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!
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!
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!
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.
Yesterday, I finally got the go-ahead to share the cover of the first graphic novel in my Hunger Heroes series! In case you missed it on social media, here you go:
If you’ve been following me for a while, then you’ve been hearing about this book for YEARS. It all started as a doodle dashed-off on some hotel stationary between sessions at a conference, and has gone through an enormous amount of development since then. I’m incredibly pleased with and proud of how it all turned out, and am excited to share more about the Heroes and their first adventure with you all in the lead-up to the book’s release this September!
Today’s the release day for the second book in my Geeger the Robot series of early chapter books! I hope this somewhat silly take on the serious subject of self-doubt brings readers joy, delight, confidence, comfort, and hope.
Thanks to everyone who has supported this series so far. The books are a total blast to create, and I’m very proud of how they’re turning out. I’m excited to share more about the next books in the Geeger the Robot series soon!
In case you missed the announcement on social media, I’ve launched a brand-new online project!
Every Friday morning, I’ll post a creative activity or challenge on my social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Responses to the activity or challenge can be submitted as replies to the post itself. (They must be, in fact — I will not read or consider responses submitted by other means.) I will read and consider the properly submitted responses as they come in, and will continue to do so for each activity or challenge until I’ve posted the following week’s activity or challenge. And once I’ve done that, I’ll select and announce the previous week’s winner (or winners, if I decide that more than one response is win-worthy!). The winner will receive a signed copy of my first activity book, Give This Book a Title.
Also, please note: there are no age limits or requirements for entry. Kids can enter. Grown-ups can enter. Parents can enter on behalf of their kids. Educators can enter on behalf of their students. And, yeah, I suppose even kids and students can enter on behalf of their parents and educators!
The first activity or challenge will be posted this morning, in less than an hour’s time! So keep an eye out, or come find me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to participate. I hope this project proves fun, and that it helps reveal the creativity within every one of us and encourages people to more often share that creativity with the world.
Want to learn more about my activity book, Give This Book a Title, which comes out tomorrow?
If you answered yes to both of the questions above, I’ve got some very good news for you…
Tonight at 8 pm EST I’ll be going live over on Instagram to give a tour of the book, share about the creation process, do some drawing demos, and answer questions! You can find me on there at @jarrett_lerner. I plan to post the video to Facebook once the event is over, so if you can’t make it at eight o’clock, you can still check things out.
As a kid, I believed that to be an author was to be able to write easily. I assumed that authors sat down at their desks and banged out an entire novel in an afternoon, every sentence unspooling perfectly from their fingers on the first try. Thinking this prevented me, for a long time, from believing that I could be an author. Because writing was far from easy for me. I loved doing it. But easy? No way. My sentences and stories required lots of reworking before they were just how I wanted them, before they were exactly how they seemed to need to be.
All of this is why, when I work with kids, I emphasize the importance of revision. Every presentation I give, every workshop I hold — there is always a discussion of revision, often an in-depth one, and I regularly do exercises to help make this essential part of the writing process more approachable and enjoyable. Typically, the teachers of the kids I work with are extremely grateful for all this. Revision, they say, is something their students usually don’t want to talk about, much less do. But revision isn’t just an essential part of the writing process — it’s an essential part of the creative process. Any kind of creation.
If you follow me here and/or elsewhere, you’re no doubt aware that I’m an advocate for visual learners, and that I believe that visual literacy does not get the respect and attention it deserves in our schools and classrooms (though there are plenty of incredible teachers fighting against that trend, and I’m honored to call so many of them colleagues and friends).
As kids, we all draw. We draw long before we can write. And mark-making — even that done by a toddler — is a form of expression, an attempt at communication. But something happens as we grow older. So many of us stop drawing. And for some reason that is frustratingly unfathomable to me, we begin to believe that drawing, that visual expression and communication is something we either can or can’t do. It’s an either/or. We’re either born with it or we’re not.
And all of this is why, when I work with kids and adults, I emphasize the importance of revision in illustration. Because somewhere or other, as we age, we’re disabused of the notion that an author can effortlessly write an entire novel in an afternoon. But the same can’t be said of the myths that get built up around illustrators, or even just people who can, and do, draw — people who, in other words, can express themselves and communicate clearly with images as opposed to, or in addition to, words.
Recently, to try and further dispel some of these myths, I shared on social media a bit about just how much work goes into the creation of the art for a book cover. Again, if you follow me here and/or elsewhere, you’ve no doubt seen this:
This, of course, is the cover of Give This Book a Title, my first activity book (which comes THIS Tuesday, December 15th, by the way!). And this artwork — just like every single illustration inside the book — was the end product of a long process, one filled with revision and all the things that come along with it (the missteps and mistakes, the detours and doubts).
The process began, more or less, here (I say “more or less” because even this rough drawing was revised many times before it was passed along):
This is a cover art mock-up I made to go along with the book proposal that my agent and I sent out to publishers. I shared it knowing full well that, if the book sold, everything about it might change — and not just the layout or composition, but even the title. And, indeed, for a while it did. Because after the book sold and I began to work with an art director, we decided to explore alternate cover ideas. I explored some different concepts in a sketchbook, filling pages of pages. Out of all that messy meandering came just one solid, shareable idea.
A meeting was had. My editor, my art director, and I spoke at length about these two different cover concepts. We analyzed them and reanalyzed them. We tried to imagine ourselves seeing the covers for the first time — on a computer or on a phone or in a bookstore, as a kid or a teacher or a parent. We made lists of pros and cons, things we liked and didn’t like. And over the course of the conversation, and the days that followed, the items on those lists often flip-flopped, as we re-reanalyzed and thought of something we hadn’t considered before.
And then, finally, we made a decision. We went with the original concept. And that was when the work really began. First, my art director sent me this:
It was a revised version of my original mock-up, with several subtle but extremely significant alterations. For instance, the subtitle was made smaller. The cloud shape was inserted — which, even in this somewhat crude, black-and-white state, my art director knew would add depth to the cover and help set the words off against the images. My art director also gave more life and energy to the drawing by angling some of the extra images she included (like the pencils). All together, these seemingly minor changes create a more cohesive and excitingly complex cover.
With this mock-up as my template, I created a tighter ink drawing:
(Note, though, that this is the final version of the ink drawing. It went through many rounds of revision — I replaced the parachuting dot with the frantic bird, the oozing pizza with a skeptical ice cream cone, the surprised ghost with a giggling one, and two of the pencils with other writing/drawing implements, and, as you’ll see below, briefly removed the sunglasses-wearing sun and sprinting chicks, only to put them back — before we arrived here.)
Once we were all satisfied with the sizing, placement, and positioning of the words and images, I moved onto coloring. This part of the process, at first, consists of one thing: play! I dropped all sorts of colors into the drawing, trying all different kinds of combinations, then sitting back and considering how I reacted to them, and how potential purchasers of the book might react to them. Eventually, I settled on a selection of colors that I liked, and sent it onto my editor and art director.
While my editor and art director didn’t hate this, they decided the color choices were too sedate. Which, basically, is another way of saying BORING. A word we kept coming back to was vibrant. We wanted this book to really leap off the shelf (or screen). We wanted it to cause people to stop in their tracks. We wanted to catch their eye, and force them to pause and take a closer look.
So, it was back to the drawing board, so to speak. There was more play — but this play was informed by something else. Research. I studied book covers, hundreds of them. I picked through my shelf, I headed to the bookstore (I’m always looking for an excuse to head there…), I scrolled through websites. I even studied some brand logos and clothes, trying to get a sense of all the possible color combinations there were, and trying to figure out how each one made me feel.
I came up with lots of possibilities. Like, LOTS. Let’s just say, in the end, I threw 17 — yes, seventeen — different options at my editor and art director. (See: LOTS.)
Another meeting was had. We analyzed, reanalyzed, and — again — even re-reanalyzed, and finally settled on the cover as you have now seen it.
But even this long telling of the cover-creation process doesn’t quite account for ALL the revision that occurred. It would be impossible to account for all the minor alterations that took place. How many times did I ever so slightly shift the placement of the title, subtitle, and byline? Hundreds. Easy. How many times did a just the motion and emphasis lines surrounding the characters? Maybe thousands.
I hope, if you’ve joined me on this behind-the-scenes tour of this process, you’ve gained a deeper, more informed understanding of just how much revision there is in every creative product. I often say that “writers” should really be called “revisers” — because that’s mostly what we do. When it comes to illustration, there’s no similar term for it — redrawers? re-illustrators? — but the same is true. And I believe the same is true, in some form or another, for every creative endeavor. By chipping away at the myths that surround various forms of creativity — and that often prevent people from recognizing, embracing, celebrating, and sharing their creativity — I believe we can help make the world a brighter, more beautiful, and better place.
Note: my art director for this project, who is AMAZING, is Alicia Mikles. You can learn more about Alicia and her work here.Karin Paprocki, who has served (and continues to serve) as art director for all my other books, also played a role in the directing of this project.
The next few weeks are going to be a busy and exciting one for me. And, not only because of the holidays — but because, over the course of the next eight weeks, I’ve got THREE books coming out! The first, Give This Book a Title, is my very first activity book. That comes out on December 15th. Just a few weeks later, on January 5th, the second book in my Geeger the Robot early chapter book series, Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, pubs. After a month later, the third novel in my EngiNerds series, The EngiNerds Strike Back, hits shelves.
To thank my fans and supporters, I’ve launched preorder giveaways for each of these releases:
— If you preorder Give This Book a Title, you can be entered to win a custom work of art by me — to be clear, that’s a work of art that YOU get to customize. I’ll work with you to come up with and execute something you want, either for yourself or someone in your life.
— If you preorder Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, you can be entered to win 50 (yep — that’s fifty) copies of the first book in the Geeger the Robot series, Geeger the Robot Goes to School. And every single one of those copies will be signed and doodled in!
— If you preorder The EngiNerds Strike Back, you can be entered to win 25 copies of each of the first two books in the EngiNerds series, EngiNerds and Revenge of the EngiNerds. And as above, all of those copies will be signed and doodled in!
How do you enter these giveaways? Just send proof of preorder to LernerPreorder@gmail.com. If you preorder multiple titles, you can send proof separately or together — doesn’t matter! We’ll figure it out. And, as always, if you do your preordering from an independent bookseller, you’ll be entered into the giveaway for that title TWICE!
Preordering books is hugely, HUGELY helpful for creators. So to all of those who have and plan to preorder: thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!