Return of the 5-1-1: Welcome Tommy Greenwald and Katie!

What a great pleasure it is to welcome author Tommy Greenwald to the 5-1-1 tonight! Tommy and I have known each other ever since before the first Charlie Joe Jackson graced the shelves of bookstores and filled the mind of reluctant readers with the shocking thought, “Hey! I just read a book and I loved it!

Awesome Signed Shirt

It’s a big year for Tommy! First off, is the release this very day, February 17th, 2015, of his latest book, spinning out of the CJJ-verse, Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting!, which dares to ask are teenagers phones truly attached to them, or can the cord (pun firmly intended) be cut (click here for Tommy’s post on why)! Coming later this year is the latest in the Charlie Joe Jackson series, Charlikatiee Joe Jackson’s Guide to Planet Girl, which ponders the mysteries of the female mind in a way that only CJJ can, and happens to drop just 10 days after my birthday on August 25th!

cjj planet girl

As if the sweet duet of humorous releases were not enough, Tommy also has a new series coming out in October from Scholastic! CrimeBiters! promises to be another funny series from the man who once was inspired by three boys who just did not like reading!


On to the questions! I call this the 5-1-1, as we feature five somewhat serious questions, followed by one nice and frivolous fun question, and then give the subject the chance to shoot a question back at this interviewer and/or his students! And here we go:

Tommy and Charlie Joe Newhouse 2tom-greenwald

Question 1: What was it like moving from writing for theater (Yeah, he’s a playwright with a show out this week!) to writing for children and what similarities and differences did you notice?

Tommy: Creating stories that entertain and surprise are pretty much a universal theme to anyone who tries to write. The biggest difference is in the audience. People who go to see your show will tell you they liked it even if they didn’t. Kids will tell you the cold, hard truth every time.

Question 2: What is the one genre or audience of book that you would love to tackle if given the chance that you have not yet done?

Tommy: I have an adult (how adult this librarian wonders) comic idea kicking around in my head that I really hope to get to in the not-too-distant future. (Translation from Tommy: within the next 20 years)

Question 3: Share one or more of your most memorable visits/communications with students about your books:

Tommy: I got an amazing email from a kid the other day. All it said was “Can you tell me about you?” I loved that, but the most meaningful by far are the ones that tell me that my books helped them become more interested in reading.


This librarian needs to jump in here with a quick story. When I first read CJJ1, I began an email dialogue with the author, one Tommy Greenwald. There was a student working in my media center who was not a big reader, let’s call him Mikey. I showed Mikey the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of the book one day, and he begrudgingly took it home to try it. One or two days later he was back looking for more. It was the very first book he had ever read cover to cover!

Tommy and Mikey began talking via long distance. It was around 2 years later that Tommy came to visit our town on his first victory lap tour. When I was able to invite this student, now a high schooler, and his family to come, and he saw Tommy and had the chance to meet him up close and personal… it was just a beautiful thing! For me, that is my current best Tommy story! Though who knows what the future may bring!

Michael and Tommyb

Question 4: What is your advice for students and/or adults who would like to break into the field of writing?

Tommy: Keep reading, keep exploring, and remember that an IDEA is one thing, but a STORY is another – it has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Question 5: Who is your favorite supporting character to write who is not currently published in a spin-off or is not currently an adult (sorry Brody Newhouse, and yes, he is a relation… read on below)?

Youngest Groupie Engrossing

Tommy: Eliza Collins is smarter than she looks — and she just might get her own book soon! (Sounds like she needs a new best friend or maybe a little sister, may I suggest the beautiful name Kara?)

Question 6 (silly): Who amongst you and your wife and kids has spent the longest time intentionally unplugged from social media and texting, for how long approximately, and for what reason? (In other words have you pulled a Katie?)

Tommy: I don’t know if i could pull a Katie. I’d love to but I’d probably get fired from my day job. and my kids will NEVER EVER EVER give up their phone — unless it’s for a fancier phone.

Question 7 (Tommy turns it around): What authors make you guys laugh the most? (besides me, of course.)

Newhouse and Company: This seems like a softball question, yet I run the risk of forgetting somebody, so while I will give it a go, if I forget someone amazing, please let me know in the comments below. I will give you my son’s picks first, then a selection of my students, and then a few of my own:

Brodie: I love Peanuts but Charles Schultz is dead (direct quote). He also loves Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Calvin and Hobbes, Weird School and Bad Kitty among other books!

A selection of students from my school: Dr. Seuss, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Nerds, Babysitter’s Club comics, Bone, Familiars and a selection of surprising choices that I am told have funny parts including The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (really?) and Bang! by Sharon G. Flake, two books whose authors I respect and titles I have enjoyed but ones that stretch the definition of funny!

In No Particular Order from this Librarian: Tom Angleberger, David Lubar, Bruce Coville, Yotsuba series of Manga, Gordon Korman, Chris Grabenstein, Free Thaddeus, Berkeley Breathed’s Flawed Dogs, Terry Pratchett (love the Truckers trilogy). However, for sheer milk shooting out of my nostrils humor, I have to nominate Planet Tad and the sequel by Tim Carvell! If I drank milk it would be rivileting in a puddle having been flung from my nose cavity for sure!

Thank you Tommy for being a guest on the 5-1-1! I am very excited that Tommy will be returning to my fair city for another victory lap! His first visit was so successful, that my son Brodie (though I lost the spelling war) was immortalized in Jack Strong Takes a Stand!


I am wondering just how cute my daughter will have to be to have Kara appear in an upcoming book… maybe Eliza’s solo effort? Maybe this cute:


Until next time have a wonderful evening… this is Newhouse the Librarian signing off!


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