Questions from a Kid: Raina Telgemeier

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with best-selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier.

Raina burst onto the scene with 2010’s Smile and then followed that up with Sisters, Drama, and this year’s Ghosts. All four books have dominated the best-seller lists and have won nearly every award for which they’re eligible. And in the process, Raina has become a superstar talent in the industry.

Just how big has she become? At this year’s National Book Festival, she was one of six presenters to take the main stage. The others? Stephen King, Bob Woodward, Shonda Rhimes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Salman Rushdie. Not too shabby.

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Questions from a Kid: Conductor Justin Freer

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with conductor Justin Freer.

We recently attended a performance of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and yeah, it was pretty much as awesome as you’d expect. However, the highlight of the evening actually came before the doors even opened.

Zoey had the chance to sit down with conductor Justin Freer (who we also saw conduct Dreamworks in Concert at Wolf Trap a couple months ago) and geek out about music a bit. But even before that, she was treated to a guided backstage – and on-stage – tour!

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Questions from a Kid: Dr. Scott Sampson

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson.

If you have young kids with even the slightest interest in dinosaurs, chances are very good you’ve heard of Dr. Scott the Paleontologist. If you’ve ever seen an episode of the PBS Kids / Jim Henson show Dinosaur Train, then you’ve seen Dr. Scott. He appears at the end of every episode, talks about the science behind each story, makes connections between the prehistoric world and the more familiar world in which kids live, and ends every episode by encouraging kids to “get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!”

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Blog Tour: Children’s Book Week with Raina Telgemeier

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We’re thrilled to help First Second Books once again celebrate Children’s Book Week (which ran from May 2-8 this year), with a blog tour celebrating both their amazing books and the effort to get more books into more kids’ hands.

This year, we celebrate how amazing books for kids and teenagers are! We’re delighted to be celebrating the awesomeness of kids comics this week by taking part in a blog tour that features a star-studded line-up of graphic novelists, including friends of the Roarbots Gene Luen Yang, Faith Erin Hicks, Mike Maihack, and Maris Wicks (see below for schedule and links).

In these interviews, they’re talking about the creative process, their inspiration, and the books they love. We’re thrilled to host John Patrick Green (author of Hippopotamister) chatting with the incomparable Raina Telgemeier.

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Questions from a Kid: Tom Angleberger

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with author Tom Angleberger.

To say that Zoey is a fan of his is a massive understatement. We first encountered the Origami Yoda books on a roadtrip. We had gone to the library to stock up on some audiobooks, and Zoey grabbed the first two books in the series: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back. She was already a Star Wars fan, and she was really intrigued by the covers of each book.

That turned out to be the easiest road trip ever. Both kids were riveted to the stories and barely spoke at all. Heaven.

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Questions from a Kid: Jennifer Holm

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with author Jennifer Holm.

Zoey first became aware of Jennifer through Sunny Side Up, a recent graphic novel from Scholastic/Graphix that tells the story of Sunny Lewin, a young girl who spends the summer of 1976 with her grandfather in Florida. Jennifer worked on the book with her younger brother, Matthew Holm, who did the art.

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Questions from a Kid: Buzz Aldrin

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

It’s not hyperbole to say that this is her biggest interview to date. It’s not every day that you get to meet, much less chat with, someone who walked on the moon. Only 12 humans have ever been able to claim that accomplishment, and Buzz was part of the historic first manned moon landing.

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Questions From a Kid: Giant Panda Keeper

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with Jennifer Becerra, panda keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

After chatting with two other animal keepers, Zoey knew she wanted to talk to someone with a connection to pandas. A recent trip to San Diego yielded results.

The San Diego Zoo is rightfully one of the most famous and popular zoos in the country, but the animal collection is actually spread over two different complexes. The zoo itself is in downtown San Diego, and the Safari Park occupies 1,800 acres north of the city near Escondido.

Only four zoos in the United States have giant pandas, and their number totals only 12 (not counting the twins recently born at the National Zoo). It was therefore a real pleasure for Zoey to chat with one of the keepers responsible for the care of three of those pandas.

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Questions From a Kid: Norton Juster

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with legendary author Norton Juster.

Juster is most well known for his first book, The Phantom Tollbooth, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary! The Phantom Tollbooth is perhaps the ultimate book of puns, wordplay, and double meanings. First published in 1961 (with illustrations by Jules Feiffer), it is the story of Milo’s adventures through the Kingdom of Wisdom to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason.

Along the way, he is joined by Tock the watchdog and the contrary Humbug, and they all travel through places such as Dictionopolis, the Doldrums, and Digitopolis. They conduct the sunrise, and they traverse the Mountains of Ignorance.

Not a sentence in this wonderful book is wasted, and it takes several readings to fully appreciate the craft and connections that hold The Phantom Tollbooth together.

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Questions From a Kid: Jim Cummings

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with legendary voice actor Jim Cummings. Jim has given life to hundreds of characters, but he’s best known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Darkwing Duck, and Pete.

He’s also the voice behind Hondo Ohnaka on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Tasmanian Devil, Tantor the Elephant on the Tarzan TV series, various characters on Sofia the First, Curious George, and on and on and on. The list is seemingly endless.

It’s no understatement to say that Jim Cummings is the voice of many childhoods. Scroll through his filmography on IMDb and you’ll undoubtedly find a show or movie you know and love. Many of the roles for which he is most well known are not original to him. He took over Winnie the Pooh in 1988, Tigger in 1990, and the Tasmanian Devil in 1991 (after Sterling Holloway, Paul WInchell, and Mel Blanc created those distinctive voices).

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Questions From a Kid: Jess Harnell

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with voice actor (and all-around great guy) Jess Harnell.

Zoey knows him best as the voice of Wakko on Animaniacs, but Jess has given life to hundreds of other characters, including Chilly on Doc McStuffins, Cedric on Sofia the First, Ironhide in the Transformers movies, and dozens and dozens more.

Zoey had the chance to chat with Jess at this year’s Awesome-Con DC. In a weird twist, it was at last year’s Awesome-Con that Zoey began this journey by interviewing Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche. Almost a year later exactly, she comes full circle back to Animaniacs.

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Blog Tour: Kids Comics Q&A with Maris Wicks

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Today, I have the privilege and honor of being a stop on the Kids Comics Q&A blog tour. The tour is sponsored by First Second Books and cosponsored by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Talk about good company!

This year, Free Comic Book Day officially kicked off Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015), and even though that’s past tense at this point, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring and celebrating all the joy that children’s books provide. So, please, click through to some of those links above and check out all the great stuff that’s available at each.

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The Kids Comics Q&A blog tour is meant to celebrate the many fantastic creators who are writing and drawing some downright incredible “comics for kids.” Among the many brilliant participants are several friends of The Roarbots, including Kazu Kibuishi, Jeffrey Brown, Frank Cammuso, Gene Luen Yang, Mike Maihack, Andy Runton, and Ben Hatke!

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Interview With Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsuki: Bringing The Dam Keeper to Life

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

The Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film is always a collection of some of the most beautiful and artistic stories set to film in any given year. Last year was no different. Even though Disney’s Feast grabbed a lot of the headlines and spotlight (mostly by being attached to the mega-successful Big Hero 6), fellow nominee The Dam Keeper is arguably a better film.

Directed by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke (Dice) Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper tells the story of young Pig who lives and works in a windmill perched high atop a huge dam on the edge of town. His job is to keep the windmill running and thereby keep the encroaching black fog at bay. If the windmill stops, the black fog could envelop the town.

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Fight to the Last Man — Interview With the Creative Team Behind ‘The Stranger’

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(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Maybe I’ve just started noticing it for some reason, but it seems like there’s been an uptick in the number (and popularity) of graphic novels by French creators making their way States-side recently.

Toon Books has begun publishing the first English-language translations of the Philémon series, Snowpiercer made quite a splash thanks to its big-screen adaptation with Chris Evans, and now First Second Books is publishing English-language versions of the massively popular Last Man series.

The first book in the series, The Stranger, released in March, and First Second is planning to release Books 2 and 3 later this year. Books 4–6 will hopefully follow in 2016, which will bring us more or less in line with the French releases. There are a total of 12 volumes planned for the entire story.

The Stranger focuses on a gladiatorial contest–the Games–in what seems to be a medieval world in which magic is not only possible but also the very soul of the Games. Teams compete and wield elemental powers against one another in the ring (think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Ultimate Fighting).

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5 Questions with Cece Bell

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with Cece Bell, author and illustrator of (among other things) the graphic novel El Deafo.

ElDeafo_NewberyCece Bell already had several picture and chapter books under her belt before El Deafo hit the shelves. Among them: the Sock Monkey series, Itty Bitty, and Rabbit and Robot. But it was El Deafo that made the biggest splash.

El Deafoin case you’re unaware, is an autobiographical graphic novel that tells the story of how Cece lost her hearing at a very young age (from meningitis), struggled to appear “normal” and fit in throughout elementary school, and ultimately discovered her own superpowered altar ego in the guise of “El Deafo.”

It’s a charming, honest, warm, and funny book that’s a pure delight for all ages. And it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. To name a few, it won the 2015 Newbery Honor, was a Kirkus Prize finalist, and was recently nominated for an Eisner Award.

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Magic, Myths, and Monsters: Interview with Jim Zub and Steve Cummings of ‘Wayward’

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

When it comes to comics, it’s not often that I’m immediately taken in and captivated by an ongoing series. It usually takes a few issues for the creative team to find its groove and for me to find something worth latching on to.

Wayward – from writer Jim Zub, artist Steve Cummings, and Image Comics – burst onto the scene last year, and from the very first issue, I was hooked. The story, often described as “Buffy in Japan,” was smart and intriguing. The art was phenomenal. And the series wasted no time in becoming fantastic. From page 1, Zub and Cummings felt completely at home in the world they were creating.

That comfort and confidence was evident on every page – every panel – and Wayward quickly became one of my favorite series.

The story follows half-Irish, half-Japanese teenager Rori Lane as she adjusts to her new life in Tokyo with her mother. Things don’t exactly go according to plan, though. Almost immediately, she’s attacked by mythical monsters no one else can see, discovers she suddenly has a superpower, and falls in with a small band of teenage “misfits” who possess other incredible powers.

This is an original superhero story without the spandex, a coming-of-age story that blends ancient Japanese mythology with modern Tokyo, and a good ol’ fashioned monster tale.

It’s also an epic in the making, and I highly recommend it.

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Interview with ‘Howtoons’ Artist Nick Dragotta

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Comics that aspire to be educational are not the easiest things to create. Well, I take that back; I guess they might be easy enough. There certainly are a lot of really bad “educational” comics out there. However, good comics that successfully educate and entertain are ridiculously hard to make.

If you’re skeptical that such a thing exists, I have two things to say to you. First, I don’t blame you. Second, I invite you to look no further than Howtoons (put out by Image Comics). Howtoons is the brainchild of artist Nick Dragotta and engineer/inventor Saul Griffith, and it aims to teach kids the fundamentals of math, science, and engineering through DIY projects that use everyday household materials.

Think Mr. Wizard in graphic novel form.

Step-by-step instructions for each project are in comic story form, and those instructions are sandwiched into a storyline that follows two siblings (Tucker and Celine) who make the projects themselves and go on adventures. Two collections (Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction and Howtoons: [Re]Ignition are now available. Both are fantastic.

I had the chance to chat with artist Nick Dragotta—who is perhaps best known for his work on Image Comics’ East of West with Jonathan Hickman—about his work on Howtoons, getting kids interested in STEAM subjects, and how to make the world a better place.

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Interview With Caldecott Honorees Jillian & Mariko Tamaki

ThisOneSummer-awards(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).

Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.

This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki, was awarded with both a Caldecott Honor and a Printz Honor (for excellence in literature written for young adults). This was the first graphic novel to ever be recognized with a Caldecott and only the second to snag a Printz.

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Interview with Newbery Honoree Cece Bell

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(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).

Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.

This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. Cece Bell’s El Deafo received a Newbery Honor, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki became the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. (Click here for my interview with Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.)

Cece Bell’s graphic memoir appeared on many Best of 2014 lists for its charming, honest, and funny portrayal of her experiences and struggles after she loses her hearing (due to meningitis) at a young age.

I had the opportunity to chat with Cece Bell soon after she won the Newbery about the award, setting a precedent, and the lessons she’s learned.

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5 Questions with a SeaWorld Dolphin Trainer

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Jeannie Carder, a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld Orlando.

Let’s not beat around the bush. SeaWorld (and places like it) arouse a lot of passion in people…to both extremes.

Personally, I’m conflicted about how I feel. I recognize the criticism against keeping animals in captivity, particularly the dolphins and killer whales, but SeaWorld also does a lot of great work. They champion a host of conservation issues and do an incredible amount of education well beyond the confines of their parks.

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