A WORK IN PROGRESS Update: Educator’s Guide, Another STARRED Review, and More

I just returned home from the final out-of-state school visits of my A Work in Progress tour, and have some news to share, in case you missed my posting about it on social media.

First, this website now has its very own A WORK IN PROGRESS page. On it you’ll find some general information about the book, a list of accolades (with links), and — drumroll please — the Educator’s Guide! This IS deserving a drumroll, because this guide: it’s EPIC. And you can trust me on that, because it wasn’t me who made it.

The Educator’s Guide was made by award-winning middle school media specialist Carrie Friday, and she did SUCH a fantastic job. Using both carefully crafted questions and thoughtful extension activities, Carrie has not only created a resource that will help educators ensure their readers get everything out of A Work in Progress that I could’ve hoped and dreamed, but has found so much more in the book. Her experience and brilliance as a librarian really shine through, and I’m amazed by all the ways she has found to use the book as a launchpad for meaningful discussion and productive exploration. Again: you can find the Educator’s Guide at the A WORK IN PROGRESS page of this site, or by simply clicking HERE.

In other A Work in Progress news: the book received another STARRED review. This time, it’s from Shelf Awareness, and the reviewer (Cade Williams) really got what I was going for. In addition to calling “earnest and inspiring,” Williams says:

Lerner’s novel is striking, sincere, and sensitive to the very real problems of bullying and ostracization. Visually, the book recalls a middle-schooler’s notebook, with a font reminiscent of penciled handwriting and striking cartoonish doodles that illustrate the novel’s events and Will’s emotional reactions to them. Throughout the novel Lerner uses repetition, emphases (such as bolding and capitalization), and free-verse forms to illustrate feelings of chaos and disorientation, anxiety, and oppressive self-loathing, and–eventually–determination and self-acceptance. A Work in Progress conveys a resounding and empowering message of self-love.

THANK YOU, Cade, for the kind words — and for that shiny star!

On top of touring to do school visits and bookstore events to share about A Work in Progress, I’ve also been doing lots of interviews, as well as guest posts at various websites. Only a portion of these posts and interviews have been published or aired. But you can find all of those that have — and keep an eye out for more as they are released — at the PRESS page of this website. Click HERE to head over there. As more interviews and filmed appearances are made public, they’ll be linked on that page.

Thanks to all of you who have already shown A Work in Progress so much love and given it so much support. The book has only been out for a few weeks and it’s already been such a wild, enjoyable ride.

~ Jarrett

The Hunger Heroes Social Media TAKEOVER!

The Hunger Heroes, my series of graphic novel chapter books, launches four weeks from today, when the first book in the series, Missed Meal Mayhem, publishes. Starting tomorrow, this crew of superheroic taco ingredients will be dominating my social media feeds, as I share tons of fun, cool stuff about the book and how I made it. There will sneak peeks of the finished book, as well as process pictures/posts and behind-the-scenes insights into just what goes into making a graphic novel.

I hope that all of this not only drums up interest in and excitement about Missed Meal Mayhem and the Hunger Heroes series as a whole, but also serves as a tool for educators, librarians, and parents of kids out there looking to learn more about drawing, writing, storytelling in general, and comic-making in particular. As such, I’ll be including a hashtag — #TheHungerHeroes — on each of these posts (which you can find on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook), and will also be collecting them all here, next month, once I’m done sharing all I have to share and the book is out.

One last thing: if you’re planning to preorder The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem, I hope you’ll consider doing so from your local independent bookstore — or from one of my local indies. Copies of the book preordered from any of the four Massachusetts indies shown/mentioned below will be signed, personalized (if you wish), and doodled in.

Click HERE to preorder The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem from The Silver Unicorn.

Click HERE to preorder The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem from Porter Square Books.

Click HERE to preorder The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem from The Blue Bunny.

Click HERE to preorder The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem from Belmont Books.

I’ve been making my own comics since the third grade (that’s one of the things I’ll be sharing more about in the coming weeks!). That, combined with the fact that I’ve been working on this comic book for so darn long, makes the fact that it’s about to be out in the world all the more surreal. It’s another piece of my dream coming true. I can’t wait to properly introduce the Hunger Heroes to you, in the form of their first adventure, and in the lead up to that moment, I hope you enjoy all the stuff I’ve got to share with you.

~ 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 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.



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!


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