November 14, 2019

Have Swag Will Travel: untitled, by Timothy Young

One of my favorite aspects of hosting a blog is hearing from other members of the kidlit community about their experiences and processes. Today's guest is author/illustrator, Timothy Young, who has written and illustrated multiple books for kids, including his latest titled, untitled (Schiffer Publishing, 2019).

Timothy has visited hundreds of schools and libraries, and he has found unique ways to create lasting mementos and memories for the kids he's visited.

So let's hear from Timothy:

Have Swag, Will Travel
by Timothy Young

This is the 10th year that I’ve been doing school visits. My first book came out in 2008 and I had no idea about school visits. I did a few events like the Baltimore Book Festival and I met some school teachers. They asked if I visited schools and I said sure, why not? My first few visits were simple. My first book was a pop-up book called I’m Looking For A Monster!, and it only took about 2 minutes to read. I spent a lot of time drawing for the students those first couple of visits. A number of students asked about how pop-ups are done so for future visits I created a blank pop-up mechanism that the kids could decorate and put together with tape. I had the 3 pieces die-cut by a local printer. So the pop-up cards and bookmarks were my first swag.

The nice thing about being an author/illustrator is being able to easily create Swag. In my other job I’m a graphic designer and so I have the resources to create all kinds of promotional and display stuff. Whenever I have new books come out I update everything. I get new bookmarks printed with all of my book covers. I’ve handed out thousands of bookmarks over the years.

When my book The Angry Little Puffin came out I had an idea. One of my other skills is sculpting. I’ve sculpted animation models for shows like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, created 3-D illustrations for magazines like Popular Science and made toy prototypes including the very first Simpsons toys. I sculpted my Puffin character and made a mold so I could make multiple copies. I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise some funds so that I could give each school I visited that year their very own Puffin. At the beginning of the year I figured I would make about 10 of them (That was how many visits I had done the prior year.) I ended up making 23 of them which was a lot of casting and painting.

Since that was so successful I thought I should continue to give each school a gift when I visit. I needed something unique for each school but something I could do more easily than casting and painting sculptures. I created a poster with all of my characters reading each other’s books. Do Not Open The Box! had just come out and so I drew Benny and some of the animals from the book along with the Puffin, Max from I Hate Picture Books! and a monster from I’m Looking For a Monster!

I have a large-scale printer so I individualize each poster thanking the school I am visiting. I frame them and present them to the school at the end of my assembly. Many schools have them hanging in their library so the students can remember my visit. Since I had the poster designed I also printed a few thousand generic ones that I gave out at events. Every child that buys a book at a school visit had one tucked into their book.

I have also drawn coloring pages from my books. I sometimes print them out for book festivals and bring crayons. They are also on my website where anyone can download them and print out as many as they want:

Last year I was running low on posters. I decided to update the poster illustration. Since the first one was printed I had a number of new books come out. I expanded the image and moved the original characters back. I put Luis and some of his alien friends from I’m Going To Outer Space! into the picture. The Puffin was already there so I didn’t add anyone from If You Give the Puffin a Muffin. I did decide to add Carlos and Ignatz from untitled even though the book would not come out for another 8 months.

So now all of the schools I’ll be visiting will get the updated poster thanking them for my visit, kids who order books get a smaller version of the new poster but I give out signed copies of the bigger poster at events. I also still do bookmarks and postcards to give away. I’m looking into having a plush toy of the Puffin made so stay tuned. I still have available dates for visits through the fall and spring of this year, so if you’d like a framed poster for your school, get in touch!

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Timothy! How wonderful that each school you have visited has received a unique and personalized gift of artwork that features the characters in your books and creates a lasting memory for the children at the school. It sounds like the casting and painting was a lot of work, but gosh those little puffins sure are cute! The posters of your book characters reading each others' stories is priceless. So. Much. Fun!

Timothy Young always wondered as a child who made the toys he played with, who wrote and illustrated the books he read and who made the cartoons he watched. He grew up to be one of the people who got to do all of them.

Aside from being the author/illustrator of 11 books including I Hate Picture Books!, If You Give the Puffin a Muffin, Do Not Open The Box! and I’m Going To Outer Space!, (a winner of the Family Choice Award) he has worked in animation, toy design and other creative jobs. Among his career highlights include being the Head Model-Maker for the Penny cartoons on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, designing and building Muppets for Jim Henson Productions and sculpting the very first Simpsons character toys. He was design director for two toy companies and worked under contract with dozens of others.

He has also illustrated books for other authors and has written and illustrated two creative drawing books. His newest picture book is the unusually titled “untitled.”Tim has visited hundreds of schools and libraries and finds that doing presentations with students is one of the most fun and rewarding things he now gets to do. He loves passing on what he’s learned to kids like himself.

You can find more about Tim and his books at or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Have Swag Will Travel is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

November 4, 2019

Silly Books in a Serious World

In a recent interview on another blog, I was asked what scares me the most about being a children's author. I replied, "There isn't anything that scares me about the work that I do, but I do have a worry."
Cowgirl Dawn at PNBA, 2019

I worry that maybe it's not "right" to create silly books during such serious times in our world. I worry that maybe I should use my gifts for more serious subjects.

When I'm troubled with this concern, I remind myself that light-heartedness may, in fact, be "just right" for this serious world. I'm bolstered by my firm belief that igniting a child's desire to read is serious business, and I'm hopeful that my silly books (and the many fun resources I've developed and curated to support these books) will bring laughter into lap time and snickers into story time, setting a joyful foundation for a lifetime of reading.

I can't think of a better time to celebrate books and reading than the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week, which is November 4 - 10, 2019. This year's theme, Read Now - Read Forever, couldn't be better.

I also think that silly books can set a foundation for deeper learning when paired with meaningful learning extensions. Case in point, the Educators' Guides for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? go well beyond the silly potty humor portrayed in the books. The guides provide pre and post-reading discussion questions along with learning extensions that support science, math, and language arts, as well as interactive activities such as word searches and Reader's Theatre scripts.

Silly books can also provide an opening to educate young readers about more serious issues that tie into the books' themes. For example, a book about a Pirate (or a Cowgirl) in search of a place to go potty provides an excellent opportunity to bring attention to World Toilet Day, coming up on November 19th. The intent of World Toilet Day is to inspire "action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030. Established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001, World Toilet Day was made an official UN day in 2013." (Source: World Toilet Day Website).

The 2019 theme of World Toilet Day is, "Leaving no one behind," with the idea being that no one should be left behind without sanitation. The World Toilet Day website has great resources to support those who want to take action to bring about positive change. There are links to fact sheets to help you learn more, social media resources to help draw attention to the issue, info about events being planned around the globe, and even a toilet privilege game.

One organization that works to address the global water sanitation issue is Water1st International. They support sustainable clean water projects and toilets for the world's poorest communities. They also provide helpful curriculum guides and information about clubs and other youth leadership opportunities related to this issue on their website.

Other organizations that support clean water initiatives may also offer curriculum support (or in some cases, program offerings in your local area). One such example is the Northeast Ohio Sewer District, which offers in-person programming and has made their programming available in a seven-part series that can be accessed via YouTube.

Similarly, The Illinois River Watershed Partnership in Arkansas has detailed lesson plans for educators on their website, including a comprehensive program called Clean Water Raingers, complete with downloadable resources including a Watershed Adventure Workbook, Watershed Songs, and Watershed Videos. (Incidentally, the Watershed Songs and Videos are written and performed by Marshall Mitchell, the same artist who co-wrote and performed the song that accompanies the book trailer for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and who regularly performs for children and families (quite often in libraries) in Arkansas and surrounding areas).

In an effort to bring attention to Children's Book Week and World Toilet Day, and in an effort to get more books into the hands of young readers, I will match YOUR positive actions with donations of my books to the Children's Book Bank, while supplies last. Here are the details:

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shaw

It's not required that you choose my books to participate (though I won't object if you do). It's also not required that you participate in my Call to Action in order to bring some positive attention to the issues of concern surrounding World Toilet Day.

If you're a librarian, you could host a potty-themed story time that's all fun and games (you'll find loads of support resources, including book lists and lesson plans here--just follow this link and search on "potty-themed"), and wrap up the event with a brief mention of the issues surrounding World Toilet Day.

If you're a teacher, you could read Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and/or Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, and use the related Educators' Guides to incorporate curriculum-aligned discussion questions and activities (you'll find the guides here/Pirate and here/Cowgirl), and wrap up the lesson with an exploration of / discussion about the issues addressed on the World Toilet Day and/or Water1st International website(s).

If you're a parent, you could view the humorous book trailers for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and/or Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? with your child, sing (and sign) the theme songs that go along with the book trailers (you'll find support resources here/Pirate and here/Cowgirl), and then shift the conversation to the more serious issue of water sanitation by playing this game.

If you plan to support my Call to Action by purchasing a book, I hope you will consider supporting your local independent book store. If you plan to support my Call to Action by suggesting a book be added to your public library's collection, most libraries have a book request process on their website. You can locate your nearest library by visiting this link.  If you plan to support my Call to Action by donating to an organization that supports water sanitation and/or literacy and need some suggested organizations, here goes:

-Water 1st International
-The many organizations listed at the bottom of the World Toilet Organization home page
-Children's Book Bank
-SMART Reading (Start Making a Reader Today)
-Your local library

I'd love to hear about your World Toilet Day plans and/or experiences. Comment below, or connect with me on social media (TwitterFacebookInstagram).

And last but not least, if you need a toilet flushing sound loop to brighten your day, you'll find one here.