Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Back-to-School Book series! I’m so excited to share a NEW early reader by our good friend, Jamie Michalak and the lovable duo, Joe and Sparky. And also exciting that Jamie is giving away a hot off the press copy of Joe and Sparky, Party Animals. That’s right, it’s a book about a Birthday Party and it’s a Book Birthday! All you have to do for a chance to win the autographed copy is to leave a comment for Jamie and her assistants. Or maybe you’d like to share a favorite birthday memory with us of when something went awry! (The winner of A Dash of Dragon is announced at the end of the post.)


It all began with two little boys on a winter night. My sons crawled into my bed for a story. But they were in a silly mood. I’d only read a few pages before they began cracking jokes and laughing.

“OK, time to for bed,” I said, shutting the book.

“Wait, wait, wait!” said the youngest, stalling. “I have a great idea. You should write a new Joe and Sparky story.”

“Yeah,” said the oldest. “Call it Joe and Sparky, Party Animals!”

Hmm, I thought, my wheels turning

Text copyright 2017 by Jamie Michalak.
Illustrations copyright 2017 by Frank Remkiewicz.
And so together, giggling under the covers, my assistants and I plotted out a story about Joe Giraffe and Sparky Turtle throwing a surprise party for Joe’s pet worm, Wiggy. Wiggy is mentioned in the previous three Joe and Sparky stories, but he never appears. Is Wiggy real or imaginary? Now would be my chance to find out!

This was a few years ago. Now Joe and Sparky, Party Animals! is a real-live book!

Last night, a little past his bedtime, my youngest—let’s call him Assistant 2--grabbed his karaoke mic and interviewed me about the book for Clara’s blog. . . .

Q:  Hold on, Mom. Should I put on my suit and tie first? 

A: I don’t think that’s necessary. Plus, you have to go to bed soon.

Q: I better make this a long interview then. My favorite part of Joe and Sparky, Party Animals! is when a frog brings a balloon to the party, and Joe and Sparky think the balloon is a guest and talk to it. Who came up with that great idea?

A: You know it was you and your brother.

Q: But mostly me, right? Your smartest and most awesomest son? (bats eyelashes) 

A: Ha ha. You guys thought it would be funny if Joe and Sparky met a smiley faced balloon for the first time and mistook it for a party guest. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that balloon ends up being the life of the party.

Q: Until he dances with a porcupine and—

A: Shh! 

Q: How long did it take you to write Joe and Sparky, Party Animals?

A: About six months. 

Q: (whispers) No, that’s too short. You’re supposed to say five years! That sounds more impressive.

A: OK, five years. 

Q: FIVE YEARS!?! That’s half my life!

A: No, it really didn’t take too long. I wrote the story right away so I wouldn’t forget anything. Sometimes I’ll have what I think is a good idea, but then wait too long to write the story and my idea disappears like the drawings you make on the bathroom mirror after you shower. I had to strike while the iron is hot! 

Q: I don’t know what ironing has to do with anything, but okay … Knock, knock. 

A: Who’s there?
Q: Anita.

A: Anita who?

Q: Anita another Joe and Sparky book by Jamie Michalak! 

A: You’re cute.

Q: Does that mean I can stay up later?

A: Sorry, buddy. Time for bed. Thank you for your questions!

Q: Last question: who are you wearing?

A: (laughs) Go to bed.

Q: Wait, wait, wait! 

A: Yes?

Q: Want to write a new story together? I have a great idea . . .

From JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS! Illustrations copyright 2017 by Frank Remkiewicz. Published by Candlewick Press.

Jamie Michalak is the author of more than forty children’s books, including the highly praised Joe and Sparky early reader series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, and the forthcoming early reader FRANK AND BEAN (Candlewick Press, 2019), illustrated by Bob Kolar. When not writing, she can be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her sons, who give her lots of ideas for stories. Jamie lives in Barrington, RI. To learn more, visit www.jamiemichalak.com.

Assistant 1 and 2 are short, noisy people who enjoy making movies, eating tacos, and staying up too late.

Frank Remkiewicz is an award-winning illustrator of more than 100 children’s books, including the popular Froggy series by Jonathan London. Prior to his career in publishing, he created art for posters and greeting cards. Frank lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with his wife, Sylvia Nissley. To learn more about his books, visit remkiewicz.com.


Candlewick Press, August 2017
ISBN 978-07636-8206-4

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“Share this gentle story of fantasy, patience, and tolerance with new readers learning how to be true friends.” —Kirkus Reviews

The endearingly mismatched duo has their hands full when a party for a friend goes comically awry. Joe Giraffe decides to throw a party for his pet worm, Wiggy. There’s just one problem: Sparky Turtle is not entirely sure if Wiggy even exists!  What will happen when every animal in the zoo shows up to Wiggy’s party with presents and cake? Worm or no worm, this silly, satisfying tale is sure to leave new readers smiling!

Thank you, dear readers for joining this exciting Happy Birthday Celebration! For more about Jamie and her lovable duo, Joe and Sparky, check out her website: www.jamiemichalak.com 

The winner of JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS! will be announced next week, when our long-time friend, Kathy Cannon Wiechman will share about her soon to be released MG historical novel, Not on Fifth Street. 

The winner of the comment contest for A Dash of Dragons is: Linda Snyder Koons Congratulations, Linda! Please e-mail me your mailing address and to whom you’d like the book personalized: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com 

As always, dear readers, I am deeply grateful for your support of authors and good books! 
Thanks so much for stopping by!



  1. This would be a great book for my grandson who entered first grade yesterday. Will post on Twitter too. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for joining the Birthday Party, Carol! Your name is entered twice for a chance to win JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS!

    2. Love Joe and Sparky, Party Animals. A few of my teaching colleagues would call me Party Crisman instead of Patty Crisman since I bring the activity to a different level. I never had a birthday cake of my own since I was born on my sister's birthday. We shared the same birthday cake. As my mother placed five less candles on the cake after my sister blew her candles out. My sister has never let me forget that by my birth I wrecked her 5th birthday party! Guess that is why I am an a Party Animal!!

    3. What a great story about the birthday cake, Patty! Thank you so much for sharing.

      Your name is entered for a chance to win, JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS!

  2. Love Joe and Sparky! I have an eight year old who is right at this reading level. Fun, fun, fun. :-)

    1. Thanks for joining the birthday party, K.L. Your name is entered for a chance to win, JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS!

  3. What a lovely story and beautifully illustrated book. My grandchildren are older, so I my name doesn't need to be entered in the contest. Best of luck to the entrants, and Clara thanks for hosting such inspiring writers.

    1. Thank you, Donna, for joining the birthday party! So nice to hear from you.

  4. Oh my goodness, funny stuff! That interview should be a book :D

    1. I agree, Tina! It was fun, wasn’t it? Thanks for joining the party, too. Your name is entered for a chance to win, JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS!

  5. This sounds like such a fun book! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for joining the party, Janet! Hope all is well in the Blackberry Patch.

      Your name is entered for a chance to win JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS!

  6. I love Joe and Sparky! So fun they are having another adventure!

    1. Thanks so much for partying with Joe and Sparky, Jennifer! Your name is entered for a chance to win their newest book!

  7. Oh, I will enjoy Joe and Sparky.

    1. Thanks for joining the party, Charlene! You’ll love Joey and Sparky. I’m huge fan. :-)

      Your name is entered for a chance to win, JOE AND SPARKY, PARTY ANIMALS!