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

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

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. 

this joy + ride: issue 70

We're most delightfully pleased that Jonathan is featured in this joy +ride issue 70 today. this joy + ride is an elegant compendium of art, designers, photographers, poets and other creative folk, published twice per month by shari and sheri. What's awesome about today's edition is that it features the illustrations from STUFF, a new picture book that Jonathan worked on all summer. I've been dying to show you illustrations of this project for months, but I kept it under wraps so this joy + ride could feature it first. So, here's one illustration to enjoy. Hop over to this joy + ride for the rest!

An illustration of the children's picture book STUFF by Jonathan Fenske
An illustration of the children's picture book STUFF by Jonathan Fenske

Follow this joy + ride on Twitter

Sea Life Illustrations

Jonathan has returned to illustrating and writing his own children's books this week, after taking a little detour to help me with a picture book that I implausibly wrote last month. He's also doing video scribes with Room 214 and whipping out character design for a Colorado startup. We'll share more on those projects when they are finished.

Here's a quick peek at some digital sketches of his new picture book. He hasn't colored them yet; he's thinking of using Prismacolor pencils and doing the coloring by hand. I think I like this idea very much...can't wait to see what he does.

An illustration of a barnacle by Jonathan Fenske
An illustration of a barnacle by Jonathan Fenske

And here's another one:

Sting ray illustration by Denver artist Jonathan Fenske
Sting ray illustration by Denver artist Jonathan Fenske

Thanks for stopping by our blog! We're Jennifer and Jonathan, and we make modern art prints on canvas over at featuring Jonathan's designs. 

For Better, For Worse; In Art, In Writing

Jonathan is really, really supportive of my writing. He's given me time, space, encouragement and the occasional dry-your-eyes pep talk our entire marriage concerning my writing dreams. That's why my two novels are both dedicated to him. Without my husband, they would not exist. I mean that most sincerely.

We usually work on separate projects but over the past few years, we've melded our artistic brains together on occasion. Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children is probably the biggest effort. But we also joined forces for my middle grade manuscript, MAGICAL RAINTREE DAUGHTERS.

Our newest project is a picture book---my first one ever! I thought ideas for picture books only flowed to one Fenske in the house, but a story popped into my head this summer. I was kind of shocked. Then, I wrote it down. Pages and pages overflowing from my pen. I handed it to Jonathan, sure he would connect with the text and bow low before me. (Just kidding on that last part.)

Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.
Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.

He read it right away and then handed it back, saying kindly that I needed to get it down under 300 words. In other words, I needed to slash oodles and oodles of text. Words. Phrases. Helpful adjectives. You know, my stuff. 

Jonathan was completely correct. So I edited. Cut. Cut some more. Argued over word choice with Jonathan. Described some illustrations to him. Daydreamed about others that might come into shape once he started drawing.

It's still a work in progress, but Jonathan has given me a rough illustration style he's going for to match the sparse (now 199 words!!) text and the (I hope) evocative feeling of the story.

More details later. But I wanted to post this illustration because, to me, it represents love and dreams.

Giveaway Winner & When Things Break

Congratulations to @beingkeri for winning a copy of Jonathan's children's book Woodward and McTwee! Keri, just send your address to Jennifer (jennifer AT fatandappy DOT com) and I will send a hardcover copy to your attention. Thanks to those who shared, followed and tweeted! On a completely different topic...

Are you experiencing broken things? We feel you. We know your pain.

A few months ago, we unwittingly entered a season of broken things. And we're not talking about small items. In no particular order, this is what failed, broke or burned in the last few months:

> Car AC (our mechanic broke it when he repaired something else but we still had to take the car back to be fixed, gratis. This involved Jonathan biking forty miles back and forth from the repair place in Denver in one day since we car share.)

> House AC. Not even kidding. This is a BIG expense. Currently, we are saving to replace the unit. So, this summer, we enjoy the great outdoors, indoors. All of our windows look like this:

An open window in a suburban house

This also means we buy allergy medicine. Having a lot of open windows is actually kind of fun; it's not too hot here in Colorado and you can hear the kids playing outside. You can also hear your neighbors discussing trimming their hedges; yelling at their dogs; and jumping on trampolines. This part is a little weird.

As a southerner, not having air conditioning seems like not having a lung. Or a dinner table. It just feels like a major THING is missing. But once we realized that saving up for the replacement compressor unit was really the only option, well, I just kind of accepted it. And cranked open sixteen windows.

> Garage Door. The torsion springs were apparently put in by the neighborhood builder using the cheapest product available. So, along with all of our neighbors, our garage door broke down like an old donkey.

> Dryer. When we moved into this house almost seven years ago, we purchased a very pretty middle-of-the-line Whirlpool washer/dryer combo. At some point, the heating coils overheated, tripping every fail safe inside the dryer. Melting ensued. Jonathan YouTubed the heck out of that thing and then ordered $125 worth of parts online. After watching videos over and over, he was able to get the dryer back on its feet.

> Dishwasher. Again, another nice Whirlpool appliance. Something plugged and whatever...I stopped listening. A few dollars online, another YouTube video and Jonathan had the dishwasher up and running again.

I know these are all first-world problems. I know I am blessed to have a newish house filled with modern conveniences. I know all of this. And hopefully, things are about to stop breaking down around here. 

But when you are facing hundreds or thousands of dollars of repairs you weren't expecting, it can get a little panicky. So, if this is you, take heart. We're going through a Season of Broken Things. It's not fun and it's not cheap. I hope that your brokeness passes quickly. And I hope our story encourages someone, somewhere.

Also this: if you stop by for a visit, dress in layers.

Middle Grade Novel Illustration

I've finished my middle grade novel, Magical Raintree Daughters. It's so good to be done! With Book 1, anyway. Now, I will be searching for a children's literary agent. Jonathan, meanwhile, has been looking for his own literary agent as well. Update: He has an agent! Carrie Hannigan of HSG Agency. Yippie! How do you spell fun? Q-u-e-r-y! As you may remember, Jonathan and I collaborated on the novel; he is doing the illustrations. Here's a sketch board of some of the characters. Wish us luck as we try to make this dream a real-live book (or three).

Illustrations by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
Illustrations by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Denver Illustrator Mad Skillz

We're feeling a little punchy tonight: it's the end of Spring Break and we enjoyed a staycation. Which is to say we searched desperately for free or low cost things to do each day with three kids of varying ages (8, 5 and 2). Anyhoo, tonight's meal was stir fry whipped up at home and supplemented with delicious potstickers from Thornton's own Heaven Dragon. Plus: gigantic slices of navel oranges. Bring on that weekend! Here's a cute illustration from Jonathan's latest picture book project called STUFF. He's been working on this character this week and he says he's finally there. Have a great weekend, ya'll! And thanks for stopping by.

A picture of a boy looking up by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske
A picture of a boy looking up by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Have Some Happy Thoughts

Here are a few illustrations from Jonathan's picture book HAPPY THOUGHTS. It's not sold yet, but we're working on it. Excited about tomorrow: WOODWARD AND MCTWEE'S publication date! Yahoo! You can buy it in any bookstore or online, of course. Look for the Penguin Young Readers series carousel in your favorite bookstore. Thanks for supporting Jonathan's work...we are so appreciative.

A little girl sleeping next to a cloud


An illustration of a sunset by Jonathan Fenske


An illustration from Denver artist Jonathan Fenske

A Pig, A Fox, and A Box Finds a Home

Yeah! We're tap dancing here. Jonathan has sold A Pig, A Fox, and A Box to Penguin USA. We heart this, most completely. It will be a part of the Young Readers series and is set for Summer 2015. We love our people at Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap/PSS. And Jonathan is so very happy to work with his editor, Ms. Bonnie Bader.

Just a reminder: Woodward and McTwee comes out next month--March 20, 2014--also from Penguin USA. Thanks for the love you've given Jonathan's other two books. We think you'll like Woodward and McTwee, too.

Also, in other news: Jonathan has finished two new picture book dummies and is shopping those around. I have also completed the writing for the first book in The Magical Raintree Daughters three-book series for middle grade readers. I am editing and hope to have it all polished up soon. Then, I have to sell it. THAT'S NOT HARD, IS IT? Hahaha, I'm laughing over here, just all by myself.

An image of Jonathan Fenske's children's book A Pig A Fox and A Box
An image of Jonathan Fenske's children's book A Pig A Fox and A Box

#MSWL #MGLIt #MGlitchat

Under Construction: Unicorns and Body Parts

Thanks for your blogging patience as Jonathan and I continue to crank out some special projects. I have discovered that I can't blog and work on my middle grade novel, Magical Raintree Daughters. I can do one or the other, but not both. Jonathan has finished his latest picture book and I'll give you a hint: it concerns the lowly chin. That's right, folks, we're all about the chin up in here. And what's this with unicorns, you say? Well, I have noticed that when Magical Raintree Daughters starts to bog down, I think of my eldest girl and I know she would be chomping at the bit to see more action. So, I think to myself, "Throw in a unicorn!" And then the story gets moving again. I haven't actually added a unicorn, yet, of course. But I have been writing in the equivalent.

I should be done with the novel in about 5-7,000 words. It's challenging to pull it all together, but I am excited to end this particular story. Then, I'll take a break and start on Book Two, which will be about the oldest magical Raintree daughter, Penhally.

Until then, here's a picture of our middle girl, reading away. We love books around here, we sure do.

A little girl reads a children's book
A little girl reads a children's book