Hello, friends! Nothing like sneaking this feature in on the last day of the month, huh?? My apologies. Life has been a lot. But believe me, this interview was worth the wait! Because Jen is super awesome and you are in for a real treat! So join me in welcoming Jen de Oliveria to the blog today!!
Hi Jen, welcome! Let's jump right in. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?
My name is Jen de Oliveira (pronounced: olive-AIR-uh). I’m a writer, cartoonist, and elementary school teacher from California. Ever since I could hold a crayon, I wanted to be an artist. Through the encouragement of my family and teachers, I studied animation and illustration in college, with the goal of becoming a story artist in animation. After I became a teacher, I fell in love again with children’s books. Just for fun, I started my own comic strip about a spunky kid penguin (REGGIE); and now I’m very lucky to be making two early reader graphic novels about him!
Wow! That is such a cool story! I love that you've had this passion for your whole life. And how cool that your comic is becoming an early reader graphic novel. That's super exciting. So what inspired this debut book?
REGGIE is inspired by so many things! The humor and expressiveness of Reggie himself is influenced by animated cartoons, which had a huge impact on me as a kid. The REGGIE books are a collection of short, fun, everyday adventures, which is a bit similar to the AKISSI stories by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin about a lively, mischievous little girl in Ivory Coast. And, of course, my elementary school students have inspired Reggie and his antics. I think sometimes we forget that children also are complex and have a range of emotions, which is something I strive to convey in the REGGIE comics and books.
Oh my goodness, I love him!. Reggie really is so much fun. Given all of that, what message would you like for your readers to walk away with?
I hope that all readers, regardless of age, tap into the sweetness and silliness of childhood. For my kid readers, I hope reading REGGIE will make them laugh and understand that even “small” stories are worth telling. And maybe it will spark some kids to write stories or design characters of their own. That would be a huge honor, to play a little role in their creativity.
I think you definitely will spark that creativity. I know that my kiddos LOVE graphic novels. Something about the art form really reaches kids.
Lately, we’ve seen an increase in graphic novels for kids – particularly middle grade and younger readers. I want to thank all the grownups (teachers, librarians, parents) who are encouraging kids to read comics. It sends the message that comics are real books, and that all books matter, especially if they foster a love of reading.
So, so true, Jen. And I'm super excited to get my own copy of REGGIE... When does your debut hit shelves?
REGGIE will be released in Summer 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, with a second book coming out the following year. I hope readers will enjoy his antics!
I seriously am SO excited to get to know him. This has been a blast. Before I let you go, where can we follow you online?
You can read the Reggie comic strips (of which there are more than 100!) online at reggiecomic.com
And, if you sign up for Sunday Haha (sundayhaha.com), you can receive free comic strips for kids every week in your inbox! (I’m the co-editor of Sunday Haha, along with illustrator/cartoonist Mika Song.)
Wow! How fun. I'm definitely headed over right now to sign up. My kids would LOVE that!
And speaking of things my kids would love...
Jen is offering a super amazing GIVEAWAY!
One lucky reader will receive a collection of Reggie comic strip zines and an interactive comic-making workbook.
Seriously, what kid won't want to make their own comics??
For bonus entries:
Comment on this blog post below.
About Jen de Oliveira
Jen is a writer, cartoonist, and elementary school teacher from the Bay Area, California. She is also the co-creator of Sunday Haha, a free weekly comics newsletter for kids. REGGIE, the first in a series of early reader graphic novels,
will be published in Summer 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
The PB23Bunch is a diverse group of 12 authors and illustrators with Picture Books debuting in 2023. We cannot wait to get our books in your hands!!