KidLit Superhero!--in the KidLit Studio with Jarrett Lerner
I have a houseful of boys (six, to be exact, when I include my husband in the count), and finding books perfect for elementary kids who are starting to read on their own about farting robots, disgusting food, and saving the world has been a priority of mine over the years. So when I found the two book series EngiNerds and Geeger the Robot, Jarrett Lerner hit my radar--and I've been following him ever since.
EngiNerds is a 2018 Global Read Aloud nominee and a finalist for the Sunshine State Young Readers Award. Jarrett is also the author of Revenge of the EngiNerds, The EngiNerds Strike Back, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, and Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found. He is also author-illustrator of the activity book Give This Book a Title: Over 100 Activities to Kick-Start Your Creativity. Another activity book, Give This Book a Cover, is coming out in a few weeks, AND he’s got a graphic novel series, Hunger Heroes, coming out soon, PLUS an illustrated novel-in-verse, and MORE (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin).
Jarrett has a way of zeroing in on what kids want and is generous about sharing whatever he can. Did you know that he provided fun, engaging worksheets every day all through the COVID pandemic--for FREE? Though some people say he’ll go bankrupt without charging for such resources, Jarrett keeps doing his art and building a kid-centric community online via Twitter and Instagram and his website. He also co-founded and helps run the MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. Jarrett visits hundreds of schools and libraries every year, and also designs T-shirts to raise money to put toward increasing kids' access to books and battling book deserts. To date, Jarrett has sold over 5,000 T-shirts and raised $75,000. This guy is a superhero for KidLit fans!
Read on to find out what this superhero is like beneath the cape.
1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
2. What is your most treasured possession?
I try not to get too attached to anything material. But there’s a notebook that my wife
and I kept while on our honeymoon in Italy--at the end of every day, we’d tape in some
of the stuff we collected throughout the day (museum passes, meal receipts, metro
tickets, etc.) and each write a little bit about what we did and how we felt and what we
were thinking. If I’ve got any treasured possession, I think that might be it.
3. What is it that you most dislike?
Failures of empathy.
4. What is your greatest extravagance?
Fancy chocolate. I often splurge on expensive bars, then treat myself to a square or two
here and there.
5. Which talent would you most like to have?
I love to cook and bake, and think I’m decent at both. But I’d really love to be great at
6. Where would you like to live?
I’m lucky to live near a bunch of family. But I wish there was a place where we were
near to all our family. If it was near the ocean, that’d be a big plus.
7. What do you most value in your friends?
8. Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction?
9. Which living person do you most admire?
My wife. She’s pretty amazing.
10. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Temperance or moderation. Not because I don’t believe in moderation--I do, strongly. I
just think you have to sometimes be immoderate about your moderation. It’s living
11. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d give myself better knees. A couple decades of skateboarding has done some damage
to them, and they don’t always let me do what I want to do.
12. What is your perfect environment for creative work?
I long ago gave up the idea of having a perfect creative work environment. I don’t think
it’s useful (for me, at the very least) to get too precious about my routine or space. If I
had to have things just so in order to create, I’d miss all my deadlines, and hardly ever
create anything new. Whether I’m at home or on the road, I often have to be productive
at the drop of a hat, whether it’s for two minutes or two hours. I’ve spent a lot of time
developing techniques that help me quickly sink down into one or another project and
be productive. To some extent, I think you’ve got to be able to do that if you want to
keep producing and getting things done. All that being said: I like to have a beverage
with me while I write--coffee, water, seltzer, a smoothie (or something not quite
KidLit-friendly if I’m working in the evening or night!).
13. What’s the weirdest thing about you that you’re willing to share?
This is probably a better question for my wife or friends--I’m sure they could go on and
on. But one thing that springs to mind: there are certain foods that I prefer stale.
Crackers, pretzels, graham crackers--let ’em get stale and then hand them over to me!
14. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’d love to be an art teacher, in an elementary school or middle school. But that’s not
really a fair answer, since I do a lot of teaching as part of my author-illustrator visits. Is
there a job where I just get to travel around and try different foods? A food critic? A
restaurant reviewer? I think I’d enjoy something like that quite a bit.
15. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? (Doesn’t have to be kidlit.)
Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr.
16. What is the favorite book of your childhood?
There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar
17. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God/Goddess say when you arrive?
“You did good.”