Lake Tahoe native publishes new children’s book
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Using the days at California State University, Chico, when his upstairs neighbor ran the vacuum at 2 a.m. and the stomping footsteps of a small crowd combined with the muffled voices of alcohol-fueled college students kept him up at night as his base, Jory John pieced together his latest children’s book, “Goodnight Already!”
With the Dec. 2 publication of his new book by HarperCollins Publishers, John returned to writing children’s books. John had previously written several illustrated comedy books.
In “Goodnight Already!,” the Tahoe native and South Tahoe High School graduate portrays a dozing bear who desperately wants to get some sleep and his energetic duck neighbor who insists on finding ways to keep him up to hang out.
“It comes out of a living situation where we’re either living next to someone who is loud or we’re the loud person,” John said. “I’ve been the bear and I’ve been the duck before.”
John said the bear character was largely based on himself during his years at Chico State in the late ’90s when he worked late hours at the student-run newspaper, The Orion, and came home regularly to loud upstairs neighbors.
“I felt a lot like the bear character there,” he said.
“I’ve also been the duck.”
He remembers hanging out with friends at 1 a.m. and not completely being aware and considerate of his surroundings or knowing how annoying he was being.
The decision to make the sleepy character a bear, however, is not rooted to his days in Chico, but to his childhood and continuous connection to South Lake Tahoe.
“The inclusion of the bear is a huge shout-out to Tahoe,” John said.
John, who now lives in the Bay Area, says he regularly visits his mother in Tahoe. He’s been lucky enough to see several bears. He used the bear character as a stamp of his Tahoe past. He also attributed his creativity to growing up as an only-child in Tahoe and exploring the woods in the area, many times making his surroundings more interesting using his imagination.
He has been able to write books for children because he believes he has still not lost a connection to a child’s mind. He is still able to think like a child and figure out what will make a book enjoyable to children, he said.
“I literally sometimes sit here writing and just laughing out loud,” he said.
The book was illustrated by Benji Davies, who works out of the United Kingdom and has never met John in person.
Davies has the ability to adjust his style to the books he works on, and was able to find the right style for “Goodnight Already!.” John said he particularly liked the contrast Davies was able to create between the dark blue skies in the bear’s pages and the yellows in the duck’s pages. He was also able to bring more comedy to the book with some of the illustrations.
“Every time I look through it, I laugh,” he said.
On an individual level, “Goodnight Already!” has given John another opportunity to work for children, something he missed.
John was initially an education major at the University of Nevada, Reno, before coming back to Tahoe for a short spell at Lake Tahoe Community College and later transferring to Chico State as a journalism major.
He first gave children’s books writing a try when he published a jointly produced book titled “Pirate’s Log: A Handbook for Aspiring Swashbucklers.”
He also worked for an organization called 826 Valencia, a San Francisco after-school program, for six years. At 826 Valencia, he spearheaded a project soon after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, where children from the program’s many branches around the country wrote letters to the then president-elect. He later compiled the letters in the book “Thank You and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids Letters to President Obama,” which was later featured on NPR’s This American Life and in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times.
In 2012 John began writing full-time and steered away from children’s books, writing comedy books for an older crowd, most notably, “All My Friends Are Dead,” and “All My Friends Are Still Dead.”
Still, he was eager to return to write for children.
“It was always bubbling in the back of my mind that I wanted to write for kids,” he said. “I always felt like I never lost that spark that you have when you’re a kid.”
John said he is eager to read in front of children again and promote reading and writing. He added that he would like to speak at Sierra House Elementary School, where he attended as a child.
John has published seven books. His new book, “Terrible Two,” is scheduled to be released in January and a picture book titled “I Will Chomp You,” is scheduled to be out next summer.
A sequel to “Goodnight Already!” is expected to be released next winter.
Limited signed copies by John and Davies of “Goodnight Already!” will be available starting Saturday at Toy Maniacs Wacky World at 2180 Lake Tahoe Blvd. and Tahoe Toys and Treasures at 3053 Harrison Avenue.