5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Randall de Seve


It has been a while since I’ve ran a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 interview here on the blog, and I’ve missed them. Thankfully, I had the chance to interview Randall about her beautiful new book A Fire Truck Name Red.


5,4,3,2,1 Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED?

In A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED, a little boy named Rowan (Gaelic for “red”) wants a shiny new fire truck toy for his birthday. Instead, his grandfather gives him his crusty, old truck, and the promise to fix it up “better than new.” But what could be better than new for a child? That’s the central question of this story. And as Rowan helps to restore Red while listening to Papa’s exciting boyhood adventures with his beloved toy, he answers it: older things and people with stories can be the best of all. (5)

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2. What is the best part of your job?

More than anything, I love reading my stories to children. I love seeing their squirmy bodies settle into the imaginary worlds I’ve created for them. (2)


3. What is the hardest part of your job?

It can be so hard to start a new story! Sometimes I have an idea, and I walk around with it for weeks (or longer), waiting for that first fragile line to come. I know that if I rush it, if I make a false start, I might ruin it. I might break the spell and end up with an overworked mess. (4)


4. Tell us your first reaction to when you saw Bob Staake’s art for A FIRE TRUCK NAMED RED.

Yes– it’s absolutely perfect! (1)


5. What advice do you have for young readers and writers?

Readers, keep reading; only good can come of it. Writers, ideas can spring from anywhere, anyone, anything. Keep your eyes and ears open, and when you find inspiration, grab it (in a notebook) before it flees. (3)

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Randall de Seve

The 2016 Nerd Camp Art Raffle


Last year the Nerd Camp art raffle was a huge success. We were able to take the more than $1500 raised, and turn it around to purchase additional books to give away to our Nerd Camp Junior campers.

We are excited about this year’s raffle. A huge thank you to the book creators that have donated pieces. If you’d like to donate a piece, just shoot me an email and I can give you the details (colbysharp@gmail.com).

I will be updating this post as art comes in. 


I want to frame Deborah Marcero‘s donation and hang it in my house. It is beautiful!



This beautiful piece of original art was donated by Cupcake Cousins illustrator Brooke Boynton Hughes. The author of Cupcake Cousins, Kate Hannigan, will be joining us for Nerd Camp this summer.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi created an amazing piece of art for this year’s raffle. Our Nerd Camp attendees are giant fans of Debbie’s work.


Larry Day‘s art is breathtaking. I can’t wait to see the smile on the face of the camper that wins the paintings that Larry created for camp.



Guest Post: Jess Keating Introduces “Write With Jess Keating”

I’m honored to be able to introduce Jess Keating‘s new video writing series: Writing With Jess. These VIDEOS are AMAZING resources for educators. 

Take it away, Jess!

When I was 9 years old, I was lucky enough to attend my first real-life writer’s conference. I say “real-life” because before that point, I’m pretty sure I thought books magically appeared on shelves. I didn’t realize they were written by real, living people!

But meeting an author in real life changed all of that.

I’ve always had the writing bug and loved telling stories. I’ve also always been obsessed with books. I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. But before that day, I never really thought I could write them. Seeing an author speak about writing changed my life. Hearing that they worked hard at it—that it wasn’t just some incredible talent they had from birth—made me start to wonder: could I write books myself?

I was reminded of that first writers conference when I saw Colby Sharp’s session at the New England Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators last weekend. Colby is an amazing presenter, and he showcased all the amazing ways he celebrates reading in the classroom. How can authors help teachers spread book love in the classroom?

One of the ways he suggested was videos. Those of you who know me also know that I’m a huge fan of videos! I knew then that I wanted to make something special for all the young would-be writers out there. I hear from a lot of readers who want to write, but they’re intimidated by the process. I wanted to inspire them to tell their own stories, like I was once inspired to tell mine.

So today, I’m happy to reveal a new series of videos called “Write with Jess Keating”. I designed these to be quick and snappy, easy for teachers to use in the classroom to get young readers and writers inspired to write. Each answers a common writing question I’ve heard from kids, and includes a writing call to action, along with fun insights into being a ‘real’ writer. Right now, there are ten videos in the series, but I’ll add more in the future. Teachers, if your kids have pressing writing questions, send them my way!

Until then, I hope you enjoy this series! And a massive nerdy thank you to Colby Sharp for reminding me of my 9 year old self. I wish every kid had a teacher as awesome as you!

About Jess Keating

As a zoologist turned middle grade and picture book author, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her debut novel, How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied was followed by two sequels, earning a Kirkus star, a Red Maple nomination, a Rocky Mountain Book Award nomination, and a spot on the LA Times Summer Book Pick List. 

Her nonfiction picture book series kicks off with PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH, with a sequel to follow in 2017.  Her first picture book biography, SHARK LADY, will also be published in 2017.  She has a Masters degree in Animal Science and a growing collection of books that are threatening to take over her house. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves hiking, nerdy documentaries, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids. 

Jess is also the creator, writer and host of Animals for Smart People, a Youtube series about animals, science, and nature.

Find her on Twitter @Jess_Keating and on Facebook @JessKeatingBooks!


Guest Post: John Patrick Green Interviews Ryan North

Happy Children’s Book Week! I’m excited to be a part of this John Patrick Green interview series.


Hey, Ryan! Congratulations on escaping that hole you were stuck in. Oh, and also congrats on your latest chooseable-path Shakespeare book, Romeo and/or Juliet!

Thank you!  I was glad to get out of the hole, and also glad that I can now say that I’m a guy who can mess up walking his dog SO BADLY that it makes the news.  For a while if you Googled “ryan north” it would autocomplete to “ryan north hole”, which was a fresh change from “ryan north height”.  For the record, I am 2m tall, and I defy all holes.
You previously turned Shakespeare’s Hamlet into a chooseable-path adventure, and you’ve done it again to Romeo and Juliuet. Where did this idea come from?
The first book, To Be or Not To Be, was launched on Kickstarter where it did, uh, really well?   We raised $580,000 and became their most-funded publishing project at the time.  And as part of that I promised a sequel.  Romeo and Juliet wasn’t my first idea for the sequel book, mainly because I always found how the play ended to be supremely frustrating.  But then I (finally) realized – hey, wait, I CAN FIX THAT.  So my very first goal with the book was to have an ending where Romeo is delayed by just a few minutes on his way to meet Juliet, and that means that when he arrives she’s recovered from her “fake your own death” potion, and hey presto: happy ending!

Also that’s kind of a spoiler, but it’s actually REALLY DIFFICULT to spoil a book with over 100 different endings.  (All illustrated by the greatest artists working today!  Check it out at romeoandorjuliet.com!)


Did you always have an interest in comics? What are some of your favorite children’s books from your youth?

I did!  But I didn’t really read them for DECADES.  I grew up in a small town before the internet was a thing, so the only comics I could get were Archie comics.  Which were fun, obviously, but I sort of stopped reading them in high school, and only started with the medium again when I graduated and got a job.  With my very first paycheque I stopped by a comic book store downtown and just grabbed whatever seemed interesting!  That worked out pretty well, actually.
My favourite children’s book I can no longer remember the title of, but I made my mom read it to me ALL THE TIME.  It was about a kid (a rabbit?) who went out at night and saw all these scary things, but then in the morning realized they were just regular things lit dramatically.  Maybe someone reading this knows what the book is?

Getting older to books I can actually remember the titles of, I loved loved LOVED “The Monster At The End of This Book” by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.  I think what attracted me to it is the chaos in the book, the sense that here is a book that’s breaking all the rules.  It’s a book that literally begs you not to read it!  It blew my mind as a kid, and I’ve been interested in playing with the form and pushing up against the limits of a medium ever since.


As a writer, you’ve collaborated with a lot of artists. If you were an artist, what writers would you like to work with?
Oh man, I’ve actually never considered this before.  Matt Fraction, I think – he’s clever, inventive, and not afraid to throw down challenges to his artists like “this entire comic is from the point of view of a dog (Hawkeye #11)”.  I think, seeing as I don’t ACTUALLY have to draw anything, working with a writer who makes me draw new and crazy things all the time would be a lot of fun.

For someone interested in purely writing for comics, either for creator-owned work or licensed work like you’ve done, what advice do you have for them?

If you’re doing creative-owned work, it helps a lot to have an audience who already knows your stuff, because then they’re willing to take a chance on your new thing.  If you’re doing licensed work, it helps a lot to have an editor who already knows your stuff, because then you can get hired much easier.  So in either case I recommend doing stuff that people can see, and in most cases that means online!

You can look at webcomics – or essays, or blogging, or any other thing you do online – as this sort of really weird, really entertaining essay.  It says to people “hey, here’s what I can do, here’s what I’m interested in” and that can be a great boost when you’re doing creator-owned or licensed work through another publisher.  You can, of course, take this too far and start thinking that hanging out on Twitter is now your job – don’t do that, it’s not – but I think there is an argument to be made that hanging out on Twitter is a fun way to take breaks that’s at least not 100% UNproductive.

So yeah: my advice is to practice writing, and put that writing someplace people can see it.  You’ll get better at it as you do more – hooray! – and if you’re lucky you’ll attract an audience who likes what you’re doing.

Do you have any upcoming projects? What’s the next tale from Shakespeare, or other classic author, you’ll turn into a chooseable-path adventure?

Romeo and/or Juliet comes out on June 7th, so I’m super excited for that, and sharing some sneak peeks at the book and its art at romeoandorjuliet.com.  Beyond that I’m writing The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for Marvel, and I’ve got a couple SECRET PROJECTS that haven’t been announced yet.  But they are very secret and very exciting!

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I’ve been on this long kick of People Dying In Lonely Places (I don’t know why; it’s not connected to anything I’m writing) so I’ve recently finished Earnest Shakleton’s  “South”, which is his story about the ill-fated Endurance expedition to the south pole.  You know what’s crazy?  He passes everything off like it’s NO BIG DEAL.  Like, their boat gets crushed by the ice, and part of me was wondering if this was the plan all along because he’s so matter-of-fact about it.  Only when they shot all the dogs was it super clear that things weren’t going according to plan.  Anyway, it’s fun!  Unconnected to that, I’ve also just recently finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” and enjoyed that as well: he’s got this beautiful, evocative voice.

In terms of more YA lit, I read Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and loved it.  I ended up sending my copy to my friend who just recently opened a derby store because I thought she should stock it there.  It’s this really compelling story about friendship and how friendships change, all told through the lens of the toughest sport.  Loved it!

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It’s Children’s Book Week – where we celebrate how amazing books for kids and teenagers are!  We’re delighted to be celebrating the awesomeness of kids comics this week with a blog tour that features a star-studded line-up of graphic novelists, talking about the creative process, their inspiration, and the books they love.  Follow along throughout the week to see some of your favorite comics creators – and meet new ones, too!

Monday, May 2ndForever YA featuring Gene Luen Yang

Monday, May 2nd  – Read Write Love featuring Lucas Turnbloom

Monday, May 2ndKid Lit Frenzy featuring Kory Merritt

Tuesday, May 3rdSharp Read featuring Ryan North

Tuesday, May 3rdTeen Lit Rocks featuring MK Reed

Wednesday, May 4thLove is Not a Triangle featuring Chris Schweizer

Wednesday, May 4thSLJ Good Comics for Kids featuring Victoria Jamieson

Thursday, May 5thThe Book Wars featuring Judd Winick

Thursday, May 5thSLJ Fuse #8 featuring Eric Colossal

Friday, May 6thSLJ Scope Notes featuring Nathan Hale

Friday, May 6thThe Book Rat featuring Faith Erin Hicks

Saturday, May 7thYA Bibliophile featuring Mike Maihack

Saturday, May 7thSupernatural Snark featuring Sam Bosma

Sunday, May 8thCharlotte’s Library featuring Maris Wicks

Sunday, May 8thThe Roarbots featuring Raina Telgemeier

Maris Wicks Unravelled on The Yarn

A new episode of The Yarn!

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The Yarn Unravells Chris Grabenstein


had a ton of fun chatting with Chris for The Yarn. He’s a great guy, and he really cares about his readers. I cannot believe that he does more than 200 Skype visits a year! Whoa. 

We’re always looking for interesting stories to explore for The Yarn. If you have any ideas please leave a comment on this post or shoot us an email: theyarn@bkpk.media


Click here to subscribe to our wacky little newsletter. We promise to try and make it something that you actually like showing up in your inbox.

Did you miss an episode of The Unraveller? Never fear! We created a playlist on Soundcloud.




Did you miss Season 1? It is never too late to catch up!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/11/2016


I’m excited to get back in the classroom after a wonderful spring break on the beach with my family. Have a great week everyone!


My Seventh-Grade Life In Tights

By: Brooks Benjamin

This book really made me want to dance. Not slow dance, but really break it down and get groovy. I hope middle school readers like this book as much as I did. 


Maxi’s Secrets

By: Lynn Plourde

Lynn did an amazing job with this one. I laughed, I cried, and I fell madly in love with the characters. There will be a group of adults 20 years from now that remember this book as being one of their favorites from when they were a kid.



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If I didn’t convince you to check out My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights earlier in this post, maybe the book trailer will do the trick.


During spring break I spent a little time in a tattoo parlor with my wife. She got some new ink, and I heard a great song.