Meet Jamie Michalak, local children’s author: Back-to-school book launching at Barrington Books on September 7!
Joe and Sparky Go To School Book Launch Party!
By Jamie Michalak, Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
A hilarious back-to-school adventure—inspired by a Rhode Island school!
When: Saturday, September 7 from 1-3pm.
Where: Barrington Books- 184 County Rd, Barrington, RI 02806
Joe and Sparky Go to School is the third book in the Joe and Sparky series. Reviewers have compared the unlikely pair to Frog and Toad, Bert and Ernie, and Amelia Bedelia. How would you describe Joe and Sparky?
Jamie: Joe Giraffe is a thrill-seeker who likes to stretch his neck and see the world. Sparky Turtle, his safety-conscious buddy, would rather hide in his shell. Of course, Joe won’t let him, and so together they get into endless trouble. Especially when they pose as students in an elementary school.
Is it true that Joe and Sparky Go to School was inspired by a Rhode Island school?
Jamie: Yes! After spending time with kids in elementary schools as a visiting author, I wanted
to see what would happen if Joe and Sparky went to school, too. But I was stumped on the story’s conflict until my son came home from Sowams School, in Barrington, wearing a star sticker as part of their S.T.A.R. incentive program. (Students earn stars throughout the day for doing good deeds.) Aha! I thought. Joe and Sparky will each try to earn stars, with Sparky succeeding and Joe, well, not so much.
I hear that the class pet in the story is based on an actual Barrington resident.
Jamie: Yes. Rudy, the Guinea pig who lives in the Children’s Department of the Barrington Public Library, makes a cameo appearance. Kids love Rudy.
Speaking of kids, you have two boys, ages 7 and 9. Do they provide any inspiration for your writing?
Jamie: Absolutely! They’re always giving me ideas for stories. Being young boys, they’d been asking me for years to write a scene about Joe and Sparky in a bathroom. So Joe and Sparky now spend an entire chapter in the boys’ restroom–making toilet paper scarves and discovering that schools have a “magic pond.” (The water disappears, and then . . . it magically comes back again!)
What’s it like to work with Frank Remkiewicz, best-selling illustrator of the Froggy picture books?
Jamie: A dream! When I first saw Frank’s hilarious sketches for Joe and Sparky Go to School, I laughed out loud at every page. He totally gets the story’s humor, and I always love seeing how he’ll extend the text with visual jokes.
What’s the target age group for the Joe and Sparky series?
Jamie: Ages 4 to 8. The books are Early Readers, which means they’re heavily illustrated with four short chapters and a limited vocabulary. So you can read them aloud to younger children, while older kids can enjoy them independently. They’re especially recommended for reluctant readers.
How did you come up with all of the funny elementary school sayings that the teacher, Miss Hootie, uses in the book?
Jamie: I asked a group of my teacher friends for the expressions they use most often to get children’s attention in class. Teachers have the best sayings. Like “Clap your hands, stomp your feet, put your bottom in your seat!”
Barrington Books is hosting the official Joe and Sparky Go to School launch party on Saturday, September 7 from 1-3 p.m. What can kids expect?
Jamie: Cupcakes, giveaways, face painting, crafts, games, and treats! We’ll also be raffling off a school author visit and signed books for the winner’s classroom. It’s a back-to- school celebration. And who knows? Maybe the party’s guests will inspire the next Joe and Sparky book!