With kids underfoot, jokes are aplenty in our household, whether we’re making up songs or sneaking up on each other or retelling a funny one we heard earlier in the day. We share a lot of laughter.
Admittedly, I tell a few stinkers—not fart jokes, but jokes that bomb. I get my share of eye rolls and “seriously!”s and patronizing smirks. But I’ve learned that without failure, there can be no success. This is very true of telling jokes and writing funny stories. So I keep trying.
My most recent attempts have been in my Jokes and Jingles series, children’s books that retell knock-knock jokes in song (AND graphic novel format). Here’s a sketch from Orange You Glad. It is the story of how Susie Loo goes looking for a snack and gets harassed by an annoying banana. It might be my favorite of the bunch—at least I think it’s the funniest.
I have been exercising my funny bone this fall with graphic novel adaptations of knock-knock jokes for my Jokes and Jingles series. The fun part about writing these children’s books?—the kids and I tell these jokes (and some weird variations of them) around the house.
Here’s is a sketch from Boo Hoo? I turned it into a story about a girl named Betty who is playing hide-and-seek with her friends.
I knew the publisher, Cantata Learning, was interested in creating easy-to-read graphic novels in a picture book trim size. So I suggested joke books, and I feels the knock-knock jokes turned out to be a perfect for this format. It’s easy to see and read the back and forth that sets up the punch lines.
Ever since I wrote my first graphic novel, Matthew Henson, Arctic Explorer, I have been fascinated with the format. Sure, some of that has to do with me reading Spider-Man and Batman comics as a youngster. And part of it is that I wish I was better a better artist because I’ve always wanted to draw my own comics. But it’s also because of the added element, the pictures, in telling a story. Sometimes, illustrations can present things is a simpler, more straightforward way than just words, especially when targeting young readers.
So recently, I was given the challenge to create graphic novel joke books within a picture book trim and page book. Oh, and they were also to be paired with music. I thought knock-knock jokes would be a perfect fit, and then to the great annoyance of my kids, I began telling and retelling some of the classic knock knock jokes to them.
The above sample is a sketch from Knock, Knock, Moo!, a play off of the interrupting cow joke. Though the farmer in this book has more than just an annoying cow.
Back when I was in grad school, at Minnesota State University, Mankato, students got in free to all sporting events, which was great for a poor college student like me. That meant hitting home hockey games was one our favorite (as in inexpensive) forms of entertainment. The Mavericks weren’t always the best team, but they played against the Badgers and Gophers, so we got to see some exciting games.
Like with all fun writing projects, you mix things you enjoy, and for The Science of Hockey, that’s exactly what I was able to do. Hockey + graphic novel format = my newest release into the world. It’s also my first book in the Max Axiom, Super Scientist series. He’s a character created by a couple friends of mine, Chris Harbo and Donnie Lemke. So it was doubly fun adding to Max’s legacy.
In grad school, at Minnesota State University, Mankato, friends and I would hit Mavericks’ hockey games whenever we got the chance. As students, we got in free, which was about all we could afford at that time in our careers. While I can’t claim to be a huge hockey fan, the games were a blast, sitting behind the opponents’ goal and harassing the visiting team.
But I must admit a guilty pleasure in seeing the Zamboni roll out between periods. Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with how this odd-looking, slow-moving machine worked. Not to mention, I’d be shouting along as the Gear Daddies classic “I Wanna Drive a Zamboni” blare over the arena’s speakers. When younger, I was envious of the person getting to drive it around—probably still am a little jealous.
So when given the assignment to write a graphic novel The Science of Hockey, I knew I had to dedicate a spread to the Zamboni.
My book is be part of the Max Axiom, super scientist series. And one futuristic device Max possesses is X-ray glasses. I thought he could use them to take a close look at how a Zamboni works. And since someone would be driving it around the rink at the time, I asked the illustrator to show the skeleton of the driver, something I thought was a humorous touch.
The Science of Hockey will be released this summer.
Every now and then, my editors send me teasers of the books I’ve written, whether it’s sketches of the illustrations or a mock up of the cover. I always enjoy seeing my books come to life through the art work, so it’s great to get a glimpse into how things are progressing.
Early last year, I finished up a graphic novel retelling of Peter Pan. I believe it will be released this summer. And not long ago, my editor sent me this mock up of the cover. The book is being illustrated by Fernando Cano. He illustrated my Tony Hawk—Live 2 Skate books as well, and I love his work. His style is really capturing the playful feel of my retelling.
Can’t wait to have a copy of the printed book in hand.
My love of Greek and Roman myths probably started with the classics. And when I say classics, I don’t mean The Illiad or Metamorphosis. I’m referring to Clash of the Titans (1981) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). These movies may have had cheesy claymation monsters, but they were my introduction to mythology. Watching them spurred me on to learn more about myths, to the point where mythology is now one of my favorite subjects to write about.
Now pair some of the classics (and this time I mean books like The Odyssey and Argonautica) with my favorite format: graphic novels, to tell a story, and we have four of my newest books.
The 12 Labors of Hercules—Hercules seeks forgiveness after committing a horrific crime and is told to perform 12 nearly impossible tasks, from slaying the Hydra to capturing Cerberus, a three-headed dog.
Jason and the Argonauts—To reclaim his father’s throne, Jason goes on a quest to retrieve the magical golden fleece, which is guarded by a fearsome dragon that never sleeps.
Theseus and the Minotaur—Theseus seeks to end the tributes Athens is paying to the kingdom of Crete, and to so, he must first face the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster.
The Voyages of Odysseus—Chronicles Odysseus’ ten-year voyage home, to Ithaca, after the Trojan War and his many adventures, from blinding the Cyclops to meeting the the witch Circe.
Great retelling and cool artwork. It made the list of top 20 books preferred by struggling 4th and 5th grade readers. Renaissance Learning puts out a “What Kids Are Reading” study each year where—oddly enough—kids share the titles of the books they most enjoy reading. This book made the 2011 list. And for good reason.
—Robert Marsh, author of the Monster and Me series
Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year—so I’m already inclined to like this book. But it’s also funny. And it’s got a Wolfman. And a cross-dressing alien ballerina. What’s not to love? Great fun!
—Robert Marsh, author of the Monster and Me series
Best of all it’s a graphic novel!
Anyone who likes mythology should read this book – young OR old! But, I don’t think it would be appropriate for kids younger than first grade because of the violence and the myths may be confusing to those who do not know about mythological gods. I like almost everything about this graphic novel. The inking is so detailed you can almost see the texture. Most panels are rectangle, but sometimes a character will escape into another panel. To show force the illustrator hits the scene or object with a yellow spark.
In this graphic novel a women and her baby named Perseus are cast off to sea because Perseus was destined to kill his grandfather, King Acrisius .Zeus, the king of the gods was Perseus’ father. Zeus guided Perseus and his mom with powerful winds. Weeks later someone caught them with a fishing net. Many years later, when Perseus was about twenty years old there was a party for King Polydects. Perseus did not have anything to give him so he was sent to retrieve Medusa’s head. Perseus accepted the challenge. When Perseus was about fifteen away from the palace a women appeared.”who are you?”. The women said she was Athena – Goddess of wisdom and told him to find the Nymphs of the North. Perseus immediately set on to find the nymphs. Suddenly, the dense forest gave way to a beautiful gully with three nymphs waiting. One nymph said “Perseus, we three have been waiting for you.” They gave him a pair of winged sandals that would fly them to Medusa’s lair, a helmet that would grant him invisibility; Medusa’s head could petrify even in death, and a magic bag that could carry her head safely. As he exited the cave in the gully, Hermes, the winged messenger god flew down from the heavens. He had the weapons Perseus needed for his quest. Weapons fit for a true hero. Athena’s shield called the Aegis, and his own sword that could Pierce her thick skin. Hermes gave them to Perseus. Hermes told Perseus to visit the gray witches. They lived at the feet of Atlas the giant. But that they were the sisters of Medusa. Perseus would have to trick them to find the location of Medusa’s lair. How does Perseus trick Medusa’s sisters and does this hero ever come back alive with Medusa’s head? Will there be a love interest involved at all? Read this graphic novel to find out and what happens to Perseus!