Local author, illustrator and librarian debuts first book

A local Kansas City author, illustrator and librarian, Samantha Jones will be debuting her first book, A Tale as Tall as Jacob, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing on October 5, 2021. Through heart-warming illustrations and anecdotal reflections, Samantha tells the story of what it’s like to grow up with a sibling who has ADHD, and all the misadventures that come along with it.

AMP Editor, Lucas Wetzel, shared his thoughts with us on the upcoming book and on Samantha’s impact on the community. “I met Samantha through the Kansas City Library, where my kids attended storytime events. After hearing about the idea she had to write a graphic novel about her brother Jacob, (a favorite story topic of the library’s youngest patrons) I was excited about the possibility of working with this local author to help tell her story,” he said. “She writes honestly but lovingly about her frustrating but big-hearted younger sibling and provides an entertaining yet serious look at what life with a neurodivergent family member was like for her,” he explained. “Thankfully, our Publishing team saw the value in this story right away, and with a lot of hard work from Samantha and collaboration from our production/design team, A Tale as Tall as Jacob turned into a really special and unique book. I’m excited for it to reach a wide audience this fall.”

Samantha kindly provided her insight to all of us at AMU on her experience writing this book and her journey as a public librarian.

What are looking forward to the most about releasing A Tale as Tall as Jacob?

I’m very much looking forward to school visits as an author. Connecting kids with books is the best part of being a librarian and soon I can do it as an author too! I want to help kids feel like storytelling and comic-making is within their abilities and that their ideas and stories matter. I hope that by releasing A Tale as Tall as Jacob I will be invited to speak with kids from all over and can use my book as a tool to promote storytelling and drawing.

…Also, not gonna lie, I’m just excited to brag at my 10-year high school reunion this fall.

Why do you believe this story is important to share with the world?

I think the most important thing about this book is the depiction of what it is like to grow up with a sibling who has special needs. I’ve always been drawn towards stories about growing up, especially when they’re conveyed honestly with all the ups and downs. Having a brother like Jacob was a whole lot of fun and a whole lot of frustration. I think a lot of other kids have similar experiences and I wanted to make this story for them. I remember the lightning-bolt validation I felt in second grade the first time I read “No David!” by David Shannon. I felt like someone else knew a Jacob. I want other kids to feel that when they read my book.

How has your experience as a librarian shaped your book and helped it to come to fruition?

Being a youth librarian has been the perfect career to support my book-making goals. I constantly get to meet authors, illustrators, publishers, and other industry leaders. I’m always surrounded with new books and can see who is publishing what and topics that are trending. But the best thing has been working with kids as an informal educator. The foundation of being a librarian is to build relationships with young people and help encourage their interest. I’ve learned so much from the kids I work with. They constantly inspire me to keep realistic depictions of childhood at the forefront of my work. They also give me great ideas. Once an 8-year-old told me I should make a comic about, “an evil beta fish named Blane who fights a baby superhero.” I couldn’t make up something that great in a million years.

What were some challenges you faced in completing your first book?

The biggest challenge I faced in this was supporting my physical and mental health. Nobody warned me that maybe scrunching up over a drawing for 30+ hours a week on top of working a fulltime job might have some negative impacts on my wellbeing. Who knew?! Not me. I got a terrible repetitive stress injury in my shoulder that required lots of breaks and some physical therapy. I’ve also struggled with generalized anxiety disorder my whole life and had to make sure I stayed hydrated, exercised, and rested so as not to spiral into a procrastination work paralysis (I failed at this a lot and had many a spiral.) While it is was a huge struggle, I feel much more prepared for the next time I make a book. Remember to take care of yourself, folks!

Describe your relationship with AMU. How has your experience been working with our team on your book?

I feel so lucky to have AMU as my publisher for so many reasons! My relationship with AMU started when I was in third grade and got a copy of Weirdos from Another Planet! at a school gift swap. It feels so fitting that the publishers of my favorite comics are now publishing my debut book. I’m also glad that I get to work with a local company who has partnered with me as a librarian to bring comics to our communities. And I’ve enjoyed the creative freedom and flexibility that I’ve received while making my book. Lucas and Jackson have been so supportive and have helped me understand a lot about the publishing process and given so much constructive feedback.

Marketing Specialist Jackson Ingram has worked closely with Lucas and Samantha and shared how much they have enjoyed working on this title.

“Working with Samantha has been an absolute dream,” they said. “As a children’s librarian, she keenly understands the impact a story can have on kids, and that awareness is evident on every page of A Tale as Tall as Jacob. This graphic novel provides such a valuable and empathetic look at ADHD within families, made accessible through humorous, relatable vignettes,” said Jackson. “Seeing Jacob through Samantha’s eyes will remind readers to celebrate neurodiversity in themselves and in others.”

Congratulations on winning the 2021 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant! Tell us a bit about the grant and what you are planning to do with it.

The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth grant is an annual grant given to 2 libraries to help promote graphic novels and comics in library programming and collection. It’s given as part of the American Library Association and Will Eisner Family Foundation, and it’s the first grant I’ve written (I had a lot of help from my supervisors who are super-grant writers.)  I will receive funds to expand the North-East library’s Juvenile and Teen graphic collections and host a comic-related program for youth in the NE. I plan on having a two-day “Comic-thon” in which I have all day drop-in drawing sessions in our new studio space. Kids will learn how to make their own 8-panel mini comic that I will photocopy and display in the library as part of a kid-made collection. Select participants will get their comic published in the Northeast News and all participants will get to take their supplies home so they can continue making comics long after the program is over. I want to provide kids with the tools and knowledge to share their stories with others and promote diversity in comic storytelling.