I met Jonathan Roth when he presented his chapter book series Beep and Bob at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in 2019, and found out that he was an art educator in the same school system as me. Since then we have crossed paths several times, and am excited to share his newest book with you – Rover and Speck: This Planet Rocks – a full color graphic novel for young readers. The second in this series, Rover and Speck: Splash Down, publishes in October 2023.
Jonathan Roth will be a featured presenter at the 14th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, May 20, 2023, at Bohrer Park. He is presenting along with Jarrett Lerner and Dave Roman at 11:15 am in the Graphic Novels and Workshops Pavilion. In addition, Jonathan will be a featured presenter at GBF Continues @MCPL on Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 3:00 pm.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Jonathan Roth!
Who encouraged or inspired you to become an author/illustrator?
My mom is an artist (painter) and my dad was a longtime English teacher. Together they fostered in me a healthy obsession with pictures and words!
What is your writing space like?
I do almost all my writing and illustrating at my desk in a little room in my home in Twinbrook, Rockville.
What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your current book? Describe your art style and your art process.
I love the vibrant color! And that’s due to the talents of my colorist, Paulina Suarez (like many comic artists, I work with someone who does the coloring). I first do very rough illustrations (pencil and/or digital) as a layout, and once edited, craft the final illustrations on my graphics tablet for Paulina to work on.
What prompted you to try a graphic novel format?
I love comics! Years ago, I had hundreds of comics strips published (more for an older audience) and tried for a while to get a syndicated strip. When I finally broke into children’s book it was with illustrated chapter books with lots of dialogue. Those aren’t graphic novels, but it wasn’t such a stretch after that to then go graphic!
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
So hard to pick a favorite! But I have a special place in my heart for the funnier, goofier ones like Beep and Speck.
How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book?
Any way they choose! Important message books are crucial, of course, but so are zanier, adventurous books (like mine) that may inspire kids to pick books up. I also love to be invited by librarians and media specialists to talk in their libraries and schools.
Who is the reader you are writing for? Please describe them.
I’m writing for young readers who like humorous buddy/friendship stories. Though my books tend to be zany, space-based adventures, the common thread is mismatched, funny duos.
What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
Many authors, like myself, work at other jobs too. My other career is teaching art at an elementary school (next year will be my 25th year teaching!). Also, besides the next two ROVER AND SPECK books, I’m also working on my first creative non-fiction picture book, which will come out in the summer of 2024.
Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?
ROVER AND SPECK was placed on one of the ALA’s ‘Core Excellence in Children’s and YA Science Fiction Notable Lists’ this year, which was a surprise and a very nice honor. Go librarians!
What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
Meeting young readers and creators!
What message do you have for your readers?
All authors are readers first. And all readers have worthwhile stories of their own to tell. So read, read, read, and if you’re up to it, grab some paper and write or draw whatever inspires you!
Visit Jonathan Roth’s website and follow him on Instagram @jonmrothbooks.