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.

THE HUNGER HEROES: MISSED MEAL MAYHEM Nominated for an OTTER Award!

You might’ve already seen this on my social media feeds, but just in case you haven’t, I’m thrilled to share here that…

The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem was nominated for a Washington State OTTER Award!

Here’s the official announcement:

While EVERY award nomination is a huge honor, this one is especially meaningful because of the specifics of the award and how the nominee list is formed.

First of all, the OTTER Award focuses on books in a unique and, I believe, important and often under-appreciated space, one where young readers often get “lost.” This is what’s commonly called the “transitional” space — the area between picture books and beginning readers and longer, more complex chapter books. While this is beginning to change now, for too long there just haven’t been enough high quality, high interest books in this transitional space. And it’s in this space that kids are often asked to — and usually want to — begin reading independently. That “loss” I mentioned comes about because the leap from picture books and beginning readers to longer, more complex chapter books is a big one. Lots of kids — if not MOST kids — would be far better served by some sort of “bridge,” or at least a handful of “stepping stones” along the way to more easily traverse that gap. THIS is where the “transitional” books come in. It’s a space I love dearly, a space I am passionate about, and maybe because of all that, it’s also a space I find a lot of my work naturally fitting in.

The other amazing thing about the OTTER Award? It’s based, in large part, on kid approval. Here it is, verbatim, from the Washington Library Association’s website:

By focusing this award list on books kids like, not books adults think kids should like, more children across the state will be reading and talking about literature. Nominees will be vetted by child readers so that all titles have a kid stamp of approval.

I mean, COME ON. Is there anything better? For years, every chance I get, I’ve been saying that we need to make kids a part of the decision-making processes behind the creation and curation of their books, and I’ve done all that I can to make that happen. After all, these books that we’re making and sharing and working so hard to get into their hands are FOR them. Any endeavor that doesn’t, at the very least, take them into consideration is inherently flawed. But the fact that the Washington librarians who created and serve on the committee for the OTTER Award include kids to this extent shows just how awesome they are. They really, truly GET it.

And it’s why, as I said before, this honor is an especially meaningful one. Not only has this group of librarians singled out my book as an exemplary one, it’s also been given that official “kid stamp of approval.” So, thank you to the committee members for considering and honoring my book in this way, and THANK YOU to the kids who considered it, too, and gave it their stamp of approval, pushing it over the finish line and getting it this nomination.

Check out the other OTTER Award nominees below — all of which are EXCELLENT — and visit the Washington Library Association’s OTTER Award page HERE.

~ Jarrett

The Hunger Heroes and the Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award!

A few days ago, I learned that my graphic novel chapter book, The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem, had been given a Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award Honor. Like similar awards across the country, the committee behind this one is made up of a group of thoughtful, talented, and passionate librarians — which makes this honor all the more remarkable and exciting for me. These are professionals who know what kinds of books kids — the kids of our world, TODAY — both want and need.

Missed Meal Mayhem was singled out for its excellence as a “transitional” book, meaning it’s uniquely equipped to help grow young readers, boosting their confidence and increasing their abilities as they eagerly turn the pages. These readers are precisely who I had in mind when I created this series of books. The Hunger Heroes series’ unique format — which carefully includes occasional blocks of text within a larger, more traditional graphic novel — was designed to reach these readers and do exactly what these Maryland librarians have said the book has done and is doing with their readers. As a book-maker, there’s not much better than getting this sort of affirmation. The only thing better, in fact, is hearing directly from kids about how much they enjoy your work, and learning that what you hoped your work would do for them has done that and then some.

Click HERE to learn more about the Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award and the books on their lists, both past and present.

Click HERE to learn more about The Hunger Heroes series and the creation of The Hunger Heroes: Missed Meal Mayhem in particular.

And once more: THANK YOU to the Maryland librarians for considering my book and giving it this awesome honor!

~ Jarrett