New Books in 2017

We had a frenetic couple of months. We sold our house in Colorado, bought a house in South Carolina and then packed up everything and moved it across the country. The dog came, too.

We found new schools, new doctors, a new archery range, a new soccer team and (for me) new places to run. 

Being closer to family has been very fulfilling. Jen and I both grew up in Greenville (#yeahthatgreenville) and it's changed a lot! Like being mentioned on every Great Place to Visit list. It's cool to see our "little" city that's not so little shine.

I've been super fortunate in 2017 to have three books head into the world. I'm grateful for my editors at Scholastic and Penguin USA for finding a place for the characters, stories and illustrations that come out of my head (usually at 3 in the morning!) My agent, Carrie Hannigan, can confirm that most of my emails hit her inbox in the middle of the night. It's my best time to write because the family is asleep. And I probably should be, too, to be honest. 

Plankton Is Pushy (Scholastic) picks up where Barnacle left off with an assertive plankton who has some things to say. This book is a Junior Library Guild selection in 2017. 

We Need More Nuts! (Penguin USA)


When two squirrels start counting, the acorns start flying. We'll see these two furry brothers again in early 2018 with Please No More Nuts!

A Pig, A Fox, and Stinky Socks (Penguin USA)


I loved getting the gang back together for more pranking fun. This book was a follow-up to A Pig, A Fox, and a Box, which was a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book in 2016. 

Thanks to everyone who has tweeted, bought books, attended signings or library events and otherwise supported my new books this year. I am very, very grateful I get to do what I do, and I know it's because people like you support children's books. 

I'll have a few cool projects to announce very soon—just have to sign some very long contracts first. And if you Instagram, please check out @manskefenske. Jen and I are launching a fun caption + doodle project this coming week. Thanks for reading! 


A Barnacle Week to Remember in Pictures

Hello everyone! Last week was quite a week. Barnacle Is Bored was published in hardcover Tuesday. The week before, I found out it was selected for Amazon's curated "Best Books of the Month" list. To see Barnacle next to Molly Idle's Flora and the Peacocks and Lane Smith's (one of my personal heroes) There Is a Tribe of Kids was incredibly moving. Scholastic placed Barnacle on a list of 50 Sensational Books of Summer, too. 

I spent the actual publication day (May 10) on a half-day school visit to Fall River Elementary in Longmont, CO. I showed the kids a lot of stuff from my sketchbook and rejection letter pile. Here's a glance at some very rough sketches of Barnacle Is Bored

The students and I drew characters from my books.

The students and I drew characters from my books.

Later that night, the whole family (only three of us pictured) went to Barnes and Noble in our suburban neighborhood. And there on the shelf was Barnacle is Bored. It was quite amazing. 

That's me, my wife, Jen and youngest daughter. 

That's me, my wife, Jen and youngest daughter. 

Over the weekend, I spent three days as part of the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip. And I hung out with Captain Underpants and Clifford the Big Red Dog. You know. Normal, everyday stuff. 

A picture with the Cap'n. From left to right: Me, Jenny Goebel, Laura Resau. 

A picture with the Cap'n. From left to right: Me, Jenny Goebel, Laura Resau. 

Signing books at the Tattered Cover, Colfax. 

Signing books at the Tattered Cover, Colfax. 

Along this publishing journey I have been humbled and grateful for the support from amazing book bloggers, librarians and readers. There are so many people to thank, but here are some images from Twitter that make my heart feel happy. 


above image courtesy of John Schu @MrSchuReads

above image courtesy of John Schu @MrSchuReads

above image courtesy of @FlagstaffLmc    

above image courtesy of @FlagstaffLmc


above image courtesy of Arika Dickens @LibrarianArika

above image courtesy of Arika Dickens @LibrarianArika

I am so grateful to all who have helped shepherd this dream into reality, and to those readers who make it all worthwhile!

Nice to Meet You: My First Barnacle Is Bored Reading

Anythink Libraries in Thornton, CO graciously hosted me (and Barnacle) last week at the Wright Farms branch. I was able to read from Barnacle Is Bored and A Pig, A Fox and a Box. It was my first time reading Barnacle Is Bored, which was a treat. With each book I've written, I've learned that it takes a little experience to get used to how kids react to words, scenes and plot twists. 

The kids were awesome and happily munched on snacks the library had supplied. Anythink also ordered extra copies of my Penguin Early Readers and made a cool display. 

In the Penguin Booth at #PLA2016

In the Penguin Booth at #PLA2016

And speaking of Penguin Young Readers, the week before the Barnacle reading, I attended the Public Librarian Association's annual convention in Denver. More than 5,000 librarians (and book lovers) convened for every library and book topic you could think of. I only was able to spend a day there, but it was memorable. I signed books at Penguin's table and later went to dinner with Scholastic and a number of amazing librarians (plus some cool fellow authors). 

Hope you are enjoying or will enjoy a great book soon. Thanks for stopping by the blog!


Join the Barnacle Is Bored Blog Tour

Join the Tour here

When Spring Rains Snow on Your Parade

So, Spring is trying bloom and blossom here in Colorado, which is cause for celebration because in general, residents of the Centennial state get a Spring like this: snow then sun then snow then sun. One day it's 70 degrees and the next day it's this: 

March 23, 2016

March 23, 2016

But we're resilient Coloradans, so we pick ourselves up and dye Easter eggs. And we brush the snow off of tender tulips and daffodils for Easter Sunday. Where no one wears pretty spring dresses but instead cobbles together weird tights-slash-bright-color-sweaters-slash-maybe-sandals. It's very awkward and very Colorado. 

Help! It's not supposed to be like this!

Help! It's not supposed to be like this!

Everything Is Awkward:  Easter Sunday, 2016. Note the leggings, sweaters and long sleeves. As a Southerner, I believe in the right to wear springy fashions to church on Easter. This cannot be done without a maximum of weirdness in Colorado. 

Everything Is Awkward: Easter Sunday, 2016. Note the leggings, sweaters and long sleeves. As a Southerner, I believe in the right to wear springy fashions to church on Easter. This cannot be done without a maximum of weirdness in Colorado. 

Luckily, today I write this blog post and it's deliciously balmy outside, something like an insane 70 degrees. It's almost time to bring out the lawn mower and think about planting something. 

What about your neck of the woods? Warm and sunny, I hope? 

We Will All Be Together

This year definitely has a different feel to it. We're less rushed, less stressed and more peaceful. How is that, you say? TELL ME MORE. Okay, I will. Here goes. 

One major theme is that we've been better with managing our money. We have almost one year of You Need a Budget under our belts. This budgeting software has been life-changing. Instead of stressing about holiday expenses, we saved throughout the year for presents, the tree and even our Christmas cards. Yeah, baby!

We planned ahead to do some things that tend to be rushed or prone to kid meltdowns. For instance, we shopped for our live Christmas tree on a peaceful Sunday morning when the girls had full bellies and warm coats. (Yes, we skipped church for this at my suggestion. Jonathan almost fell down in shock since I am the Wake Up People and Get to Church on Sunday type of Mom.)

We also said no to some crazy-making things that we just didn't need to do because we were invited. I have been shopping online, too, with the budgeted present money (easier than shopping in a store!). I also reviewed the next six months of plans and dreams our family has and scratched out some quick dates and budgets (Go ahead and say it: I am a complete financial nerd.) This exercise (oddly) has made me realize that the month of December will be followed with the Rest of Our Lives. One month does not a Happy Family make. We still have to wake up and do it all again come January 1. 

We will also see my beloved brother and his family for Christmas, and this makes my heart sing. So, I've been thinking about that visit and how happy we will all be. Lots of wine and great dinners. Cousins playing and romping. It's going to be AWESOME. 

And I am grateful. Grateful for these small moments, like when my 3-year-old asks if TODAY is Christmas. She's always sure it is. Or when we light the Advent yule log and the older girls squeal because now we're lighting two candles...not just one...which means Christmas is SO close. Yeah, so I'm grateful in general. And I am grateful for the meaning of Christmas. 

Here are some snaps of the ole Homestead, below. Nothing is neat; nothing is perfect. It's okay. I need to go back and tell twenty-year-old Jen this. We figure everything out. Eventually. 

Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends! And a warm Merry Christmas to all. Thanks for stopping by our blog. 

New Children's Book Illustrations

I'm splitting my time this week painting (a Christmas commission) and polishing some new children's book ideas. Plus, of course, running. I run a lot. 

When it comes to children's books, I usually write the text first (and maybe have a simple sketch or two in the hopper). After that, I like to sketch the entire book out in my notebook in pencil, run it by my agent for feedback and then settle in to work on the digital illustrations, which usually take me a few weeks working on and off. 

Currently, my agent Carrie is shopping this project, and I hope I have happy news to report very soon! Here's a little peek: 


More Stories about Children's Books

Denver Santa Illustration

Around this time of year, Jonathan is usually busy painting Christmas present commissions and doing client illustrations for holiday cards. This year is no exception: he just finished this Santa illustration for a Denver client. 

It's crazy to think we're headed toward the holidays. Here in our Denver suburb, we'll hit a toasty high of 72-ish today. I walked yesterday in shorts and a tee shirt. Loving it! This is definitely the warmest "fall" we've had here. But alas, colder weather is coming. Our sprinkler lines are getting blown out tomorrow. Then, the lawn will go dormant and we know the cold will be quickly behind. Happy November everyone!

Denver Illustrator Postcards

I have a postcard campaign going out to some Denver creative folks I'd like to work with. This is a new way to stay in touch for me. I'm hoping that this little card gets tacked to an office wall until someone says, "Emergency! We need some custom illustrations IMMEDIATELY." 

Commercial illustrations are a fine way to put food on the table. I'm lucky that I've worked with some great companies and some great agencies. This week, I'm sketching some "far out" 1970's illustrations for a Denver healthcare company. It's part of an insert that's going in a larger booklet. For this project, I'm teamed up with the talented Pixie Design who is making my illustrations look really groovy. (See what I did there?) 

Here's the postcard. We'll see if it brings in any new interest. I hope so!


Other Posts about Illustration

Wild Mascot Illustrations

Our girls' charter school's Spirit Week is right around the corner. Jonathan created some illustrations for the occasion. Kids will vote on their fave "wild thing." Fun times! I know our kiddos are excited about voting. I need to round up our spare change...every year, it's a mad dash in the morning to find the right coin for that particular day (Pennies on Monday, nickels on Tuesday, etc.) 


More Blog Posts Featuring Jonathan's Illustrations


Live Scribe Denver Event

Add live scribing to Jonathan's resume! Jonathan was hired by Ground Floor Media to "live scribe" during an event at Children's Hospital about cyberbullying. It's an important topic and he made sure to prepare so that he could offer helpful and accurate illustrations from a panel discussion.

As you may know, Jonathan has done a ton of video scribing, and he's very comfortable with illustrating topics on camera. But it's usually just a producer and maybe one other person in the room. The live scribe event was the first time Jonathan scribed in front of a group of people. He said he was on his toes the entire time, but he enjoyed doing it and would do it again!

Children's Hospital will own the artwork that was created (3'x4' on wooden panel), so all that's left is some varnishing to lock in the illustrations. Fun times.

Thanks for stopping by! We're Jonathan and Jennifer Fenske. Jonathan is a children's book author and illustrator. Jennifer is a novelist who is currently editing an early chapter book she's written in-between corporate marketing gigs.

Introducing a New Scholastic Book: Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske

Oh happy day, we get to share our special news with you! Contracts are signed and edits are underway. Drum roll... Scholastic will publish Jonathan's children's book, Barnacle Is Bored, in 2016!

This will be Jonathan's first children's book with Scholastic. His agent, the lovely Carrie Hannigan of HSG Agency, sold the book to Katie Carella at Scholastic. I just got the shivers typing that sentence. I mean, Sch-o-las-tic! Home of Harry Potter! Keeper of book fairs across the land. Eek and eek.

So, yeah, we're just a little bit excited over here.

Barnacle Is Bored is a tale of a barnacle who is fairly ho-hum about his life. The tide goes in. The tide goes out. One day, in the midst of his boring life, Barnacle spies a saucy polka-dotted fish. Surely this fish has a great life, right? You'll have to follow the very bored Barnacle to find out!

We are deeply grateful that Jonathan has been granted the opportunity to work with two great publishers; first Penguin USA and now Scholastic. Writing children's books is the very thing my sweetie was made to do, I think. And it's really gratifying to watch this unfold right here in our little studio.

Here are a few illustrations from the book, which could change, but will give you an idea. (Savvy readers of this blog might remember that I blogged about Barnacle before.)

An image from Denver children's book author and illustrator Jonathan Fenske's new book from Scholastic Barnacle Is Bored
An image from Denver children's book author and illustrator Jonathan Fenske's new book from Scholastic Barnacle Is Bored
An image from Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
An image from Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
An illustration from Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske Scholastic Books 2016
An illustration from Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske Scholastic Books 2016

Thanks for stopping by the blog! Jonathan is the author and illustrator of Love Is in the Air, Guppy Up!, Woodward and McTwee, and A Pig, A Fox and A Box (June 16, 2015). In 2016, Scholastic will publish Barnacle Is Bored. Jennifer (that's me!) is the author of two novels for adults and has a few projects up her sleeves, illustrated by Mr. Fenske. 

Baby's Leaving the Crib

Painting-by-Denver-artist-Jonathan-Fenske It's official: baby's flying the nest. Our third daughter, who is three, is the proud owner of a new twin bed (actually, it's the bed her older sister used before moving into her own room). The twin bed has a super comfy mattress which is much more luxe than her natural fiber organic crib mattress.

She's used the new bed a few nights and all in all, it's been a success. I think she likes the "bigness" of the experience. For us, it's not even bittersweet. I am happy that our family is growing up. I used to be sad when the kids outgrew their clothes and such, but now, with a 9, 6 and 3 year-old, I'm excited that we can drop naps and do things. We travel easier. We see movies. We don't have all the gear. 

Friends with younger children will ask me, "When do you know it's time for a big-kid bed?" Of course, every child is different but we generally evicted our first two girls from their cribs when a new sibling was almost on the scene.

With Girl #3, it just seemed like the right thing to do. She's getting bigger and the aforementioned organic mattress had a groove worn in it. Baby was also waking a lot at night. We think she probably just wasn't comfortable.

So far, so good with the new bed. She's sleeping great and seems to understand she should stay in the twin bed and not roam around the house at night.

Here's a link to a children's room interior design Pinterest board I made when we set up the room the first time with two twin beds. It doesn't look much different now. I think I've said it before, but the painting in the picture, above, is my favorite of Jonathan's.

Bonus: we're selling things on eBay to help fund our summer vacay. This is incredibly fulfilling because our basement just has too much stuff: outdoor equipment, books, kid stuff. So, that crib will get a new home and we'll be a little closer to the beach!

Crib: Baby Mod, "Modena"; Painting: "Poultry in Motion," by Jonathan Fenske; Pouf: Crate and Barrel; Rug: Angela Adams

Happy Caturday!

I found this little gem of a cat last month when Jonathan was arranging some files. I was all, "Where did THIS come from? I love it!" And he's so modest, he was all [SHRUG.] Needless to say, there's a story about a cat rattling around in his brain. I shall sniff it out soon. With no more further adieu, here is a fat cat for your Caturday. And it's lovingly dedicated to Aunt Laura who loves cats.

An illustration of a gray at sleeping by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
An illustration of a gray at sleeping by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Character design illustration by Jonathan Fenske

Time for a Beer Run: Character Design by Jonathan Fenske

Happy Monday from the studio! I thought it would be fun to kick off the week with a few character designs Jonathan did last week for clients. First up is "Time for a Beer Run":


Next up is this pretty fox for a client in Fort Lupton, CO.


Finally, we have this wild guy for a client in Denver, CO.


Character design is Jonathan's first love. It's the thing that comes most effortlessly to him. And I love seeing these fun and zany characters roll off of the assembly line in his brain!

Jonathan Fenske and the Very Busy February

Today, Dear Reader, enjoy this roundup of February in the life of two writers/one artist/illustrator/video scribe who are keeping it together with duct tape and just a teensy bit of coffee. First up, and most excitedly, we have SECRET NEWS to share. There is a book. A picture book by Jonathan. To be published by a FANTASTIC new publishing house friend. A WONDERFUL editor. A great STORY and ILLUSTRATIONS. But until the contract is signed and the ink is dried, I can only be VAGUE and ANNOYING. Sorry 'bout that!


Two weeks ago, Jonathan traveled to Boston to video scribe for The Big Studio. He worked for almost a week, dodging huge snowdrifts, and scribing up a ton. Here's a snap of his work:


Traveling for a husband and father of three young, howling girls is like a vacation, Jonathan tells us. And I (Jennifer) can agree. At the end of last year, I traveled out to Burbank, CA for a few meetings with the fab startup where I am a content consultant. Beautiful hotel? Nice meals in cool restaurants that aren't Chick-Fil-A? No one saying,"Are you awake, Mom? It's 5:05 a.m." Yes, please!

Jonathan also continues to do drawing and painting commissions. He doesn't paint for galleries anymore, but he certainly always has one or more canvases in the wings. This is a drawing for a client of his daughter when she was young. There was another drawing (by a different artist) of the client's son. So, now they have a matching pair. The client was so pleased, he commissioned Jonathan to do a painting of the kids who are now older children/teens.


During February, Jonathan also finished up another children's book that his fabulous agent, Carrie Hannigan, has making the rounds. Hopefully good news to come, soon!


One of Jonathan's character design clients, 3W Races, makes the BEST race medals, tees and ribbons. Here's a recent project Jonathan did for 3W's Prairie Dog Half Marathon series. He designed the ribbon with PeeDee, the mascot (that he also created for 3W). If you were a runner, wouldn't you love this custom medal rather than the generic "foot and wing" medal? If you dig PeeDee, you can visit 3W's store, here, and suit up.

photo (6)
photo (6)

I think that's about it! We also took the show on the road last week, visiting family in New Mexico. Jennifer wrote each morning for her work and Jonathan watched the little darlings. Now that we're back home, it's crunch time to get some projects turned in. Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.

We're Jennifer and Jonathan Fenske, creators of Jonathan is the author/illustrator of Woodward and McTwee (Penguin USA), among other books. Jennifer blogs about faith and life at

New Video Scribe: Soluto

Jonathan worked with Room 214 once again to create another video scribe. Love this one, baby! [youtube]

You can see more video scribes from Jonathan here and here. If you want to work with him, we recommend Room 214 wholeheartedly.

A few other things:

  • Jonathan's newly on Instagram @jonathanfenske
  • Here is Jonathan's page on his lovely literary agent's (Carrie Hannigan of HSG Agency) website.
  • And a fun mention of Woodward and McTwee on the fabulous book site, Growing Book by Book. By the way, they have the BEST Facebook page. Check it out!

That's all for now. Thanks SO much for stopping by!