Jarrett Lerner is a newly published author with a book called EngiNerds that came out on Tuesday, September 12th. We have two copies in our library. I think a lot of our readers are going to go crazy for it!
by Jarrett Lerner
Goodreads summary: The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.
Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.
They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.
At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?
But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!
I asked Jarrett to answer a few questions for the readers of HMS.
Three Questions for Jarrett Lerner
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
It’s impossible to say exactly where ideas come from. If I knew, I’d be there right now, scooping up as many as I could! What I do know, however, is that all my best ideas come when I’m doing three things: (1) reading, (2) exploring, and (3) dreaming.
I read books CONSTANTLY. New ones. Old ones. Ones that have to do with the things I write about and ones that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the things I write about. Learning about other people’s ideas is, perhaps, the surest way to get your brain hunting around for some ideas of your own.
By exploring, I just mean being out in the world. Trying new things. Having interesting experiences. Or even just doing something plain old and regular, like sitting around with friends. So long as you are living IN THE MOMENT — being observant, taking things in, noticing, feeling, reacting, being.
And last of all: dreaming. That’s letting your ideas and experiences dance, and then waltz together into unknown territory. It’s asking “What if?” over and over again. Following your questions and curiosities, then coming up with answers and explanations, until you’ve built a whole new world around yourself.
In terms of EngiNerds — I’ve got a lot of friends who are, at times, too smart for their own good. And when they get into a sticky situation, the rest of us all band together to help them out of it — even if we’re really, really ticked off at them. That’s what friendship is. And for me, that’s a big part of what EngiNerds is about. Besides farting robots, I mean. Did you know there were farting robots?
Did the interests of Jarrett in fourth and fifth grade prepare you for the career you have today?
I always loved reading, and I had an interest in and passion for writing fairly early on. But I was also always doing tons of other things — for a while, I tried hard to be a sponsored skateboarder, and later on, I nearly went to school to study guitar. But I also loved cooking, playing games, and just sitting around doing “nothing” with friends. And those experiences were just as important as the reading and writing I did. Everything you do, every experience you have — it clues you in a little more to the world and people in it, and I find that all I soaked up as a kid helps my writing in surprising, exciting, mysterious ways every single day.
Do what you love. Surround yourself with fun, positive people. If you do that, you can’t NOT end up in a place you want to be.
What advice would you give to students about writing/drawing?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Draw, draw, draw. Do what you want and love to do as much as you can do it. And never, ever be afraid to make mistakes, mess up, and fail. 99% percent of a writer’s or illustrator’s life is making mistakes, messing up, and failing. Only once you’ve done things wrong can you clearly see how to do it right. Every sentence in every book you read, every line in every drawing — each little bit was labored over, and attempted again and again and again before it was gotten “perfect.” What might look easy is, I promise, NOT.
And as scary as it may be, share your work. Some people might love it, some might not be all that into it. But every reaction will cause you to have a new reaction to your own work — one you couldn’t have had all alone. Perhaps it’ll cause you to change something, or maybe it’ll leave you feeling more confident in the decisions you originally made. Either way, you’ve become a better, stronger, more confident artist.
Thank you, Jarrett, for these amazing answers! We can all learn from you.
Kids absolutely love Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel Roller Girl. It was a RI Children’s Book Award winner. So I know our students will be excited to get their hands on her new graphic novel. We now have two copies in our library.
All’s Faire in Middle School, (2017)
by Victoria Jamieson
Goodreads summary: The author of Roller Girl is back with a graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.
Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.
This gem is on our Mock Newbery list. I loved this one. The author made the younger twin brothers so authentic I’d want to bet she grew up with twin brothers herself (like me). I was rooting for Charlie and I think you will too.
The Someday Birds, (2017)
by Sally J. Pla
Goodreads summary: Charlie wishes his life could be as predictable and simple as chicken nuggets.
And it usually is. He has his clean room, his carefully organized bird books and art supplies, his favorite foods, and comfortable routines.
But life has been unraveling since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. And when Dad gets sent across country for medical treatment, Charlie must reluctantly travel to meet him. With his boy-crazy sister, unruly twin brothers, and a mysterious new family friend at the wheel, the journey looks anything but smooth.
So Charlie decides to try and spot all the birds that he and his dad had been hoping to see together in the wild. If he can complete the Someday Birds list for Dad, then maybe, just maybe, things will turn out okay…
Equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an unusual boy, and portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.
This next book came out last week. It is written by RI’s own Kara LaReau who will be a featured author at the RI Festival of Children’s Books and Authors
at Lincoln School in Providence on Saturday, October 14th. Kara LaReau won a Geisel award for The Infamous Ratsos
last year. This is the follow-up to that incredible book. Seriously, if you haven’t read it, make sure that you do. You are invited to attend her book launch party at Barrington Books on Saturday, September 23rd from 11:00AM – 12:30PM. It should be a lot of fun!
The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, (2017)
words by Kara LaReau and pictures by Matt Myers
Goodreads summary: When Louie and Ralphie Ratso set out to transform a cluttered lot into an arcade, they end up conquering a few surprising fears along the way in this follow-up to the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book The Infamous Ratsos.
Louie and Ralphie Ratso have a genius idea: if they clear out the lot down the street, they can use all the junk lying around to build makeshift games for a Big City FunTime Arcade! With their friends to help, they’ll be able to recycle all the old abandoned stuff into whack-a-mouse, a high-striker, a fortune-telling booth, and more. Everyone says the house next to the lot is haunted, but if Louie just pretends it’s not there, maybe he can ignore the goose bumps he gets every time he looks at it. Ralphie’s head’s not exactly in the game, either, because of some rumors that have been swirling around school. But they’re Ratsos, and like their dad, Big Lou, Ratsos aren’t afraid of anything — right? Kara LaReau and Matt Myers team up for a second surprisingly touching chapter book proving that sometimes the things you fear the most aren’t at all what you thought — and might be exactly what you need to feel better.
The last book featured this week is a title from the RI Children’s Book Award list
, an award chosen strictly by
children. There are 20 nominees. Children in grades 3-5 who read at least 3 books from the list are eligible to vote in February. Librarian Michelle Steever created a handy sheet
to track which titles you read.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, (2016)
words by Debbie Levy and pictures by Elizabeth Baddeley
Goodreads summary: Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the first picture book about her.