Kohl's Cares® and Skippyjon Jones - GIVEAWAY!

Kohl's Department Stores is helping kids go back to school by selling exclusive hardcover SKIPPYJON JONES books and coordinating stuffed toys for $5 each!!! That's $5 EACH - el cheaparooni! (There's a back-pack too!)
     Now through the end of September, 100% of the net profits from sales of these products will go to benefit kids' health and education initiatives in communities nationwide. Since the program's inception, Kohl's has raised over $208 million to help kids. That is muy, muy impressive. Don't you think?
     From the press release... "In addition to the merchandise program, Kohl's Cares® features a scholarship program, which recognizes more than 2,200 young volunteers each year with scholarships and prizes; the Associates in Action program, which encourages associate volunteerism and has donated more than $47 million to youth-focused nonprofit organizations to date; and fundraising gift cards for schools and youth-serving nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit www.kohlscorporation.com."
     To help get the word out - today I am interviewing the very awesome Judy Schachner, creator of Skippyjon Jones.

Q.    Your artwork remains amazingly consistent through all the Skippyjon Jones books: IN THE DOGHOUSE; IN MUMMY TROUBLE; AND THE BIG BONES; LOST IN SPICE; CLASS ACTION; and the soon to be released CIRQUE DE OLE. What is your medium and how long does it take you to finish a spread?
A.     It's funny you should mention that thing about consistency. For me, one of the most difficult things about doing a book is keeping the characters looking the same from page to page and in a series, from book to book. Skippy has evolved over the years the way Mickey Mouse and so many other cartoon characters have over time. At least that's what I tell myself to make me feel better about all my artistic inconsistencies,( she said chuckling ).
      These books are painted with acrylics and a little pen and ink. A double page spread can take anywhere from three days up to a week...and when I forget how to paint, which happens frequently, it can go on forever. There is a lot of layering of color and there are so many tiny dogs!!! I'm thinking of calling in the ASPCA to give me a break one of these days.

Q.    Do the stories come first, or the artwork?
A.     I always start off writing, then about two to three pages in, maybe more, my ADD kicks in and I just have to start drawing or else I'll go crazy. Most of the time I go back and forth between the both. I also have a tendency to self edit too much if I'm just writing, so adding the visuals keeps me moving along at a good clip.

Q.    How long does it take you to noodle out the complicated and muy, muy fun text?
A.     The text really doesn't take me very long, it's the artwork that takes forever and I do polish the words right up until the very end.

Q.    Skippyjon gets into so many adventures - do your cats truly inspire them all?
A.     I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The idea for the first book came after my cat Skippyjon Jones, was stung on his most adorable head by a very large bee. Soon after, my kitty boy began to speak with a spanish accent reminiscent of Antonio Banderas. The fact that no one else in my family ever heard him utter a single word in Espanol did not trouble me, though at the time I WAS seeing a psychiatrist. And who doesn't know a cat that hasn't built pyramids in his litter box day after day. I could go on and on describing the creative writing ,so to speak, of my little Crumcakes but then I'd risk sounding like a proud Mama so I'll spare you.

Q.    How did you find out about Kohl's Cares® program? It's muy bueno, eh?
A.     The Kohl's Cares people contacted my publisher ( Penguin ) and asked if I'd consider being a part of the program...How could I say no to the opportunity of being able to help so many children? I am grateful that they approached me and thrilled with the quality of the Skippy related products that they created.

Q.    Finally, Skippyjon Jones has reached other worldly levels of success - CONGRATULATIONS! Did you ever imagine he would be so popular and how has it changed your life?
A.     No Elizabeth, I never in my wildest dreams expected this level of success or popularity from my books. I am so grateful to all of the librarians and teachers and parents and independent booksellers and children who championed Skippy from the start...word of mouth is the best form of marketing there is. I have always been happiest just making my books. I never really cared about fame and I certainly wasn't thinking about making lots of money, for as we all know , a career in children's books isn't always lucrative and for most of my career it was not. It wasn't terrible but I could not support a family on my royalty checks. So like most author/illustrators, I traveled to remote parts of the planet talking to anyone who'd listen in exchange for small bags of cat food. I don't like being the center of attention and I don't like being away from home.I hate having my picture taken,doing T.V. interviews and I suffer from high anxiety when I speak in front of crowds...so when you ask me Elizabeth, how has all the success changed my life? My answer would have to be...'it's complicated.'' But the love that comes in the form of letters and e-mails has to be the greatest reward not just for me but for any author/illustrator. This morning, I received a letter from the mother of a sweet little boy who, just months before he turned four, died of leukemia. She told me that her son had all of my books and could recite them by heart. His mother went on to say, that though his earthly remains will not be at his memorial service his spirit will be represented by the presence of his little red wagon which will be filled with all of his favorite things. My books will be in that wagon. I have never taken my job for granted but after receiving a letter like that,I know I never will.

Oh my gosh, Judy. I can't imagine receiving a letter like that. What an honor to be so loved - by me too. Grande hugs to you!

     Along with Judy's Skippyjon Jones titles, Kohl's also has two books to help make life easier for the grown-ups: EAT THIS AND NOT THAT (FOR KIDS) - a guide to what's safe for kids to eat without getting loaded down with calories, salt and fat in today's fast-food mine field; and CROCKPOT'S BUSY FAMILY RECIPES.
     So, head to your nearest Kohl's and get your SKIPPYJON JONES books and doll quick! (If you're a fan, like I am, you will not want to miss this!)

GIVEAWAY!!!! - NOW OVER!!!!
     This is a biggie!!! Next Wednesday I will randomly draw one name from the commenters on this blog post to receive the ENTIRE PRIZE BOX of books and plushes!!!! (You may get a different mix than what I received.) Whatever you receive, trust me, you want this!
     Must be in the continental United States to win - and you must include an email addy so I can contact you. (It can be spelled out.) No addy, no winnie!

Full disclosure: Kohl's sent me the entire promo pack in a groovy Skippyjon Jones box to help get the word out about their initiative - including an awesome sock monkey - and I'm so glad they did! Reading, helping kids - right up my alley! I'm so proud of companies when they do good things like this.
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