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 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

Thank Your Sanitation Worker!

My friend Katie Reilley is a brilliant, innovative educator and the owner of one of the biggest, kindest hearts I know. Recently, she asked me whether I had any ideas for an activity sheet that might help her and her kids thank the sanitation workers who, throughout the crisis we’re facing, haven’t slowed down a bit, and are continuing to work hard to keep our homes, yards, and neighborhoods clean.

I thought it was a great idea — particularly since my wife and I had just spent the day cleaning up our backyard, and are now relying on our city’s sanitation workers to come haul away the yard waste so that, as the weather warms up, we can spend more of our time at home outdoors. Below is the sheet I came up with — a combination coloring page and thank you note.

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Click HERE to download a printable version of this sheet, or head over to my ACTIVITIES page to find it along with all my others. And don’t forget to visit that page often, as I add new activities just about every day.

Thanks again, Katie, for your inspiring work and for giving me this wonderful, big-hearted idea!

~ Jarrett

Geeger the Robot Goes to School!: Cover Reveal and Pub. Date!

I’m excited to share with the world the cover of my next book, Geeger the Robot Goes to School!, the first in the Geeger the Robot series!

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This book is about friendship, the power of a good teacher, and discovering that making mistakes is nothing to be ashamed of, but is in fact a great way — if the the BEST way! — to learn. The book hits shelves on August 25th, 2020, but I’ll share more info about preordering soon.

I’d definitely be remiss if I didn’t give a huge, grateful shout-out to the ridiculously talented Serge Seidlitz, who created yet ANOTHER incredible cover for me (Serge also created the covers for EngiNerds and Revenge of the EngiNerds).

I cannot wait for you all to meet Geeger, his teacher Ms. Bork, his best friend Tillie, and the rest of the crew at Amblerville Elementary School. Oh yeah, and the Digest-O-Tron 5000, too! WEE-oOoOo! WEE-oOoOo! WEE-oOoOo!

~ 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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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

#KidsNeedBooks on Today.com!

I was recently interviewed by Lisa Tolin of Today.com about #KidsNeedBooks and book access in general. You can find the article here and also on my Press page.

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One thing I’d like to take this opportunity to re-emphasize, is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to help out. I have made a habit of keeping an eye out for books, and have been able to find LOTS of affordable books that are still in great shape at: yard sales; library sales; used book stores; book stores’ remainder sections and “hurt” book bins; friends’ and neighbors’ homes (ask around to see if anyone would like to give); flash sales online — just to name a few sources!

If you’ve got books to give, contact schools or libraries or kids’ programs in your community. I am certain you can find people who would be grateful for your generosity and glad to help find good homes for your books.

Screen Shot 2019-05-30 at 6.13.42 AMLastly, if you have yet to read Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp’s Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. If you already care about this issue, or just want to learn more about it, THIS is the book to read. Get a copy for yourself, and maybe a couple for your friends and colleagues. Read it, then go out there and share the wealth of information and inspiration to be found in its pages.

~ Jarrett

Revenge of the EngiNerds!!!

Today’s the day!

Revenge of the EngiNerds has officially launched!

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If you preordered the book — which, by the way, THANKS! — it should be arriving at your home or independent bookstore today. Otherwise, you can go and get yourself a copy wherever books are sold. The book should also, of course, be available at your local library. And if you can’t find it on the shelves at any of these places, just ASK!

Anyway, I’m celebrating the big day over at the MG Book Village, where I’m talking to two  of my favorite people — Kathie MacIsaac and Corrina Allen — about one of my favorite things: humor!

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Don’t worry — no frogs were harmed in the creation of this blog post. Check it out here! And thank you — again and again and again — for all of your awesome support.

STAY NERDY!

~ Jarrett