Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a formidable name; the person attached to it could have been a lowering tower of intimidation. Fortunately, the author/illustrator of the Lunch Lady series, Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked, and several picture books (including Punk Farm on Tour) turns out to be – like his books – funny, warm, and lively.
When we were offered a visit to launch the newest Lunch Lady title, Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle, we leapt. We knew schools would be eager to meet Jarrett, and were they ever! We set up two visits and a store event, and the day was glorious. Jarrett does a fantastic presentation that really resonates with kids, and the schools created an amazing welcome for him. It makes all the difference when teachers get their kids excited about an author/illustrator, prepare them in advance for the visit, familiarize the students with the guest’s books, and invite the kids to be creative themselves. Both schools, Charlotte Central and the Orchard School, did that beautifully.
One teacher, Heidi from Charlotte, wrote afterward,
Thank you so much for an amazing author visit. Jarrett, your presentation was just perfect. The kids (and their librarian) are still floating on air! Every single one of the teachers who attended told me that you are the BEST visiting author they have ever seen. They loved that you made immediate connections for their students. One of the 2nd graders told his teacher that today was “the best day of my life.”
Doesn’t get better than that, does it?!
She also thanked the bookstore, saying, “I am constantly grateful for your advocacy for young readers. Your work in connecting Vermont students with mentor authors is truly appreciated.” What a gracious, thoughtful thing for her to say. That is balm for a bookseller’s day!
Below are some images from Jarrett’s visit, and at the end of the post, a behind-the-scenes peek at how a bookstore prepares for an author visit like this.
CCS had a Gadget Gallery students had created on display:
The Orchard School also went all out, creating an entire Comics Corridor of art by the entire K-5 school. Their librarian, Donna, is a dynamo. She’s also a tech-savvy, social-media wonder who tweeted about the visit, made Vines of the Comics Corridor beforehand, and pretty much turned January 28 into Jarrett J. Krosoczka Day.
Jarrett had brought his adorable, amazingly patient five-year-old daughter with him for the day. She had her own moment of fame when a small group of students learned that, not only was she the voice on the book trailers they had watched, but she had created some of the art in her Dad’s books. They oohed and aaahed over the colors she had painted on a boat in Jarrett’s upcoming picture book, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, and she beamed when an older boy said, “I couldn’t do anything that good!” (A side note: if Jarrett ever grows tired of creating books, and we hope he won’t, he could do a great business in giving parenting seminars. He was so gentle and fun and patient and kind with his daughter, it was just lovely to see!)
After his presentations, Jarrett signed and personalized more than 300 books for the kids in the schools. He also found time to razz a couple of illustrator friends, Bob Shea and Peter Brown, who had been mock-arguing on Twitter about whose books, Bob’s or Peter’s, would be more popular with kids in Vermont. This was Jarrett’s answer:
After the school visits, Jarrett came to Shelburne Town Hall for our store event.
Normally, we would have had a cake with his newest book cover on it, but both of the bakeries in the area that have food-grade printers couldn’t do it. One had run out of toner (for some reason, this struck me as so funny, that you have to order toner for a cake) and the other’s printer was broken. So the bakery had to make do with using some of the colors of the book:
For anyone wondering about behind-the-scenes prep for events like this, here’s how it works. When authors are launching a new book and are touring for it, the publisher is often willing to offer school visits in conjunction with the tour. Because this is a huge gift on the part of both publisher and author, those visits need to be supported with book sales and wide exposure. So at the Flying Pig, in addition to selling the books and promoting our own store event, we have a responsibility to (1) choose schools that go out of their way to create a special day for the visiting author and (2) invite book orders from those schools to support the visit. (Another behind-the-scenes tidbit: we offer authors first to schools that support us back by shopping at the bookstore. I’ve been surprised to be approached asking about free author visits from schools who don’t even do business locally!)
We create order forms and teachers send them home a few weeks before the event. We offer schools 20% off these event titles. That’s our normal school-purchase discount anyhow, and it gives a little break to families who might not have a lot of extra funds for books. One thing the Orchard School did that we LOVED was to ask the PTO to buy a book for all of the kids who use the free or reduced-fee lunch program. That way, no child who wants a book is shut out because they can’t afford it. This is so, so important, and something we’ve struggled with about these events. I don’t want ANY child to feel left out at an event! So this is a marvelous solution we will mention as a possibility to all schools in the future.
Once the orders come back, it takes a few hours to process the checks and cash and hilarious math mistakes (it’s figuring out the tax that trips people up; I’ve vowed that next time, I’ll just build tax into each book’s cost on the order form).
Then we pull books for each order and make Post-Its for each title with the child’s name, so that Jarrett can autograph quickly and accurately.
We rubber-band individual orders, then sort the books into bags separated by classroom. We box up the bags, and off they go.
That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about the back end of a bookstore-coordinated author visit, but there you have it!
With something like 600 inspired children, scores of delighted teachers and customers, two satisfied principals, and lots of wonderful books sold, well, it’s not hard to imagine that that adds up to happy author, publisher, publicists, and us!
Thanks so much to Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Random House, Deb Shapiro, Deborah Sloan, Heidi Huestis, and Donna Macdonald for a fabulous day!