A moment with ... Jarrett J. Krosoczka, picture book author and illustrator

At 21, barely out of the Rhode Island School of Design, Jarrett J. Krosoczka signed on to create jazzy, high-energy picture books -- such as "Baghead," his 2002 tale of an embarrassed boy who hides his head in a paper bag. In "Punk Farm" (Random House, $15.95), his sixth book, farm animals rock the night away while Farmer Joe sleeps. Krosoczka, now 27, will appear at 4 p.m. Sunday at All for Kids, 2900 N.E. Blakeley St., and 3:30 p.m. Monday at Queen Anne Books, 1811 Queen Anne Ave. N.


You've got an unusual sensibility. Why were you drawn to kids' books instead of, say, graphic novels or underground comics?

My interest in telling stories visually began with graphic novels and comics, so it's funny you should mention that. My first graphic novel ("Lunch Lady") has just been picked up and will be out in 2007, I think.

The two biggest influences on my work were John Singer Sargent -- I think he's the most brilliant painter ever to exist -- and Charles Schulz of "Peanuts."


Your own childhood wasn't exactly textbook. Could you fill us in?

I grew up in western Massachusetts and was raised by my grandparents because my mom wasn't in a position to. She had a problem with addiction. The times she was away from me, she would write letters to me. We would draw pictures back and forth. She was an incredibly gifted artist. She's been on her feet since 1993. We are now able to have a great relationship.


Talk about meeting your father when you were 17.

When I was 16, he wrote me a letter for the first time and was trying to make amends for his absence. It wasn't till I was 17 that I wrote back. I was curious if I had siblings I didn't know about -- and I did. I have a sister and a brother. They're 10 and 12 years younger than I am. We have an amazing relationship.


What was it like to reclaim those missing parts of your family?

You deal with a certain amount of anger because of feelings of abandonment. That's true for both my father and mother. But I've come to a point where I can forgive them. Life is too short for anger.


How did you land a book contract at age 21?

I always knew that people would get a few years of rejection letters. I wanted it to happen when I was still a student. So I was just continually sending my work out. I received my first, full professional job when I was a senior, illustrating educational reading books for McGraw-Hill. They spelled my name wrong.


Did you read a lot of picture books as a child?

I guess you could put me between an avid reader and a reluctant reader. I did read a lot of Dr. Seuss books as a kid. I have fond memories of my grandfather reading them to me before bedtime.


How heady is it to have write-ups in Newsweek, The New York Times Book Review and USA Today?

It's awesome. I bought 10 copies of Newsweek (which ran an illustrated blurb on "Baghead") and brought them home. I handed a copy to my grandma. She looked at it and said, "You bought 10 copies for one little picture?"


Your sibs and their friends perform the "Punk Farm" song, downloadable at www.punkfarm.com Did you do backup?

Not even a cowbell or a tambourine.


Jarrett J. Krosoczka (pronounced Crow-ZAHS-ka) is a mouthful. Do you see it becoming a household name?

I don't need to be a household name to know that my work is getting out there and affecting and entertaining kids.

-- Cecelia Goodnow



BY STEVE JOHNSON

You never know what you might hear on a "Punk Farm," by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Alfred A Knopf Books, ages 4-8, $15.95).

Farmer Joe has put in a hard day's work and is ready for bed. Little does he know that his animals are getting ready to rock. Pig plugs in his guitar. Sheep grabs a microphone. Goat, chicken and cow get the other instruments ready. Animals from all around buy their tickets, crowd into the barn and get ready for the band to party.

Krosoczka is a bright, young talent who has several books to his credit. His writing is concise and to the point with a nice mixture of conversation and narration, and his full-color illustrations lavishly fill in the details.

The band puts on a great show singing Old MacDonald like you've never heard it before "with a BOOM CRASH here and a BOOM BOOM there. Here a BOOM, there a BOOM, everywhere a CRASH CRASH!"

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Books that move to their own stylish rhythm
By Liz Rosenberg  |  August 14, 2005

Punk Farm
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf, 40 pp., ages 4-9, $15.95

The best picture books are like a dance -- they move, change, surprise, and fluctuate, all within a contained form, as this month's selections prove. ''Punk Farm," by Bostonian Jarrett J. Krosoczka, takes the old song ''Old MacDonald Had a Farm" to new decibels. On the farm, hidden in the barn, is a punk band composed of cow (on drums), goat (bass), pig (guitar), chicken (keyboard), and sheep (vocals). The book is fearless in conception and execution, a jazzy comic bit of thievery and transformation. It does not look or sound or behave like your father's old picture book -- the lyrics slam and slide across each boldly bright page, and the crowd ''goes crazy," dancing to their favorite tune. No wonder at dawn each day, the animals are snoozing in the barn. Fans can even log on to www.punkfarm.com to ''download their barn-burning single."