THE HUNGER HEROES: MISSED MEAL MAYHEM Lands on the Sunshine State Young Readers Award Jr. List!

In case you missed my shouting and celebrating about it on social media, I thought I’d share it here: The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem recently landed on the Sunshine State Young Readers Award Jr. list — and in some absolutely incredible company!

The Sunshine State Young Readers Award (SSYRA) program is run by the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). Every year, committees made up of Florida’s most passionate, hard-working school librarians and media specialists read hundreds of kids’ books and put together three lists: one for Grades 6-8, one for Grades 3-5, and one for all lower grades (that’s where the “Jr.” of SSYRA Jr. comes in). These lists are used across the state, in every county and pretty much every single school, to organize the following school year’s reading. Every school is going to do things a little differently, bringing their own creativity to how the books are explored and used, but when one of your books makes the list, you can be sure that you’re in store for several months of being flooded with tweets and emails about the incredible things librarians and kids are doing with your work.

I can say all this with such confidence because — it still feels a little surreal to say this — this is my THIRD time on the SSYRA lists. My first book, EngiNerds, was on the Grades 3-5 list a few years back, and just last year, the first book in my Geeger the Robot early chapter book series, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, was on the SSYRA Jr. list. Thanks to being on the list, I have made over a dozen trips to Florida in recent years, and have been lucky enough to meet and work with thousands and thousands of young Florida readers. I’m beyond thrilled that, with the first graphic novel chapter book in my Hunger Heroes series being on the list, I’ll get to meet and work with even more.

And I’ve said it before, and I’ll surely say it tons more in the future: but there is something special about the Florida literacy community, and about the librarians and media specialists that are the heart of it. They make a BIG DEAL about books, and not only because they’re book-lovers themselves, but because they understand what making a BIG DEAL about books can do for the kids they serve — that that’s a big part of helping turn them into book-lovers as well. Another thing: baked into the SSYRA program, evidenced every day all over the state in the way that schools and librarians are using the books on the lists, is the idea that books are, and can most powerfully be used, as launchpads. (If you’ve ever heard me present, you’ve definitely heard me say this before.) That books aren’t just there to be read — but to also serve as springboards, as sources of inspiration and motivation, as tools to propel their readers back into their worlds and lives with something they didn’t have before. Teaching kids this, showing them how this works and how it can be done — this is, I believe, one of the best ways to turn them into book-lovers and lifelong readers, and is one of the best things we can do in our work to prepare them for their futures. It’s also one of the core principles and guiding missions of my work.

All of which is to say: I’m overjoyed and honored, and so looking forward to another year working with Florida librarians, media specialists, educators, administrators, booksellers, parents, and — most importantly, as always — KIDS. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the SSYRA Jr. committee. Now, let’s get to work.

~ Jarrett

Learn more about the SSYRA program and FAME here.

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

HUNGER HEROES: MISSED MEAL MAYHEM Cover Reveal!

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!

~ Jarrett