Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why kids love author visits

Had a great author visit yesterday at Parkside Elementary in Menlo Park, CA. Here I am with Jamie, Brianna and Maya, winners of the "have lunch with the author lottery." Great school and great kids; everybody had a blast—especially me!

I try to imbue my school visits with a stand-up comedy concert vibe. It's been years since I did real stand-up comedy, but doing author presentations is amazingly similar. Kids love hearing about my goofy kids and I love making them laugh. I think it makes a real and lasting impact to meet the author or illustrator behind a book; we're not odd creatures (maybe odd people, but not odd creatures!). They learn that authors and illustrators are just regular people like them, and perhaps they too can do something as amazing as writing a book. (Hey, if Mr. Dave Keane can do it, maybe anybody can do it!)

And not only do kids love the break from routine, but I think the teachers enjoy a nice break for once, too!

It's been horribly slow on the school visit front these days, mostly because California has budget woes that could only be fixed by King Midas himself. But luckily some schools manage to procure the funding and I get the chance to entertain kids with stuff like where ideas really come from and how they can create a new character in 25 seconds or less. Best of all, I know when I leave there are roughly 450 kids who are newly interested in reading books. I guess that, after all, is my job.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Manless Pants?

Here's a recent sketch I did. Not sure what it's supposed to mean, but it does prove that not all the ideas a writer has are good ones!

Also, for fans of picture books and for the parents who read them, this New Yorker article is a must! I think the notion that picture books reflect current societal trends concerning children, parents and child rearing in general is really interesting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Joe Sherlock: International Man of Mystery!

Whoa! Joe Sherlock is now an international man of mystery! Check this outl: the first book in the Joe Sherlock: Kid Detective series in Korean! I wonder what it says? I have no clue how they translated the runaway goofiness of the world's most unlikely kid detective into another language... I need a translator! Can't wait to see the Belgian version!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fun Day Speaking at KidQuake Yesterday!

Had a great day yesterday speaking at KidQuake, the kids' portion of the weeklong literary celebration called LitQuake. I spoke on a panel with other authors and illustrators to a packed house of third and fourth graders at the Koret Theater, located in San Francisco's impressive new main library. I must say, it's always inspiring and insightful to hear others speak about pursuing the challenging, creative, and sometimes maddening endeavor that is children's books.

This photo shows moi and the other speakers on the panel: Cynthia Chin-Lee, M. Sarah Klise, and Scott Morse; a collection of cool cucumbers if there ever was one, no?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bobby Bramble Loses His Brain—It's Out!

I couldn't be more proud than I am about the release of my first picture book, Bobby Bramble Loses His Brain. Here's what the critics are saying so far:

“Keane keeps the pacing as quick as the wit. Truly, a no-brainer.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“The raft of brain-related wordplay and the rueful musing on the fact that Bobby doesn’t have that much upstairs at the best of times add zing to the already zippy silliness of the story.”
— The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, June 2009

“This will be a huge hit with children who find it hard to sit still for very long—though they’ll sit still for this tale.”
— Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud Handbook

“It’s not every day you read a book that climaxes with a boy riding his own brain down the road like a bucking bronco. But such freakiness is exactly what makes Keane’s take on the importance of using your noggin so refreshing.”
— Booklist, June 15, 2009

Friday was the book launch party and we had a crowd of roughly 100 show up; sold 55 books, too—not bad in this belt-tightening economy. Also had an enthusiastic and sizable crowd on Saturday in the "bubble room" at the San Mateo Public Library. Many kids skipped out with new books clutched in their hands—what more could a children's book author ask for?

I'd like to say thanks to everyone at Clarion for making this book a homerun—especially my word-loving editor, Marcia Leonard. And mega-kudos to the books maestro of an illustrator, David Clark. And, of course, to Linda Pratt, for making it all happen. And a special thanks to Christine, for her steadfast encouragement and endless insights. And, dare I forget, thanks to Sutter for the endless inspiration his non-stop noggin provides.

This book is about a kid whose head cracks open and his brain runs off, as if it had a mind of its own. Then the entire neighborhood and Bobby's entire family join forces to catch Bobby's wandering mind. Okay, so it's a bit of an autobiography, but it's truly funny, clever and smart. If you'd like to buy a copy, I say: BY ALL MEANS! You can order one here.

Thanks to all for making this dream come true!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Creativity vs. Education

During my long journey through the educational system, I always felt like a round peg in a square hole. Although I could never put my finger on what the problem was exactly, I always felt like I was at the wrong school, as if there might be another school across town that was meant for me. Looking back now, I realize that the root of the problem was that I was more "creative" and "artistic" than I was a "memorizer" and "regurgitator," which were the type of skills that were most highly rewarded in the school "system." Art was considered a way for us kids to "blow steam." Creativity was frowned upon, whereas following the strict, rigid guidelines was rewarded. Memorization was king; it was everything. And, sadly, it still seems that way today.

Now as an adult, I find that when I encounter someone who understands this "disconnect" that I experienced, it's very exciting. I just happened across a video by Sir Ken Robinson at the TED conference, which takes place in Monterey, CA. His 20 minute presentation made my hair stand on end. Funny. Clever. Insightful. Redemptive. I felt like doing cartwheels when I heard him say this:

"Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn't valued or was actually stigmitized."

If you are a teacher, a school administrator, a parent, a kid, or have ever met a kid, you should watch this short talk here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A fun way to waste 10 minutes

Okay, times are tough. People are miserable, broke and losing their jobs and homes. Hey, it's hard to be upbeat when you're eating your shoes. I'll give you that. But sometimes you run across something so wonderfully stupid and silly, you start snickering and you feel just a little less stressed. So...I've just got to share.

See that handsome Simpsons character? That's me! At least that's how I created my avatar at the The Simpsons Movie website. This avatar widget has been up for over a year, but I finally got around to creating myself. I couldn't quite get the hair right, but that's part of the fun.

So shake off the downturn doldrums, and go here and make yourself a Simpsons character—just click on "Create Your Simpsons Avatar." It only takes a minute and it's bound to make you laugh at yourself. Oh, and try the ginormous lipstick lips--it's hilarious!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eric Carle Rocks!

I noticed today that the main Google search page art was done by Eric Carle. "How cool," I said.

Eric Carle is an important American artist who is too often overlooked and underappreciated. What kid growing up hasn't read, re-read and chewed and drooled all over a dozen Eric Carle books? It's like a right of passage.

He's up their with Dr. Suess, a true giant of children's literature. And he seems like such a neat and interesting man—someone I'd like to meet someday! I guess he's turned 80 and his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar is turning 40!

Strange as it may seem, an hour later after seeing his Google art, I ran across this Newsweek article about his, his life, and his work. This guy deserves every medal, accolade and honor you can bestow on someone in the field of children's books. He makes it look so dang easy!

Did you know there's an Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art? You can see it here. And if you've been, let me know what it was like.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hold onto your Kindles...Americans are reading more!

Yippee! As reported in a Time online article, a recent NEA report indicates the first increase in the rate of reading among American adults in a quarter-century. And the numbers are significant. But why? That's a tough one. I'll think on it. You think on it, too.

Could it be that we were all inspired by our book-gobbling president? No, the current one. President Bush. Seriously. Who knew? (He should have done a better job of letting us know what was on his nightstand.) Read it here.

The news about this sudden and unexpected uptick in reading certainly cheered me up, especially after reading this essay in The New York Times about the overwhelming ubiquity of screens in today's society. From the car to the computer, from the iPhone, iPod, Kindle and PSP, the article posits that we're slowly evolving into a screen-based society, in which screen literacy will replace book literacy. The death knell for the book? Who knows. I'll think on it. You think on it, too.

Speaking of Kindles, here's another piece from The New York Times about the growing popularity of e-books. Is it a growing trend? Or a passing fad? I only know two people who own a Kindle, and they love the white thick-as-a-brick device. Me? I'm a Mac guy. I love a beautiful design, and I don't see that when I look at a Kindle, albeit from afar; it may be a design marvel when you use it. Does the iPhone have a good book app yet? Is that screen just too small? I'll think on it. You think on it, too.

Lastly, there was this in the USA Today today about Greg Heffley's "Wimpy Kid" series, a runaway hit, to be sure. And something of a marvel for the reluctant reader crowd. As I've always said, sometimes it takes just ONE book to get a youngster "hooked on books." Seems like this series is working wonders. But why this book? Why not another series? What can a guy like me learn from its success? Is there a magic formula at work here? I'll think on it. You think on it, too.