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

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