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Kids' Q&A

Michael Wright

Describe your latest project.
I'm currently in the midst of creating the artwork for my next Jake book, titled Jake Goes Peanuts. Without giving too much of the story away, I can tell you it involves Jake's seemingly limitless love of peanut butter. I'm also sketching out a storyboard of my first book, Jake Stays Awake, for an animation that a producer here in Los Angeles wants to create.

  1. Jake Starts School
    $5.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    Jake Starts School

    Michael Wright
    "The preposterously shaped characters, pithy rhymes and the many emotions expressed by just a few differently drawn lines make this an enjoyable graphic experience." Kirkus Reviews
  2. Jake Stays Awake "Pleasantly rhyming text is paired with droll, stylized full- and double-page illustrations in bold colors and varying perspectives, and sight gags extend the fun for children and adults....[A] delicious treat of a bedtime book." School Library Journal
What is your favorite family story?
When my wife and I were first married, we lived in a small apartment in Minneapolis with our one-year-old son. One cold winter morning, I heard my wife's bloodcurdling scream coming from our bedroom. When I opened the door, I saw a huge bat circling right over my wife's head! I did what any red-blooded American male would do. I slammed that door and shut her inside with the bat and ran out of the apartment.

That was only the beginning of the saga that's become known in our family as the night of 1,000 bats. It's too long a story to go into detail now, but suffice it to say we had many, many more bats come into our apartment that day through, what we would find out later, was our uncovered chimney, open flu and unscreened fireplace. From that experience, I realized how frightening hundreds of bats can be in an enclosed space, and sadly, what a pathetic wimp I am.

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
Curious George, because I'm always up for trying new things (like George). Also, if we got in trouble doing something stupid, I could just blame the monkey.

Describe your most memorable teacher.
Miss Hoffman, my second grade teacher. At the time, my family had not lived long in the U.S.; we'd moved here from Europe, where my dad worked for Pan American Airlines. Miss Hoffman made me feel welcome in her class; she even took me out for an ice cream soda one day after school. Plus, she was really, frankly, the best-looking teacher in the school.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
It was David Sedaris's new book, When You Are Engulfed In Flames. It ended up in my hands, as do most of the good books I read, from my wife, Cheryl. She always has a stack of books going at her bedside, and I can't think of anyone whose reading recommendation I respect more.

Do you read the Sunday funnies, and which are your favorites?
I read the funnies at breakfast with my youngest son nearly every day. We particularly enjoy "Brewster Rockit: Space Guy." My son's reminding me right now that "Pearls Before Swine" is excellent, too.

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
I've always loved breakfast, and cereal in particular, but my tastes have evolved over the years. When I was really young, my rule of thumb was, the more sugar, the better. Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries was exquisite. As I got a bit older, my palate matured and I enjoyed a hearty bowl of Life cereal. Now I eat what's got the most nuts and raisins in it. For me, it's hard to beat Post Selects Great Grains with Raisins, Dates and Pecans. It's chock full of flavor, but I do miss the occasional Crunch Berry now and then.

What was your favorite story as a child?
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. I loved the message that you could be strong without having to resort to fighting. It's still a great message.

What do you do for relaxation?
I love mountain biking, road biking, and skiing. I also enjoy planting stuff in our garden and hanging out with my family.

Why do you write books for kids?
I think no one's more honest than a kid. They don't judge people — they're too busy enjoying the world around them. Look at a kid as they watch a leaf float down the gutter in a little stream of water. They're probably creating some fantasy in their heads of sailing along in some old wooden ship off to some distant land. The world is remarkable, and kids know it. That's why I like to communicate with them.

Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
I was at a reading at a great independent bookstore in Denver last Spring. Along with the assorted kids in attendance, a teacher brought along her first grade class, so it was a pretty big group. A dad of one of the students happened to work as a cameraman at a local TV station and he set up his camera to record the reading. I was sitting at a small table in the middle of this assembled group, and things were just about ready to get underway when I noticed this kid sitting in front of me. He went from staring intently at the TV camera, then to looking around the room at all the people, then looking back up at me sitting at the table. He took it all in, then said to me, "Well, hello, Mr. Center of Attention." That cracked me up.

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Michael Wright is the creator of Jake Stays Awake. He has worked in advertising as a copywriter and art director creating some of the most memorable fish sticks commercials you've ever seen. More recently, he has worked designing animation and sets for television. Michael lives in Manhattan Beach, California, with his wife, Cheryl, and three kids, Mason, Sloane, and Paxton, all of whom survived their first days of school.


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