of doing what I’m doing now. Pretty cool.

If you want to learn more about the #KidsNeedMentors program, click here for a blog post I did about it at the start of last year, and click here for an interview I did about it over on the From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog. Also, once again, you can always search the hashtag!

~ Jarrett

MORE #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-Shirts!

You asked for it, so here it is: another chance to get a #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds shirt. And look — new colors!

The original fundraiser only lasted two weeks, and many people either missed the deadline or couldn’t make a purchase during that time. Many people also expressed an interest in having some other color options. So, I worked with CustomInk to (a) re-launch a second, longer fundraiser and (b) add some new color options to the mix! As you can see below (and also on the fundraising page itself), there is now a black with white ink option, a military green option, a light pink with dark pink ink option, and an orange with white ink option.

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The landing page for the fundraiser is the same as last time — you can click here to access it. One thing, however, that is a little bit different about this fundraiser: instead of all the funds going directly to First Book, a portion will go to them and a portion will be reserved for book donations to other school in need that do not qualify for First Book.

Once again, a big, huge, gigantic THANK YOU to everyone who has supported and/or shared the last fundraiser, and a big, huge, gigantic THANK YOU in advance to everyone who supports and/or shares this one. I am excited to learn more from First Book about exactly where the funds raised last round are going, and am excited to put whatever is raised this round toward getting more books into the hands of kids.

Oh! And if you already have a shirt (lots of people got theirs today!), don’t forget to post a #ShowMeYourShirt pic to enter to win some signed books and custom artwork!

~ Jarrett


If you purchased one of my #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-shirts, then you might’ve received an email from CustomInk earlier this morning letting you know that your shirt has shipped and is on its way to you (if you did not receive the email, you should within a couple days)! Hopefully you’re excited, because I’m excited, and FirstBook is excited too. They are so excited, in fact, they want to see you in your shirt! They asked me to help launch a #ShowMeYourShirt campaign.


Please note that the handle mentioned above is FirstBook’s Twitter handle. Their Instagram handle is @FirstBookOrg.

Taking part is as simple as putting on your shirt, snapping a pic, and posting it! Just make sure to tag me and FirstBook, and to use the #ShowMeYourShirt hashtag somewhere in your tweet or Instagram post. But wait, there’s more — one lucky #ShowMeYourShirt poster will win some signed books and custom artwork by me!

Thank you all again for your celebration of my art and your support of FirstBook. And if you didn’t get a chance to purchase a T-shirt and want one, I’ll have news in the coming days about how you can get one!

~ Jarrett

First Drafts Are…

Before I visit a school, I always ask educators and administrators if there is anything in particular that they want me to share or discuss during my time with their students. Pretty much 100% of the time, they ask me to talk about revision — the importance of it and the reality of it, even for so-called “professional” authors and illustrators. Because, as a kid, I was under the impression that authors and illustrators always got it “right” on the first try, I already spent a lot of time during my presentations talking about revision. But during one visit a year or so ago, I had this thought — that I am just one person telling these kids about how writers should really be called “revisers,” because that’s mostly what we do, and about how every illustration you see in a book is the product of hours and hours and hours of work, of countless attempts. What if, after spending the day with me, the kids thought, “Well, that’s just how it is for that guy. But every other author and illustrator must get it right on the first try.”

How could I make sure this wasn’t the case? I got my pals to help me out! I asked kid lit authors to describe their first drafts for me using just one word. The responses were wonderful — and, of course, not a single creator said “perfect” or “polished” or “awesome” or “complete” or anything even remotely close to that. Frankly, the majority of respondents used the word “poop” (or some variation of it…). To share this information with kids, I made a quick drawing in my sketchbook, illustrating the words to make them more fun. This morning, I made a digital version of that drawing, so that educators could download a clean copy and use it as they wish.

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Seeing this graphic, kids are always blown away — and, once they get over the fact that they are looking at the word “POOP” on a big screen, they feel encouraged and inspired to get back to their notebooks and sketchbooks and make some creative mistakes. Thank you to all the creators who responded to my original tweet all those months ago! To download a free copy of the graphic (and a number of others), head over to my Art page.

~ Jarrett

#KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-Shirt Fundraiser Update

Welp, this week has been a wild one. When I put my Kids Need Books of All Kinds art on a T-shirt using CustomInk, I honestly expected to sell 15, maybe 20 shirts, thereby raising a few hundred bucks for FirstBook. Never did I expect this:

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That’s right: as of this post, 700 shirts have been sold, and the $10,000 mark was surpassed yesterday afternoon — and there’s still a whole week of fundraising left! It helped, certainly, that both FirstBook and CustomInk have been sharing about the fundraiser across their social media platforms (and thank you again to CustomInk for featuring the fundraiser for #FundraisingFriday):


But more than anything else, the success of this campaign is because of two things:

1. The astounding generosity of the kid lit community (especially that of educators and librarians, who we know don’t get paid even close to enough for the incredible — and incredibly important — work they do).

2. The wonderful, wonderful work that FirstBook does.

Of course, these two things are linked. FirstBook is “a nonprofit supporting teachers and students in the USA’s highest-need communities with books and educational resources.”

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So many of the people who have purchased shirts have left messages expressing gratitude to FirstBook and appreciation for their work and mission. (And if you are an educator, and you still aren’t totally sure what FirstBook does — and what it might be able to do for YOU! — I can’t encourage you strongly enough to visit their site and learn more.) I couldn’t be prouder to be playing a role in equipping FirstBook to continue providing their support to our country’s teachers and students. THANK YOU to everyone who has purchased a T-shirt and/or shared the fundraiser. I am sitting here flabbergasted and with a very full heart.

~ Jarrett

#KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-Shirt!

Recently, I made a digital version of my Kids Need Books of All Kinds artwork, just so those educators and librarians who were printing copies of it would have a cleaner, crisper version to use (you can download YOUR free copy of the art here).

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Shortly after I shared the new art, elementary librarian Amy Timmins got it onto a T-shirt!

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And it wasn’t long after that that people began suggesting I make some T-shirts of my own, and make them more widely available. A couple specifically said I should use CustomInk to make the T-shirt, as I could do so risk-free, avoid having to deal with shipping any of the shirts myself, and — most importantly — because I could direct any proceeds toward an organization of my choice! It seemed like a no-brainer, and right away I knew what organization I’d fundraise for: FirstBook.

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If you don’t know about FirstBook and the incredible work they’re doing, I highly suggest you check them out — especially if you are an educator, librarian, administrator, or creator of books. I chose them because I knew that every single dollar that went their way would be spent getting the best books out there into the hands of the kids who need them most.

So, I uploaded my art and set up a fundraiser.

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The response simply BLEW ME AWAY. Within two hours, we’d raised over $1,000. Within six, we were over $2,000! As of right now, we’re just shy of $2,500, and the fundraiser hasn’t even been live for a full day! And I say “we” because this is, of course, a group effort — one more example of the kid lit community coming together to do something good for the kids. Perhaps not for the particular kids in your classroom or library, but like my pal Ro Menendez, teacher-librarian at Cannaday Elementary School in Mesquite, Texas, likes to say, “ALL kids are OUR kids.”

THANK YOU to everyone who has purchased a shirt and who has shared the fundraiser on one social media platform or another. I appreciate it, as does FirstBook. A member of their team reached out to me this morning to let me know exactly that.

Click here to access the fundraising page and get yourself a shirt!

~ Jarrett

HUNGER HEROES: The Beginnings

Last night, I finally shared the news that my graphic novel, HUNGER HEROES, will be out in the Fall of 2020. Today I want to share this:

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This is the germ of the idea that would become HUNGER HEROES, scribbled and doodled on a piece of stationary from the Rodeway Inn in Hesston, Kansas (a hotel, I want to add, with one of the friendliest staffs I’ve ever met, plus a popcorn machine and a constantly restocked tray of hot, fresh, homemade cookies in the lobby).

This was last year, in 2018, and I was in Kansas for nErDCampKS. I often get my wildest, craziest, best ideas when I’m out of my creative routines and comfort zone. Add the energy and inspiration of nErDCamp to the mix, and it’s no surprise that I was getting some new story ideas. I’m just glad I had a pen and paper on me — though it’s rare that I don’t — and also that I took seven or eight seconds to get this idea down.

I try to do this anytime an idea comes to me. Nine times out of ten — or maybe even ninety-nine times out of a hundred — the idea doesn’t have the legs it needs to turn into a full-fledged story. But that’s just the way the creative process works: you log ninety-nine misses before you hit your target, you have to do something the wrong way ninety-nine times before you figure out how to do it right (or at least less wrong).

All of which is to say something that I’ve said plenty of times before: every now and then, make sure to intentionally shake up your routine. Get out of your comfort zone — and don’t forget to take a pen and paper along with you!

~ Jarrett