As an author, Kelly Jones gives to readers through her books.
Recently, Jones asked readers to join her in giving that gift to others.
“I try to make the stories and characters in my books accessible to everyone,” the Shoreline resident said during a recent conversation at the Edmonds Library. Two local book-signing events got Jones to thinking about how she could make the physical books, not just stories inside, also accessible to more people.
Jones has two children’s books, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (2015) and Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? (2018), published by Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Her 2015 “Chicken” book was selected for the Sno-Isle Libraries 2018 Third Grade Reading Challenge. The challenge brings six selected books each year to more than 50 elementary schools and 1,300 third-graders across Snohomish and Island counties.
That first volume ends with a bit of a tease, a box, but it doesn’t say what is in the box. Clearly, a sequel was in order, but Jones said it’s not that simple in the publishing world.
“It helps if publishers hear from readers,” said Jones, adding that plenty of third-graders contacted her publisher about the mystery box. In fact, the librarian at one of the 2018 reading-challenge schools said a student marched into the library this past September demanding to read the next installment.
Such enthusiasm reinforced Jones’ idea about creating more access: What if she asked readers at book-signings to donate toward buying books for children who can’t afford it?
“I was going to launch parties for the book at the Edmonds Bookshop and Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park,” Jones said. “There was a chance it wouldn’t work and the possible embarrassment that comes with that but, it’s not about having all the answers, it’s about trying.”
Jones went ahead and floated her idea with the bookstores and her publisher.
As it turned out, no one had ever tried it before, but they said, “Yes.”
“Both bookstores put out a call to donate and I made an appeal to my contacts,” Jones said. Edmonds Bookshop owner Mary Kay Sneeringer said the donation opportunity was a big success.
The donations resulted in 25 copies being purchased. “Hopefully, it’s something we can do more of,” Jones said.
Distribution of the donated books will happen with the help of Joy Feldman, Sno-Isle Libraries Lead Librarian for Early Literacy. Feldman also coordinates the reading challenge and will tap into those school contacts to get the books into students’ hands.
Whether there is a third “Chickens” book, Jones said, is at least partially up to her readers, but she does have a non-chickens book in the works.
“It’s called ‘Sauerkraut,’” Jones said.
The story is about a boy who wants to become a maker of things. Before he can work on his own ideas, the boy goes down in the basement where he meets the ghost of his grandmother, who wants him to make sauerkraut.
“The book has been in the works for three years and advance copies should be available this coming January or February,” Jones said.
Jones says she has plenty of other ideas that haven’t quite coalesced into stories. “My brain stuffs them away where they grow like a coral reef,” she said.