Meet the Readers
Welcome to the newest section of my web site, one where I get to interact with--and express my gratitude to--the folks who read my books.

I hope to use this spot to show photos and illustrations that have been sent to me, and to answer a few of the many questions I get from readers each year.

(If you have come to this page in search of information on my comics, just go to the 'children's books & comics' section and scroll down.)

FAN ART: SARAH DRAWS MIKI [7.30.07] Check out this amazing illustration from a young woman in Australia by the name of Sarah. I've seen a lot of Miki drawings now, but this one is really exceptional. I'd swear I'd drawn it myself! Thanks for sharing your talent, Sarah!

READER SPOTLIGHT: BIANCA "KAIAMI" TSENG [2.18.07] I was absolutely floored by an incredible piece of fan art that came to me a few weeks back, and I'm sure you will be too. Reader Bianca Tseng, who also goes by the name Kaiami, sent me this lovely illustration of Akiko, completely with expert coloring and carefully applied white gouache highlights. I was so impressed with it I put it right above my work desk, just next to Priscilla Wu's illustration of Akiko and Poog. What a lucky guy I am, to have such talented (and generous!) readers. Thanks so much, Kaiami!

READER SPOTLIGHT: PRISCILLA WU [1.8.07] Happy New Year, everyone! I took a little time off from the website over the holidays, but now I want to get back to having something new here every Monday. I'd like to start a new 'reader spotlight' feature in which I say a special thank you to readers who have been especially kind to me over the years. I can think of no one better to start with than Priscilla Wu, who is truly one of the most dedicated readers I've ever had.

Priscilla took me up on my 'free sketch' offer, but went one step further and mailed me this lovely full-color illustration of Akiko and Poog to make it a trade. I promise you I got the better part of the bargain! Thanks so much, Priscilla, for all your support and encouragement. I've really enjoyed hearing from you all these years.

[9.30.06] Now this you've got to check out: Tai Reichle e-mailed photos of all the main Akiko characters--including Poog--built entirely out of legos. Isn't this the coolest?

Tai writes:

"I like your books. These two photos show Akiko, Poog, Mr. Beeba, Spuckler and Gax. I made them out of legos. I am 5 1/2 years old and have read 5 1/2 of your books (with my mom and dad.)"

Thanks so much, Tai! I'm so lucky to have such dedicated, creative readers like you!

[8.23.06] Thanks to Rebecca George, who sent me this wonderful drawing of Akiko and Poog! Says Rebecca:

"Please try to ignore the horrid, eye burning color ('specially on Poog). I'm not used to coloring floating circles, and my scanner devours everything. Enjoy."

I'm definitely enjoying it, Rebecca, and I'm sure everyone visiting this website is, too! Thanks a bunch!

[2.8.06] Here is a terrific illustration by 8th grade Akiko fan Taylor, who goes by the appropriately Japanese-sounding pen name of Yumi Kisargi. Here's what she said about it:

"In a few months, I'll probably be begging you to take off, for fear of people viewing it, but as of right now it's a decent sketch of our favorite Japanese girl."

It's far more than decent, Yumi. Pretty near perfect, I'd call it!

"Akiko and Poog," by Rebecca George
"Akiko Tribute" by Taylor (aka Yumi Kisargi)

[5.22.05] Periodically I get an e-mail or letter I'd like to quote at length. (Actually, I get them all the time, but there are only so many hours in the day!) Here's one from Stacie Fisher, a third grade teacher in Lewisville, Texas:

"I have read the first Akiko series to my class for over 4 years now.  Never have I had such interest, enthusiasm, and love for characters than I have had with your books.  My students can't get enough of them.

I try to give each character a voice so when I am reading I make them all sound different. 

Spuckler has a very southern accent, Mr. Beeba a scholarly voice, and they really enjoy the warbly language of my Poog.

I came upon this series at a Book Fair a few years ago. We do a space unit in 3rd grade and I thought these might go along with that.   I had never read anything you had written, so it was a shot in the dark.

Just know, that these books have inspired my students who don't read much to read more and write more.  They want to write their own book about another Akiko adventure. What a great way to send them off this summer and onto their fourth grade year."

Thanks so much, Stacie! It's a real thrill to know that my books have gotten your students so fired up about reading and writing.

By the way, the voices you do for the characters sound right on target: When I do Spuckler, he sounds like a Texan, and when I do Beeba, he sounds like a stuffy academic from Oxford University!

[3.29.05] Reader Timmy Croner sent me this terrific drawing, ample proof that we have another budding illustrator out there. Says Timmy, 'It is of my own character, Superkid, meeting Akiko and Poog." Thanks, Timmy, and keep up the great drawing!

Next up is a splendid illustration by Daniel Lunden, who has drawn both the original Akiko and the 'new' Akiko. you are quite an artist, Daniel; I think you've captured both versions perfectly!

And last but certainly not least is one of the most adorable things I've ever seen: Reader Jessica Weiss dressed up as Akiko for Halloween. Jessica, if they ever do a live action Akiko movie, I'll have the casting people get in touch with you right away!

"Akiko and Superkid" by Timmy Croner
"Akiko Old and New" by Daniel Lunden
Jessica "Akiko Come To Life" Weiss

[1.16.05] Reader Jen Snyder, of Coldwater, Michigan, sent me a card with this cool comic drawn on the inside cover. It features Akiko, Mr. Beeba, Spuckler, and a horseshoe crab, not to mention a priceless expression on Akiko's face as she says, "Uh, Spuckler, that was really gross." Just click on the thumbnail to get a closer look. Thanks, Jen!

[1.5.05] I recently visited every elementary and middle school in the Warren Consolidated School district (here in southeast Michigan) as part of their terrific 'Authors in Autumn' program. Among the many students who wrote to me following one of my presentations was Amber Wolgast, who sent me the wonderful letter pictured above right.

At Hatherly Elementary I was greeted by the spectacular sight of one of my book covers 'iced' onto a cake, to be enjoyed by a select group of students (and, okay, me too!). Click on the thumbnail below right to get a closer look. Special thanks to Cheryl Youse for taking care of all the arrangements for my visit there, and for supplying me with this photo!

Let's answer some of Amber's burning questions:

How many books have you illustrated?

I have now illustrated nine young reader novels: eight Akiko books (the next of which comes out in February), and one Billy Clikk book. I will soon begin illustrating the second Billy Clikk book, 'Rogmasher Rampage'. If you count the eight Akiko comic book trade paperbacks (and I don't see why you shouldn't!) that would bring the total to seventeen.

Do you have a partner or do you make the books by yourself?

Good question! I do all of the illustrating by myself. I do all the writing myself, too, but writers always have a sort of 'partner' in that department: the editor. The editor guides me through the process of writing each book, and asks for many changes, just like your teacher might do with something you have written (a very important part of improving one's writing, though you may not be too happy about that!)

Will you make more books?

Definitely! I'm always working on new books, and if all goes according to plan there will be many more in the years to come.

Who is your favorite character in your Akiko books?

I like Beeba, because he's very silly--just like all people who take themselves a bit too seriously!

Thanks for your letter, Amber, and to all the wonderful students, teachers, principals, volunteers and media specialists I met during my visits.

The students in the district got together to write a 'round robin' story using all my Akiko characters, along with some wonderfully imaginative characters and situations of their own creation. You can view it online right here.

Special thanks to Linda McGarry of the Frost Curriculum Center, who arranged my tour of the district. With a total of twenty-three schools visited, making all those arrangements must have been very challenging indeed!