News & Press

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June 13, 2011 - 3:59pm

2011 IPPY silver medal, graphic novel-humor/cartoon category

June 13, 2011 - 3:56pm

Cahoots was a fun-filled story just like the rest of the books in this series. I loved the message and the surprise ending, and I especially appreciated the glossary in the back of the book with all the “C” words. I loved Aldo’s humorous drawings as well as his insights into his life; and I was glad to see that his cartoon strip, Bacon Boy, was back!” – Julie Peterson, Booking Mama blog

“One of my students from last year has come back to borrow BOGUS and CAHOOTS, and students from this year’s class who have fallen in love with Aldo are planning to come back to my room next year to borrow DUMBSTRUCK and EGGHEAD! Keep them coming, Karla and Kendra!!!” – Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading review blog

“I love how new vocabulary is introduced in these books – they sneak it right in and kids just read it and never know they are learning excellent vocabulary words at the same time!! You will laugh out loud – I guarantee it – the books are THAT funny. AND it is reminiscent of the Wimpy Kid series format so I really can not say it enough – this will be a hit with those readers.” – Becky Bilby, In the Pages review blog

“This is a fun series that my students adore. Aldo heads to the country to visit his family in this installment and tries to survive with no technology for a week.” – katsok,

“Third volume in a zany alphabetical title series, “Cahoots” is an Aldo Zelnick Comic Adventure novel for 7-13 year-olds. If you liked “Artsy-Fartsy” and “Bogus” You’ll love “Cahoots,” the story of Aldo’s disastrous vacation family visit to a technology-free farm in Minnesota. Think of it as a dude ranch with cows and pigs and no electronic amenities. The book is in half comic illustration, half text form which makes it appealing to middle school and younger readers. As in earlier volumes, “Cahoots” ends with a glossary of amazing new vocabulary words beginning with “C” used in the story. “Cahoots” is full of wild and crazy moments and experiences, and Aldo provides his own unique perspective on each hair-raising event. Who would have thought there could be this much excitement on such a remote little Minnesota farm?” – Midwest Book Review

“…a must for your elementary school reader.” – Christy, Reader’s Cove bookstore, Fort Collins, CO

June 13, 2011 - 3:09pm

Children’s Reviews

“Poor Aldo Zelnick,  no electronics and he’s stuck with healthy snacks and smelly feet.  That sounds just like my house! I liked the chapter “Who Ya Gonna Call?’ because Aldo and Timothy find out the farm DOES have electronics. (Hint, they didn’t call the Ghostbusters!)  I loved the way the twins talked with words that other people can’t understand, like jeeby-jo.  The word galleries in the back of the books (Artsy-Fartsy and Bogus and Cahoots) are totally awesome because I have learned a lot of new words.  I love these alphabet books!” – Sigrid, age 8, sister to two older brothers and they both have smelly feet.

“Cahoots is a funny mystery that will surprise you….READ IT!  You’ll LOVE IT!!  Read Artsy-Fartsy and Bogus too,  because it is a great way to relax and have a laugh.  Aldo is  hilarious! You might even get some ideas of what to do this summer, Aldo Zelnick style.  The illustrations are so cool, too.” Mattias, Age 10, And no, I don’t have smelly feet!

Adult Reviews

“Hi Karla, I wanted to tell you that my daughter Lily, third grader extraordinaire, got Cahoots from the Easter Bunny.  She has read it at least twice and snorted through it both times.  She was also inspired to re-read Artsy-Fartsy and Bogus.  You really have a fan in the O’Connor house (two actually).  Thanks for another great book. I am moving to the Elementary level in the Fall.  I will be moving from Blevins to Putnam.  I hope we can get you and your partner in crime there sometime during the school year.” – Martin O’Connor

“Aldo Zelenick is back again and on a miserable family trip to his aunt and uncle’s farm. No video games, no television and no computer. What’s a boy to do? He isn’t sure what is worse: the rooster waking him every morning or his crazy twin cousins, who he’s sure are out to get him.” – Minnesota Parent, summer reading bonanza, intermediate readers

“Without a doubt, The Aldo Zelnick comic series is one to look for! From adults to young children all who open the pages and peer into Aldo’s world will discover something to love, laugh at and learn from. In Cahoots watch as Aldo gets reacquainted with family he hasn’t seen in some time, not only because of distance but because of his lack of time away from any piece of technology. He braves the elements and learns that life on a technology-free farm with cantankerous twin cousins and conniving family may be less copacetic than he thought it was going to be. A hilariously illustrated graphic novel that should be enjoyed by all, Cahoots is the best of The Aldo Zelnick series to date!” – Danielle Smith, There’s a Book review blog

Nancy Hansford, the local authors columnist for the Coloradoan, chronicles her grandson clambering for Cahoots. “He read Cahoots every morning at breakfast until he finished and is now looking forward to the next ones. Conner said, ‘Cahoots is an amazing story. I can’t wait for Dumbstruck and Egghead to come out.’”

Cahoots appears in Mailbox Monday on Write for a Reader. Guest contributor Rose City Reader praises Cahoots. “‘The humorous plot turns and lively drawings in this book will captivate both enthusiastic and reluctant young readers. This third installment in an A-to-Z alphabet series features a vocabulary-building glossary of cool words starting with the letter C, including conniption, charisma, and cattywampus.”

June 13, 2011 - 2:51pm

Children’s Reviews

“What would you do with a $1,000? Aldo would buy… 893 taquitos, 250 packs of Pokémon cards, 555 slushies, or maybe just a big flat screen TV for his bedroom. Too bad he lost the diamond ring, which would bring him a $1,000 reward! When Aldo and his best friend Jack find a ring in the gutter, Aldo is sure it’s bogus and wants to leave it. But Jack, the rock hound, insists on taking it home and testing it. The boys can’t be certain if the ring is real or not, so Aldo decides to take the ring to an expert. Unfortunately, he gets distracted and somehow the ring gets lost. No problem, Aldo is sure it’s a fake anyway. But then the boys see a newspaper ad with a $1,000 reward for the ring and the hunt is on to find it before someone else does! Bogus, by Karla Oceanak and Kendra Spanjer is the second comic novel about Aldo and Jack. It’s creative, quick, unique, and full of great illustrations. Aldo and Jack are always getting into crazy situations, and it’s a blast to read about them. A great glossary full of cool B words is included in the back of the book. If you like comic novels, read this book!” – Maya McQueen, YA Book Central

Bogus receives 5-star review from YA book reviewer Drew: “The author did a great job describing the setting and characters,” says Drew as he describes the book. He gives it five stars and recommends it to readers who like mysteries and autobiographies. “These people should read it because it has a mystery in it, it is about a kid’s life, and it has comics and jokes.”

Ethan Vanz reviews Bogus on his blog: read the whole review here.

Adult Reviews

Bogus, an Aldo Zelnick Comic Novel is the second graphic novel for kids age 7-13 featuring the irrepressible Aldo Zelnick, kid detective and linguist extraordinaire. Bogus is the B- letter book, incorporating as many vocabulary words beginning with “B” as possible. In Bogus, Aldo learns lots about philanthropy, another famous comic book artist (Charles Schulz), and the importance of remembering we are all citizens of a global village. Even finding a valuable lost ring and receiving a, $1000 reward are not as important as banding together and working and caring about other people who need help. Aldo Zelnick is a great hero for kids because he is exactly that, another believable kid. Pretty wonderful when you stop to examine him after all. As before, effortless learning takes place with adeptly incorporated vocabulary, aka the “B” gallery, which includes lots of techno-speak (“B4N”) and popular lingo or slang words (“buzzkill”) as well as foreign words (“bon voyage” and “bok choy”) and just plain fun words (like “bodacious”). The comic illustrations keep the pages turning as does the fast moving story. Kids will love to collect all the letters of the alphabet as discovered by Aldo Zelnick. Next in the series, Cahoots, involving a technology free vacation in rural Minnesota coming in late 2010. This reviewer, who incidentally is from rural Minnesota, can’t wait.” – Midwest Book Review

“Best of all, these books pass the real litmus test: my students love them, too.” – Beth Knees, Aldo Zelnick: A Great New Comic Novel Series

“I teach 4th- and 5th-grade reading and think the new Aldo Zelnick comic novel series is funny and smart, as do many of my students. I’ve also heard positive reviews from other teachers whose students are enjoying this book. From my experience, I know that students from second through fifth grade and reluctant to voracious readers are all enjoying Bogus. In Bogus, Aldo Zelnick and his best friend Jack find a diamond ring. Aldo thinks it’s bogus, and Jack – rock hound extraordinaire – thinks it’s real. Aldo loses the ring, finds it, then loses it again before discovering there is a $1,000 reward for the ring, which may not be bogus after all. Meanwhile, Aldo’s friend Abby is collecting money for children in Bhutan, but Aldo would rather buy Slushies with his allowance. There is so much to recommend Bogus, from Aldo’s quirky charm to the adventure-filled plot to the appealing illustrations. The vocabulary and moral are just icing on the cake – but buttercream, without artificial flavors to make them unappetizing. Aldo is a realistic ten-year-old boy whose charm often lies in his lack of perfection. Most of us can relate to a character who would rather eat home-baked goodies and buy himself treats than exercise and donate his money to charity. It is hard to be good. Aldo always ends up having many fun adventures as the primary problem is solved, whether he is relaxing in his tree fort with friends or going to see the Buddha statue at the Great Stupa (not the Great Stupid, as he first thinks). And, yes, Aldo does look for the ring in dog poop. (And, yes, it is funny, made even more so by the illustrations, including a map.) Speaking of illustrations, they are every bit as appealing and essential as the text. They do more than complement the text; they add another layer of meaning. The characters’ expressions, especially, are priceless. In addition, the illustrations provide humor through the literal interpretation of idioms (keep your eyes peeled) or expressions (last one there is a dung beetle) and “hidden” pictures of the feature letter. Last, the vocabulary in the Aldo books is truly fun because the words, which are in a glossary, are defined by Aldo. Thus, “ballistic” means “crazy upset,” “bludgeon” is “smash with a club. Ouch,” and “breakdancing” is “a kind of dancing that is way too athletic and tiring” (this is, after all, Aldo writing the definitions). Do yourself or a child you love a favor and buy a copy of Bogus – especially if that child ever read and enjoyed Captain Underpants, Ricky Ricotta, Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, or any other comic novel series. Aldo is a more positive character than these, yet the stories, characters, and illustrations will engage children just as much if not more. ” – 5 star review

“These are fun, simple, and easy to read graphic novels.  They are a great choice for reluctant readers who prefer a comic-book style read with plenty of pictures and not too many words.  They also manage to include some hopefully new vocabulary that will help kids learn a bit too.  Even the definitions of the words at the back are humorous enough that kids will probably want to read them.” – Melissa Baldwin, One Librarian’s Book Reviews blog

“Just wanted you to know that Vivi has so enjoyed reading your books, especially Bogus.  It’s been her nighttime choice ever since it was delivered a few days ago.  We finished it and just keep reading it over and over again.  I think being a character in a book has really motivated her to read more often and at a higher level.  Of course, she tells all her friends that she’s in the books, and reads her parts to whomever will listen.  I often catch her just sitting in a corner re-reading the parts she likes (i.e. the crazy scene where the ring gets lost in the cake batter) to herself.  She also really loves the maps and often points out the differences between the two. So thank you so much for including her in the books.  It’s been so fun for all of us.” – Virginia MacKinnon

“I gave Bogus to my friend’s daughter, who is going into fourth grade.  She took it from me, got a HUGE smile on her face, said, “Is this the second one?!  Thank you!!” and then walked over to her picnic table, sat down and began to read.  She never glanced at us again.  Her mom told me that she read from that moment on until she was 3/4 of the way done, then finished the book that night.  She loved it!  How gratifying to provide that kind of pleasure in a child’s life.  I thought you’d enjoy this anecdote. I’m taking Bogus to the Durango Public Library sometime in the next few days.  I looked online, and they did shelve Artsy Fartsy.  So I’m sure they’ll do the same with this one. (Maybe for “D” you’ll have to bring your son down to Durango and Fort Lewis and check things out. The summer is the best time here.)” – Chris, Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, CO

“Bogus is the second in Karla Oceanak’s series for young readers and it’s wonderful. She and illustrator Kendra Spanjer have outdone themselves. Those of any age will read this and smile or even laugh out loud.” Nancy Hansford, local authors writer for The Fort Collins Coloradoan

“Another home run from Bailiwick Press – or should I say a “ringer.” Bogus is a great adventure with a message of good karma and helping those less fortunate. Can’t wait to share copies with my little Aldo followers.” – Jackie

“As was the case in the first book, Bogus is filled with so much humor as well as some terrific illustrations. The reader once again has the opportunity to see what a great (and funny) character Aldo is. There is also a bit of a mystery to solve as well as some important lessons. I especially liked that Bogus featured many “B” words. In fact, there was even a “B Gallery” in the back of the book which gave definitions for all of the less familiar “B” words that appeared in the book. I am excited to say that there in another Aldo book in the works called Cahoots. If it’s anything like the first two books, then it’s guaranteed to be not only funny but also very educational. What a terrific mix for kids and their parents!” – Julie, on her Kid Konnection feature of the Booking Mama blog

Florida teacher Sandra Stiles calls Bogus “the perfect answer” on Musings of a Book Addict: “As a teacher, I know that one thing my students hate is vocabulary. This book is the perfect answer. It shows them that vocabulary doesn’t have to be boring. It can actually be fun. Aldo is given a second sketch book from his Grandma Goosy. He begins to fill it with his drawings, adventures and most importantly to me his fabulous “B” vocabulary words. In this story Aldo and his best friend Jack find a diamond ring in the gutter while playing kick the rock. Aldo throws it back because he thinks it is fake. Jack retrieves it. Then Aldo loses it and learns it is real. Now he is on a mission to find the ring. I didn’t read the first book in the series Artsy Fartsy. I will however purchase the first one and the next one Cahoots. I know the perfect students to recommend this book to. This is a book that kids who like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” will enjoy.”

“Overall, the latest installment of the Aldo Zelnick series is just as good, if not better than the first. A perfect blend of entertainment and education. Karla Oceanak and Kendra Spanjer have shown again that they know exactly how to reach kids in that often, awkward time of life between being a ‘kid’ and a teenager. Aldo is hilarious, but absolutely real, a kid you could almost imagine walking through your front door at any minute. His struggle to be active is something that almost every kid who reads this will be able to relate to.  Aldo is not a character you quickly forget and you’ll definitely be left wanting more when you’re done with this latest installment.” – Danielle Smith, There’s a Book review blog

“In Bogus, Aldo (somewhat reluctantly and very realistically) learns to put the needs of others before his desire for a giant flat screen TV. In book three, Cahoots, (out later this year) it sounds like Aldo is up for some more character-building when he has to spend time on his cousins’ farm with no technology and lots of chores! My fourth graders last year LOVED Artsy-Fartsy and were disappointed that Bogus would come out after they’d left my class. This new group is going to have two books in the series to devour and a third to look forward to by the end of the year!” – Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading blog

“Aldo Zelnick is back in book “B”, the furthering adventures of Aldo and his friends as their summer vacation continues.  The kids find a ring in the gutter and the tale begins as the ring is moved around the neighborhood and played with while Jack (the rockhound) believes it is real but Aldo insists it is Bogus.  The group lose the ring again just before discovering that it was indeed real and there is a $1,000 reward.  Now the hunt is on, as well as the plan for what to do with the money.  Like the first installment, this title is full of “B” words with a kid made glossary in the back.” – Melanie Nicholson, South Sound Book Review Council


June 13, 2011 - 2:13pm

Children’s Reviews

“It was the funniest book I have ever read. The illustrations are hilarious. It is better than Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” – Tavis

“You wrote a good book. I hope you make another.” – Derek

“Our class read Artsy-Fartsy and it was funny and great. I like it a lot.” – Lexi

Artsy-Fartsy is AWESOME! You put a whole bunch of humor in it. The illustrations are funny. I will definitely put this book on my list of books to buy.” – Ben

Artsy-Fartsy is hilarious. It’s really great for a 3rd grader to read.” – Alex

“I really enjoyed the book. The illustrations are really good. I really like the ‘A’ gallery that you put in there.” – Trent

“I really liked your Artsy-Fartsy book. I would put it on my Top 10 list.” – Zach

“We loved it!” – Maya

“I love your book Artsy-Fartsy a lot. I like the part where Aldo puts the book in his pants.” – Diego

“The ‘A’ gallery was funny. All of the characters were very funny in the story.” – Destiny

“I thought Artsy-Fartsy was a great book. Every time we had to take a break reading it, I kept on thinking about what was going to happen next.” – Anna

“The book was very hilarious. It made us laugh out loud. You have the best characters ever!” – Sebastian

Artsy-Fartsy is the best book I have read. It is a very hilarious book.” – Mattias

“I love Artsy-Fartsy, it is a super fantastic book! I can’t wait for Bogus to come out so I can read that book too!” – Siana

“I like how you made the book like a real journal, and how the cover and back cover look.” – Maya

“I like your book so much and I think you should write another book. I would read it. I think you could be a worldwide author.” – Lauren

“I like your book. It is funny. My favorite part is when the girl colors on the book.” – Lexie

“My class and I loved Artsy-Fartsy. It was the best book of 3rd grade.” – Tanner

“I like Artsy-Fartsy. I like how his grandma is outgoing. I also like when they make booger potion.” – Brandy

“I really liked your book. I got it for Christmas. My favorite part was when they found the girl and her sister who took their book. The sister said his hair looked like a sea sponge. That was funny. You did good at drawing and writing. I’m giving a copy of the book to my friend.” – Joshua

Artsy Fartsy, by Karla Oceanak & Kendra Spanjer is a fun, creative, and funny comic novel. When Aldo’s artsy fartsy grandmother gives him a new journal to sketch all of his ideas over the summer, Aldo is not exactly sure whether being artsy fartsy is cool or not. His favorite activities are watching TV, playing video games, and reading comic books and none of those activities require much energy or imagination. Aldo finally decides he might have just a tiny bit of artsy fartsiness in him and agrees to give the journal a try, but then his neighbor suggests that he should try writing in his sketchbook too! When is a kid supposed to get any time for relaxation over summer break!? In this first book in the alphabetical comic series we get introduced to the characters, learn a lot of cool new “A” words, and get to solve a mystery with Aldo and his best friend Jack. This 2009 Book of the Year Award finalist and 2010 Colorado Book Award finalist is sure to appeal to graphic novel lovers and Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. I can’t wait to read the next book…Bogus!” – Maya McQueen

“Although this book was full of amazing details and some very funny sections, there was one thing about the book that really stood out to me—the illustrations! In fact, almost half of the book was illustrations, since technically, it is a comic novel. In my opinion, the illustrations in this book told an amazing story on their own.” – Avery Katz, Boulder County Kids

“One reason I liked this book was because Aldo’s favorite things to do are read comic books, watch tv and play video games with his friend and he hates sports and I thought that was funny. I think many other kids would like this book because it is fun to read, it is interesting and because there is a small mystery to solve.” – Anonymous, B&N book review

“I learned that when you are  drawing or doing art, it’s not about being exact, it’s about expressing  and being creative about what you’re drawing personally. I learnt that when the boy is clue-less about what to draw, Goosy tells him that and all about what art really is.” – Charis, 5c class blog

Adult Reviews

“I immediately found both the story and illustrations to be a delight, regardless of age. For the kid who is just a little off-center but doesn’t care all that much, Aldo Zelnick is a soulmate with family, friends, and neighborhood who are totally believable. Retired teachers will applaud the “A” Gallery at the back of the book as an innovative way to increase vocabulary right in the book itself. Kendra Spanjer’s whimsical illustrations are an abolutely perfect fit for the narrative. Looking forward to spring and Bogus, and many more sagas of Aldo by Karla and Kendra.” – Virginia Shelton

“We got Artsy-Fartsy last week and my son (who thinks he has better things to do than read) has not put it down since. He devoured the Wimpy Kid books but said he likes Artsy-Fartsy better because it’s funnier. I like it better because it makes kids think. It’s fun to hear giggles coming from the family room and my son is NOT watching TV.” – Katie Maguire

“What a fun read about a little boy who doesn’t quite fit the ‘normal’ stereotypes. This book can be read from beginning to end, or can be picked up and just enjoyed for the humorous illustrations and captions. The Word Gallery is as entertaining as the book and your kids will never know there is a hidden vocabulary lesson.” – J. O’Hara

“I want you to know that my grandsons—especially Cole, the 8-yr-old, absolutely love Artsy Fartsy!  I’ve never seen him so engaged in a book.” – Deanna Ludwin

“I loved Aldo and his adventures in this delightful new series! I laughed out loud constantly as I read the book, both at the witty comic drawings and the characters’ comments and antics. But what I really loved was Aldo, who is completely himself, even when he doesn’t quite fit in. I was surprised how endearing the characters became—not only the kids, but the adults as well—and how eager I am to follow their lives and adventures. Run, don’t walk to get your copy of Artsy-Fartsy. It’s a winner!” – Christine Goold

“Just heard back from the third-grader to whom I gave the book.  Evidently she couldn’t put it down.  Her mother made her hand it over the first night she was reading it, and she finished it the second night. She loved it.” – Chris Goold

“The story is endearing for grown up readers. Younger readers will easily identify with Aldo. Both young and old will laugh throughout the story. Kendra Spanjer’s illustrations effectively shift between the styles of Aldo and other young artists. Artsy Fartsy is the first novel in a 26-book series. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment of Aldo Zelnick, Bogus, expected in spring 2010!” – E. Lozen

“Greg Heffley and Ellie McDoodle, move over—Aldo Zelnick is here!” – Mary Lee Hahn, teacher and A Year of Reading children’s lit blogger

“I can’t rave enough about Artsy-Fartsy. I admit that I had my doubts when I learned that the word “fartsy” was in the title. I was worried that the book might have potty humor (not that young boys wouldn’t love that), but I am thrilled to say that this book was very clean and appropriate for kids of all ages. Artsy-Fartsy has a little bit of everything…fun pictures, interesting storyline, a little mystery, and memorable characters. And it also has a something that will appeal to parents—a good message. Oh yeah, and the book is also educational in that it teaches new words and even has a glossary in the back. As a mom, I really can’t ask for much more from a middle grade novel.” – Julie Peterson, Booking Mama children’s lit blogger

Karla makes a guest appearance on Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection feature to talk about How Graphic Texts Help Kids (Boys, Especially) Become Better Readers.

Artsy-Fartsy gets an A for AWESOME from this family! Identifiable characters and page-turning shenanigans beg kids (and parents) to build a fort, grab a flashlight and keep reading long past bedtime.”-Becky Jensen, mom to twin troublemakers Jake and Dane

“The other night I caught my 8-year-old twins giggling on the living room couch as they took turns reading Artsy Fartsy aloud to each other. And one morning I found Artsy Fartsy on their nightstand with a headlamp resting on the cover from the previous night’s under-cover reading. That’s a true badge of honor in this house. We’re now reading it together before bedtime so I can get in on the fun. Dane said to me yesterday, ‘Do you know there’s another one coming out?! Can we get it?’ I think it’s important to share the specifics when someone makes an impact. You guys hit this one out of the park.” – Becky Jensen

“As soon as my son saw Artsy-Fartsy, he had to crack it open. It was completely irresistable. Luckily, I was able to pry it out of his hands (after he fell asleep) long enough to read it myself. Thanks for creating a book kids can love!” – Julie Prince, Off to Another Page children’s lit blogger

“A clean, intelligent read that will attract younger and older readers with ease. Love it and share it!” – Danielle Smith, There’s a Book children’s lit blogger

Karla and Kendra make a guest appearance for an interview/conversation on There’s a Book.

“My two girls (9 and 7) loved it, especially the parts where a girl finds the sketchbook and draws in it. As a parent, I like this book because it’s not quite as sarcastic as the Wimpy Kid series; it feels more appropriate for younger kids. Plus, it has a good message—that it’s okay to be into drawing or rocks or baking even if other people make fun of it. This is going to be a series, from A to Z, and my girls are already asking for the next book.” – Launie Parry

“I received Artsy Fartsy yesterday in the school mail. I am the media specialist at a local elementary school. This book is fabulous, and I want to read it to ALL my classes! I love the vocabulary, humor, everything! Wonderful job!” – Sandy Schierman

“The other night I caught my 8-year-old twins giggling on the living room couch as they took turns reading Artsy Fartsy aloud to each other. Then one morning I found Artsy Fartsy on their nightstand with a headlamp resting on the cover from the previous night’s under-cover reading. That’s a true badge of honor in this house. We’re now reading it together before bedtime so I can get in on the fun. You hit this one out of the park. Great job.” – Becky Jensen

“Artsy-Fartsy gets an A for AWESOME from this Dunn family! Its identifiable characters and page-turning shenanigans beg kids (and parents) to build a fort, grab a flashlight and keep reading long past bedtime.” – Becky Jensen, Dunn mom of Jake and Dane Johnson, 3rd grade

“ABSOLUTELY love the book! I haven’t read the whole thing (yet), but I have skimmed around it. It is a true gem! Both of you deserve a pat on the back, for a job well done.” – Chet Halvorson

“When the book arrived all my kids read it and couldn’t put it down! They actually liked it better than Diary of A Wimpy Kid. They are all looking forward to the next book!” – A. Tranchitella

“Oh, Aldo, where have you been all our lives? This very clever, well-designed book combines sensational art from Aldo’s own point of view with relatable kid-ventures AND manages to be educational, what with all those fancy (Aldo-defined) words. Sure to be a favorite of boys (even those who don’t like to read), but girls will enjoy it, too. Parents and teachers are encouraged to a look into the zany, sweet and sometimes gross world of Aldo (“booger potion”???). You may well find yourselves tearing through it first, before you hand it off to your kids!” – CraftWriteTrai

“I settled into a comfortable chair and started reading … and reading. What a terrific book! I loved everything about it—the handwritten text, the story, the wonderful illustrations, the appendix of difficult “A” words, and the beautiful cover.” - Martha Roden

“Thank you for the Artsy-Fartsy book. Our students will love it. Looking forward to the next ‘letter.’” – Penny Alexander

“One of our regular customers bought one for her daughter off my recommendation and then came back in and said her daughter loved it.” – Ronda Willmot, owner of BookEnd

“Thanks for Artsy-Fartsy. I thought it was a great idea  to incorporate new vocabulary into the story to make it interesting and educational. The story made me think of some of my fondest childhood memories, too. The author is really good at relating to kids. We’ll be looking forward to the next one.” – Beth

The first book in an alphabetical series, Artsy-Fartsy is a comic novel starring a 10-year-old Colorado boy who is given a sketchbook by his grandmother to record all his ‘artsy -fartsy’ ideas. What ensues is a funny, appealing cartoon story with lots of opportunities for Aldo’s artsy-fartsy journaling and doodling. Even though being artsy is uncool, Aldo fills his sketchbook with funny, flip, zingy drawings and ideas and makes some headway in figuring out just who he really is after all. The wonderful “A” Word Gallery in the back only makes its audience anticipate the next cool book in the Aldo Zelnick epic series.” – Midwest Book Review

“My students and I are really enjoying Artsy-Fartsy. I think the children can identify with Aldo. I introduced Artsy-Fartsy to the other fourth grade grammar and composition teacher and she has used the book as well. We like to use good literature in our teaching, and this year we used Artsy-Fartsy to emphasize ‘voice’ to our students. We also asked the students to identify thoughts and emotions used in the story. We are looking forward to the continuing adventures of Aldo, his friends and family”. – Carol Gorman

“I wish all publishing houses and authors were as well-prepared as the ones at Bailiwick. Karla Oceanak and Kendra Spanjer have done an incredible job with advance publicity and dipslay materials for their book and followed through with a wonderful signing event. We only wish that we had more space for all the parents and kids who attended their well-planned, entertaining signing. Our store would have them back in a heartbeat and hope to do an event for their next release.” — Jacqie Hasan, Manager, Old Firehouse Books

“I was completely charmed by this novel. The drawings and text have the quality of simultaneously being appealing to children and also amusing for adults. A big strength here is in the development of the characters. This is wonderful, since this is going to be an A to Z series and we’ll have plenty of time to get to know them better. These are individuals with staying power. With the sketchbook comes a wonderful, not-overstated message of allowing Aldo to be himself and follow his creativity. Bravo!” – Jean Hanson

“My daughter was immediately drawn to this book. It is fun, clever, entertaining, and even a bit educational. Plus it has a great message: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. We have but one question: When’s the next one coming out?” – V. Mackinnon

“Karla Oceanak delivers an entertaining story full of humor, true-to-life characters, and a bit of a mystery. Spanjer’s accompanying illustrations complement the storyline with literal characters sketches (including Goosy, Aldo’s free-spirited grandmother, and Timothy, his sport-loving older brother). I’ll admit that I was a bit concerned that there might be some bathroom humor in the book, with a title like Artsy-Fartsy.  Fear not, there’s nothing offensive!  In fact, artsy-fartsy is one of the fifty words beginning with the letter A that Aldo introduces to his readers.  They’re used naturally in the storyline, not forced to fit, and are included in a fun illustrated glossary in the back pages of the book. Three people in my family read the book—my 7-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son, and 40-something Mom; we all got something different from it:  daughter enjoyed new vocabulary and word games (goodbye in six languages, pangrams for typing practice), son enjoyed an artistic protagonist (like him), Mom enjoyed giving it her stamp of approval.  We’re all looking forward to the next book, beginning with B, it’s Bogus!” - Dawn Rennert, sheistoofondofbooks blog

“Aldo Zelnick is a newcomer to the graphic novel lineup. He’s an artist, and good in school, but not athletic like his brother and has a flamboyant artist of an grandmother who encourages his artistic side. Aldo struggles with how to deal with the negative connotations of being a male artist and also discovers that girls can be friends too in this title, the first in his new series of “sketchbooks”.  This unpretentious story speaks to kids without being gross or preachy and would make a great sell to those Wimpy Kid fans. I love how the author stealth-fully works in some great vocabulary under the guise of a retired English professor who the boys confide in.   My only worry, this title has a underlying “A” theme, does that mean she’s planning on writing 26 of these?!?!” – Melanie Nicholson, South Sound Book Review Council

“I read Artsy-Fartsy to my third-grade class. They were so engaged in the story and the illustrations. Every time I put down the book, they would groan, ‘Please! Can’t we read some more?’” – Stephanie Rittman, teacher

“It was a fun book, like getting a glimpse at a ten-year-old’s view of life.  The humor was fun, the illustrations added to the humor, and the addition of interesting a-words makes it even educational.  I think tweens and younger kids will get a kick out of this, and probably incidentally learn new words too.  Even the definitions at the end were fun to read (instead of being dry and boring).” – Melissa Baldwin, One Librarian’s Book Reviews blog

“I am so impressed with Artsy-Fartsy! It is genuinely funny, entertaining, and educational. The personalities of even the minor characters are developed well, and the plot lines all come to satisfying conclusions in an artful way.” — Leslie Patterson, author and former children’s librarian

“A perfect summer vacation book.” – Sarah W., B&N Parents and Educators blogger. Read the whole review here.

“A new classic.” - Gloria Tiller, Kazoo Books, in her 5/23/2011 Top 100 Kids Books Survey

“Meet Aldo Zelnick, the main character who leads us into a new comic novel series beginning with ‘Artsy Fartsy.’ The story offers the message that it’s OK to be into things that other people may make fun of. Author Karla Oceanak and illustrator Kendra Spanjer created a character that those ages 8 to 13 years old can identify with. The book helps youths believe they are not alone if they like drawing or other activities rather than sports. ‘Artsy Fartsy’’ is really funny and even has a mystery attached to the plot. Highly recommended.” – Nancy Hansford, local book reviewer for The Coloradoan, article appeared Jan. 17, 2010.

Indiebound’s Bestsellers List gives Artsy-Fartsy an honorable mention! Download the PDF.

Artsy-Fartsy made the 2010 Otowi Station staff pick: click here to see. Staff member Ellen at the Otowi Station Bookstore calls Artsy-Fartsy “an excellent choice for reluctant middle-grade readers as well as voracious readers.” Artsy-Fartsy was one of the three children’s books picked by the staff for the best of 2010. Ellen also praises the use of the vocabulary in the books and can’t wait to get her hands on Cahoots.

“Aldo illustrates his summer vacation, wacky friends, and loving family in this charming comic novel that blends text with illustrations on every page. Engaging and entertaining, the story and drawings in this book will captivate both enthusiastic and reluctant young readers. This first installment in an A-to-Z alphabet series includes a glossary of words to help kids broaden their vocabulary.” – Tattered Cover bookstore’s Between the Covers blog

WTS Toy Review 5-star certified: “Overall our Moms and Dads, but even more importantly their kids, just loved Aldo Zelnick and Artsy-Fartsy! It’s absolutely adorable, fun to read, and super cute to look at. The story is compelling, the style is eye-popping and our review team all ended with the same question: “When is the next Aldo Zelnick book coming out!?””

Creative Child magazine gives Artsy-Fartsy Seal of Approval in holiday toy issue

The Horn Book mentions Artsy-Fartsy‘s Mountains & Plains 2010 Regional Book Award

May 2010 SCBWI’s Good News mentions Artsy-Fartsy as a finalist for the Colorado Book Award

Shelf Awareness (Sept. 14, 2010) and Bookselling This Week (Sept. 16, 2010) mention Artsy-Fartsy as Mountains & Plains regional book award winner

Moved from, originally posted June 25, 2010: “Artsy-Fartsy won the Colorado Book Award and the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Regional Book Award! At the Colorado Book Awards ceremony in Aspen on June 25, Artsy-Fartsy won the award for juvenile fiction. The awards “recognize outstanding contributions by Colorado authors and illustrators.” Nice plaque and shiny gold stickers! On the same day, we learned that Artsy-Fartsy had beat out 7 large press titles for the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Regional Book Award in the children’s chapter book category. This award honors the most outstanding book set in the 12-state region. Creative Child magazine also bestowed Artsy-Fartsy recently with its Seal of Excellence. And last month, Artsy-Fartsy took the bronze in Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award contest in juvenile fiction. BOTYA honors the best books published by independent publishers from across the country.”

Originally posted March 16, 2010: “Artsy-Fartsy has been named a Book of the Year Award finalist by Foreword Reviews in not one but TWO categories: juvenile fiction and graphic novels. The contest honors the best books published by independent publishers from across the country.” Link to 2009 finalist categories

Originally posted Dec. 6, 2010: Artsy-Fartsy makes the IndieBound Books Winter 2011 Kids’ Next List

Artsy-Fartsy wins 2010 Colorado Book Award for juvenile literature

Colorado Country Life

Artsy-Fartsy accolades:

“Check out the map on the home page of We’re keeping track of where the first copies of Artsy-Fartsy are going, with the hope of filling in the entire map of the United States as soon as we can.” [originally posted Dec. 8, 2009. Note: map not on homepage anymore.]

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