Welcome, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! We're kicking off our November celebration by celebrating a VERY important holiday: Chaos Never Dies Day - a day dedicated to celebrating the chaos in our lives. And what better way to celebrate than with a fun author/illustrator and his entertaining and slightly chaotic book, BOOK!. Jason Hendrickson is here with us sharing his debut picture book which follows Willard the octopus and his humorous and interactive journey of twists and turns! Want to know more about Jason, Willard the octopus, and what to expect when reading BOOK!, PLUS want a neat seasonal treat: a cool and festive coloring sheet? Read on...
Q: Hi, Jason, Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit on a very important day: Chaos Never Dies Day. I have to admit, when I saw how amazingly fun BOOK! looked, I thought it’d be a perfect fit for today. Can you share a little bit about yourself and how you got started writing and illustrating for children?
A: Thank you so much for having me on #SeasonsOfKidLit! I’m excited to share with you.
I have been writing & illustrating for children for years on a smaller scale. Originally, it was as a single, printed and hand-bound gift for a friend or family member who had a baby. It was definitely exciting to see those stories shared with subsequent siblings as they grew! As I continued, I developed a real love for the genre while looking at my own KidLit heroes like Maurice Sendak and William Joyce for inspiration (Yes, aim big!) I began to take illustration assignments for self-published books, and also collaborated with an author on a series that’s still ongoing. During this time, I kept writing and developing my own stories, and that leads us to today.
Q: What a fun background. Thanks for sharing!
In BOOK!, the readers are introduced to a friendly octopus named Willard who will take them on a topsy-turvy journey. You’ll even meet Willard’s sidekick, Mallard, along the way.
A: Yes, indeed! I took an approach to the characters as a mismatched pair that experience the same chaos in slightly different ways, while being fully aware of the fact that they’re in an ongoing story. Willard is definitely the hero leading the story, but Mallard is a bit more of the “voice” for the characters, since Willard is the “quiet type.” There’s also the Narrator as an invisible cast member and, in addition, the readers themselves play an important part.
Very cool - this book sounds like quite an adventure! Can you share more about the story and what chaotically fun experiences readers can expect when flipping through the pages?
BOOK! is meant to be performed as much as read. You’ll follow Willard as he tries to get to the end of the book, and along the way, you’ll do things like turning the book sideways, shaking it, and enduring my Dad-jokes, as well as other actions that will have an effect on the characters in the story. And, because of the 4th wall breaking, they KNOW you did it!
Q: Readers are also asked to make decisions along the way. What decisions will readers be asked to make? And, what do you hope young readers will take away from BOOK!
A: First and foremost, there’s the important decision to read the book! That’s what I hope everyone will do! There are a few decisions to make inside, though it’s not like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure that changes the story based on the reader’s decision (although that gives me some good ideas! Lol!).
I do hope, however, that the readers will take a complete sense of absurd fun from the book. The editors at POW! Kid’s Books & I tried to pack each page with jokes and situations that are unique to BOOK (Shout-out to Emma & Nica!) We absolutely refuse to take ourselves seriously, and we’re very serious about that! It was also important to me that we make BOOK! fun to read for the adults reading it aloud over and over as much as for the kids listening and/or reading along. Additionally, we wanted to teach kids a little about the parts of a book that they’re going to see repeatedly as they grow. Maybe it’ll lead to a career in publishing! You never know.
Q: What gave you the idea or inspired you to write BOOK!?
A: As much as I try to avoid the cliché about the book “coming to me in a dream”, it actually did, at least in a half-dream state. I have a pack of wild border-collies and a cat that control the house, and are all very demanding about waking me up at 4 AM to be fed and to go outside every morning. Once all that was completed, I laid in a half-awake state for a good while, and the bones of the story formed in my head. Luckily, I took notes on my phone before finally falling back asleep.
Q: With the holidays coming up, what makes this the perfect stocking stuffer or gift to offer young readers?
A: BOOK! is the perfect gift for kids to spend quality time reading, laughing and getting in on the action with their favorite character with tentacles and/or feathers. It’s a book that you won’t mind reading again and again, especially if you make funny voices. Go on. Do it. Make funny voices! You know you want to.
Give the silly gift of absurdity!
We couldn't agree more! Thanks so much for joining us, Jason, and sharing an up-close look at your new book, BOOK!!
Q: Would you like to offer a treat to our readers?
A: Yes! I'd like to offer a writing tip to budding writers:
The only advice I can offer for budding writers is to look for opportunities in all situations. I happened to be following a specific editor on social media who posted about the fact that he wasn’t seeing the type of submissions that perfectly described BOOK!. I sprung into action, visited the publisher’s website, followed their submission guidelines to the letter and sent the query directly to him while quoting his post in the communication. This led to BOOK! being published.
To young readers, I have a special treat/word of encouragement for you: keep reading for Pete’s sake! You’re the reason we do this!
Thank you all so much for the opportunity! I'd also like to offer a special treat: Please find the attached coloring page for all your holiday tentacled needs!
WOW! Thanks for such awesome treats, Jason! Readers, to download this super cool coloring sheet, click on the PDF file below. Thanks for joining us!
Everyone, please leave a comment below to thank Jason for stopping by.
About Jason Hendrickson:
Jason Hendrickson lives and works in Northwest Indiana surrounded by a pack of pushy domestic animals who get pretty demanding at all times of the day! He’s been a painter, designer and illustrator for years, and is happy to finally bring his stories to the light of day! He has a patient wife and two grown children who have been the recipients of his dad-jokes for so long they’re happy to finally let someone else take over for them.
For more about Jason, check out the below links:
Twitter (I hate calling it X): @JasonDonnaH
Instagram: hendricksoncreative BlueSky: @jasonhendr.bsky.social
Socials - POW Kids:
To purchase Jason's book on Amazon, or to leave a review for it, click here.