Jarrett Krosoczka, author and illustrator of beloved children’s book including Baghead, Punk Farm and the Lunch Lady series, visited with the Episcopal School of Dallas Lower School students on Monday, October 21, encouraging them to persevere as they pursue their dreams. He regaled students with humorous stories of the numerous rejection letters he received from publishers before finally opening an email giving him hope.
“I thought that Jarrett Krosoczka was super uplifting,” one fourth grade student said. “He inspired me to start creating picture books. When he was talking about how he never gave up and how he wrote his books, it was really amazing. I wish I could be like him. He taught me to never give up, and keep on trying.”
Krosoczka’s visit was made possible through an endowment given to the school in celebration and honor of the life of ESD student, Elizabeth Anne Worsham. A curious child and an avid reader, the Worsham family is certain their bright, creative, and engaging second grader, Elizabeth, would have loved to hear the author’s inspiring message.
The St. Michael School started the tradition of inviting children’s authors to visit students in 1975, and this endowment ensures that one special author will visit the ESD Lower School every fall in perpetuity. Children’s author and illustrator, Jarrett Krosoczka, served as the 10th annual Elizabeth Anne Worsham Visiting Author.
“The Visiting Author Series has been such a special way to honor the memory of our daughter Elizabeth,” Katherine Worsham said. “With the hard work and help of our incredible librarians, the series continues to introduce dynamic authors to our children. The kids get to engage in questions with the author, helping to bring to life the process of taking original ideas from abstract to concrete book form.”
Krosoczka wrote and illustrated his first book while in the third grade. An avid reader and writer himself, Krosoczka would come home from school, staple a few sheets of paper together, and write down whatever story his imagination conceived. The packed theater of students, teachers, and parents, listened with rapt attention. Allison Hogan’s Primer class wore paper bags over their heads after their favorite character from Kroscozka’s book Baghead, and students in Wendy Dalton’s first grade class made “bagheads” for their beanie babies.
In a TED Talk he delivered in October 2012, Krosoczka told the story of his grandfather sending him to art classes at the Worchester Art Museum when his own school cut funding to the arts program. In high school, Krosoczka started drawing cartoons of his teachers and passing them on to his friends. It was these comedic drawings that got Krosoczka noticed by teachers, who recommended he start drawing for the school newspaper. For more than three years, he served as the cartoonist for the paper.
“On my fourteenth birthday, my grandfather and grandmother gave me the best birthday present ever, a drafting table that I have worked on ever since,” Krosoczka said. “Here I am 20 years later and I still work on this table every day. On the evening of my fourteenth birthday I was given the table and we ordered Chinese food.”
His fortune that night read: “You will be successful in your work.” The fortune is still taped to his drawing table.
“He engaged our students with his presentations and taught them that perseverance is a very important part of experiencing success,” Sandy Kerr, ESD’s Head of Lower School, said. “The students were captivated by his stories and illustrations, and by the fact that he has been passionate about storytelling since he was their age.”
Krosoczka also gave students a sneak peak at his newest book Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, before doing several live drawings of the students’ favorite character, Baghead, who encourages children to be comfortable with their own creativity and individuality.
“I was most excited about how Jarrett’s visit motivated the children to write,” Bonnie Tollefson, ESD’s Lower School Librarian said. “Several students talked to their teachers about writing their own books. All of the books the students create will be placed in our own library for circulation.”
Books written by Lower School students and inspired by Krosoczka’s presentation will be on display in the Lower School Library next to Elizabeth’s engraved rocking chair. The chair, often used by the Lower School librarians for reading time, includes the scripture verse “Let the little children come to me,” and an intricate carving of Jesus surrounded by children.
“You don’t have to be able to even write to become an author,” Krosoczka said to the littlest of listeners. “Go home from school and tell your parents the story that your imagination created. You, too, will be an author.”