Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Author Jamie Michalak introduces FRANK and BEAN + Giveaway

Dear Readers,

Please welcome our good friend and Author, Jamie Michalak! Jamie has a super-great post featuring her new fun duo in her Early Reader, Frank and Bean, but she's also shared a mini-workshop with valuable insights about the craft and super-great tips for writers interested in writing an early reader of their own.

Plus, Jamie has generously donated a book for the comment contest which she will personalize for the winner! How cool is that? All you have to do is leave a comment by October 21st for a chance to win. If you're new to the blog, please include your email address in your comment so I can get in touch if you win! We'd love to hear your thoughts about Frank and Bean or about Jamie's Early Reader Workshop. Enough from me. Read on!

Writing from the Inside Out with Author Jamie Michalak

by Jamie Michalak

Now that autumn is here, all I want to do is hunker inside to cook up comfort food and write or read in my cozy chair by the fire. Every fall, I turn into Owl from Owl at Home. So perhaps that’s why several of my forthcoming books are food-themed. As is this post. I wish I could serve you a warm bowl of soup to go with it.

Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar, is a new early reader starring a contemplative hot dog and a rambunctious bean. Frank is a quiet writer, who keeps a secret notebook. Bean is a loud one-bean band. He has the tunes, but he’s missing something: the words. Together Frank and Bean form an unlikely friendship — and a rock band! 

Like most of my stories, I began writing Frank and Bean as a picture book. But Bean’s big personality demanded more room, so the story became an early reader. The early reader is my favorite format to write. Perhaps because I remember the thrill and accomplishment of reading my favorite early readers, the first books I read all by myself — Mouse Soup, Frog and Toad Are Friends, and Amelia Bedelia.  

Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar, is our new early reader starring a contemplative hot dog and a rambunctious bean. Frank is a quiet writer, who keeps a secret notebook. Bean is a loud one-bean band. He has the tunes, but he’s missing something: the words. Together Frank and Bean form an unlikely friendship — and a rock band! 

Early readers help beginning and newly independent readers build reading confidence and a love of books. And while early readers tend to be the Rodney Dangerfield of children’s books, they’re an invaluable bridge from picture books to chapter books. 

What makes a good early reader? Lovable characters, engaging plots, memorable endings, zippy dialogue, and varied action, all whipped up into a story that’s frustration-free. The best early readers work not only as a read-alones, but as read-alouds.
If you’re interested in cookin’ up an early reader of your own, you don’t need to include a hot dog, a bean, or picnic foods at all. Here are five other ingredients you might consider:
  1. A hop-to-it opening: No need for a long set-up. Jump right into the action! On the second page of Mouse Soup, a weasel leaps out of the tree and catches our main character. Arnold Lobel hooks us from sentence three! 
  1. A simple storyline: Beginning readers put a lot of energy into reading the words, so an involved story can be overwhelming. Stick to one idea or conflict, and avoid subplots. (Keep your sentences short and simple too.)
  1. Well-chosen, delicious words: Use words kids know or can sound out. Add spice with alliteration and onomatopoeia. The Children’s Writers Word Book is an excellent source for checking to see if you’re using familiar words for your intended audience. I often throw in a few challenging words, however, if the reader can sound them out or the illustrations provide picture clues.
  1. Repetition, repetition, repetition: “Faster, faster, faster!” cries Owl in Owl at Home. Predictable text helps kids figure out the words. Try repeating sounds, refrains, or patterns. But use repetition creatively, so it doesn’t become dull.
  1. Humor with heart: Humor without heart is a one-note joke. What is at the core of your story? What’s the emotional underpinning that gives it resonance?
Choose your ingredients. Put all in a pot to simmer and condense (approximately 500 - 1500 words). Then season to taste. 

Enjoy and happy writing!

Jamie Michalak is a children’s book author and former editor. Her nearly forty books include the early reader Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar, and the Joe and Sparky early reader series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Kirkus Reviews called Joe and Sparky,
Superstars! a “little treasure” in a starred review. She also wrote the forthcoming Dakota Crumb, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press, 2021).

When not writing, she can often be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her two sons. Jamie was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in the same neighborhood that Dr. Seuss once lived in. She now resides with her family in Barrington, Rhode Island. Visit her at www.jamiemichalak.com

Illustrator bio:
Bob Kolar is the author-illustrator of several books for children, including Trucker and Train, AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First, Big Kicks, The Boy & the Book, and Racer Dogs, which has been adapted into a TV show called “Turbo Dogs.” Bob lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his family. Visit him at bobkolarbooks.com 

Advance praise for FRANK AND BEAN:
(Candlewick Press, Pub date: October 8, 2019)

A 2019 Junior Library Guild Selection
An Amazon Best Book of the Month

"A hilarious tale of hot dog meets bean....The Bert-and-Ernie–esque odd-couple pairing results in countless laugh-out-loud exchanges. --Kirkus

"Kolar’s (Trucker and Train) sleek, animation-style digital art and Michalak’s (the Joe and Sparky series) highly performative dialogue build to a manic hilarity that makes these pals, as Bean might say, 'half cool and half amazing.'" --Publishers Weekly

"Kolar’s digital art is clean and pleasing, and the book contains four short chapters. An engaging and humorous tale of two friends whose personality differences lead to growth as well as some fun adventures. --School Library Journal

Frank likes peace and quiet. He likes his tent, his pencil, and writing in his secret notebook. Bean likes noise. He likes his bus, his trumpet -- toot, toot! -- and making music. Loud music. But Bean is missing something: he does not have words. What will happen if Frank shares his words with Bean? 

With a laugh-out-loud narrative and bright, graphic, comical illustrations, this fresh and funny story will go down easy for beginning readers and young listeners alike.

Thank you, dear book-lovers, for stopping by to leave a comment in support of great authors and great books for children. We really appreciate hearing from you! 

I'll be back in a week to announce the winner. Don't forget to visit Jamie here: www.jamiemichalak.com

Happy Reading!


  1. This sounds like a fantastic early reader. Love the illustrations, too!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer, for stopping by! Your name is entered or a chance to win the autographed copy of FRANK and BEAN!

  2. This looks like a blast. Just put it on hold at my library!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. And THANK YOU or requesting a copy from your library!

    2. Cool beans! Thank you, Laurie! :)

  3. You had me at the title. A frank and a bean with distinct personalities! I will never look at food the same way again. My apple wants a cameo in your next book.

    1. Great comment, Kathy! I wonder just what sort of apple that might be? A MacIntosh? Granny Smith? un to imagine.

      Your name is entered for a chance to win FRANK and BEAN!

    2. Ha! Thank you, Kathy! I'd like to know more about this apple too. :) --Jamie

  4. Jamie, your cover got my attention because Bean plays a trumpet and so do I. Then you talked about cooking and your journal gives thoughts of choc. layer cake.
    A special thanks for the Early Reader tips. Early readers made for some fun reading with my students and of course, I enjoyed them myself. I need to return to this interview to reread it and soak in those tips.
    So glad Clara shared you with us.

    1. Thanks so much or your thoughtful comment, Schultzie! It seems Frank and Bean resonated with you. Now, about that chocolate cake. . .when do we eat?

      Your name is added for a chance to win the autographed copy of Frank and Bean!

    2. How cool! Thank you for the kind words! And now I'm thinking about chocolate layer cake too. :)

  5. I laughed out loud when I read the line "It's time to rock." Hilarious! Can't wait to get a copy of this one. And I appreciated reading about what makes a great early reader too. I'm saving this entire post to reference again later. Thank you!

    1. Hi there, Becky! Imagine how much fun this book would be as a read aloud, or a skit with kids? I agree that the tips for writing and this entire post are keepers.

      Your name is entered or a chance to win the autographed copy of Frank and Bean.

    2. Thank you, Becky! I hope you do write an early reader. :)

      And thanks, Clara! I love the skit idea.

  6. Hi Clara, I enjoyed the fun post. I think kids will love this book. Also thanks to Jamie for the tips! I've copied them for future reference. I've never tackled writing an early reader before.

    1. Thanks so much for joining us here, Janet! Jamie’s tips are excellent, aren’t they? Would love to know what you’re working on, too. Something, I’m sure.

      Your name is entered for a chance to win FRANK and BEAN.

    2. Thanks, Clara. I have been working on a bunch of stuff. I sometimes think I've got too many pots on the stove. I'm currently trying to convert my cookbook I have on Amazon into an e book and I'm working on volume 2 of Fun Through the Seasons - this time I'm doing all the illustrations (along with using some of my photos) myself. Very time consuming, but I think well worth the effort. And, of course, I'm always writing picture books.

    3. Thank you for the kind words, Janet! :) Best of luck with all of your writing projects!

  7. This is just the reader recipe I've needed! TY
    My nephew has been simmering for this book ever since he got a cute square FRANK & BEAN pin as SCBWI swag. Hooray Jamie!

    cathy54321 at hotmail dot com = email :)

    1. Thanks, Cathy, for sharing this wonderful story about your nephew.

      Your name is entered for a chance to win the autographed copy of Frank and Bean!