Jason Edwards, award-winning author and ‘edutainer’, kindly took the time for an interview about Rogue Bear Press. Rogue Bear Press publishes children’s books, including The Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency, which won the Mom’s Choice Awards in 2011. The press currently has four employees, who all work part-time. In addition to publishing children’s books, Rogue Bear Press offers programs for libraries and schools.
Q. Your bio says you are an ”edutainer.” What does that entail?
I created that title for myself because I am more than just an award-winning author: I also produce the aforementioned Destination: INSPIRATION and MONSTER HUNT programs, which are both educational and entertaining.
Q. How and when was Rogue Bear Press started?
Rogue Bear Press was created in 2006 as a vehicle for myself and others to produce children’s books that would do more than just entertain: they would help kids grow by providing tools for addressing children’s academic, social, and emotional needs.
Q. How does Rogue Bear Press help kids learn and grow?
To be published by Rogue Bear Press, titles must be surreptitiously educational, and have stories that model, manifestly or metaphorically, ways kids can deal with common issues children face. Our premier publication, my book Will Allen and the Great Monster Detective, is not just a frighteningly funny fantasy/mystery story – it also serves as a model for how to overcome fears and anxieties, and earned an endorsement from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America for doing so. Other issues our books address include dealing with bullying, peer pressure, alcohol abuse, and so on.
Additionally, titles in our AcceleReader Program (of which the Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency series is a part) are also designed to help children advance their reading skills. Books in an AcceleReader series have progressively challenging reading levels, so that with each successive volume the reader is stimulated to build better vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Q. What is The AcceleReader program?
The AcceleReader Program is our way of helping children advance their reading skills. Books in an AcceleReader series has progressively challenging reading levels, so that with each successive volume the reader is stimulated to build better vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Q. What’s the most popular program for schools and libraries, and why?
Our most popular school and library programs are our MONSTER HUNT and Destination: INSPIRATION programs. One of the reasons they are so popular is that they are not just wildly entertaining: they also help kids develop Common Core mandated skills – while having a grand adventure!
In the MONSTER HUNT program children between the ages of 7 and 14 develop library research skills as they learn to use the library catalog and Dewey Decimal System to track down clues that help them locate and capture a lurking monster!
In the Destination: INSPIRATION Children’s InterACTIVE Theater Program, kids develop storycrafting skills because they don’t just watch the show – they ARE the show! Children of all ages can help make up characters and dialog, choose settings, and help to steer the plot in this improvisational, interACTIVE adventure because there are no reading or writing skills required.
These programs have been performed to overwhelming acclaim at over 100 schools, libraries, and other venues including The NY Reading Association Literacy Festival, The Hudson Childrens Book Festival, the SF Kidquake Literary Festival, and The Southwest Florida Reading Festival.
Q. What age range does Rogue Bear Press books cover?
Our current titles are intended for children ages 7-14. Upcoming titles, including our coming of age series Triumphs of Will, will expand our range to include YA books, and we have plans for producing picture books in the future.
Q. Can other authors submit manuscripts to Rogue Bear Press? If so, how and what does the publisher look for?
Sadly, though we would like to be on the lookout for worthy book ideas, we are currently (and for the foreseeable future) completely overwhelmed with our current plans, and unable to indulge in reviewing submissions.
Q. What are Rogue Bear Press’ plans for the future? What new books are coming out?
In the coming year, we have two more books in my Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency series coming out: Will Allen and the Terrible Truth, and Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency: INITIATIONS. We will also be releasing the audiobook version of Will Allen and the Great Monster Detective. Late in the year, the first title in the Triumphs of Will series, Simple Solutions, is also scheduled for release. We are also stepping up our marketing efforts for our books and programs, which include appearances at the AASL, NJASL, ALA, CSLA, and BEA conventions, as well as many more schools and libraries.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Chronicles of the Monster Detective Agency?
The entire series of Monster Detective Agency books was inspired by…a toilet.
You see, when my eldest daughter was a small child, she was terrified by the loud noise coming from an automatic toilet with a broken sensor that flushed repeatedly as she sat on it. She was so traumatized that she never wanted to return to the park where the incident happened – and then over time the fear grew to the point that she never wanted to go any place that had such toilets – or ever might have them. My wife and I sought aid for her, but after trying therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, no one seemed able to help. At that time, it occurred to me that one reason it was hard for adults to help children confront their anxieties is because we often have trouble relating to their fears: we just can’t understand how a tiny little ant or a circus clown could be so scary. To help them overcome their fears, kids need someone who can see the things that frightens them the same way they see them – as MONSTERS. Because I couldn’t find someone who could do this, I invented someone who could: Bigelow Hawkins, the Great Monster Detective. That was the origin of the inspiration that produced my first book, Will Allen and the Great Monster Detective, in which a clever but timid boy is plagued by monsters that are literal manifestations of his fears. With Bigelow’s help, along with the use of a very special flashlight and magnifying glass that help him see the truth behind his fears, Will learns that he must face his fears and confront his monsters in order to conquer them. Although I intended for it to be a frightfully funny mix of Ghostbusters and Monsters Inc. (I did not want to make a preachy, ‘This is How to Defeat Fears’ book), it was also designed to provide a metaphorical model showing the steps to take for helping children overcome anxieties. In the end, Will becomes so good at fighting monsters that he becomes a monster detective himself, which sets up the sequels in which he helps other kids fight their monsters.
So, like the fears themselves, this inspiration took on a life of its own, and continues to grow, with the 4th volume, Will Allen and the Terrible Truth, due to be released this coming Spring.
Q. Do you have a favorite book in the series? If so, which one and why?
My favorite book in the series is one that has not yet been released: Will Allen and the Lair of the Phantoms. This is in part due to its rich images and the depth into which it delves into the inner workings of the characters in the series, but honestly, the main reason it is my favorite is because it touches me personally more deeply that the others. The inspiration for this volume came on a trip to Ellis Island, and the overriding theme is one of holding tight to the connections between generations, a theme that resonates with me more strongly with each passing year as I watch my father decline and my children begin to leave the nest.