Kenny Sparks Classroom Conversation

We are so proud to hear that teachers are incorporating Half Popped into their curriculums.  Nothing makes us happier than knowing that kids are reading our story, especially when we see that they're taking away such a positive message.  Here are some amazing letters we received from students:

Mommies247: An Interview with Jeff!

Mommies247 sat down with Jeff Feuerstein, author to children’s book “Half Popped.”

1) What inspired you to write “Half Popped?”

I was working in Baltimore, eating popcorn in a hotel room one night, feeling pretty lonely myself. I started picking through the bottom of the bowl for the half popped kernels. Maybe I needed someone to talk to because I almost involuntarily uttered out loud the first line of a poem that was being written in my head: “Kenny the kernel was only half popped, he turned out that way when the microwave stopped.” My sister has always enjoyed my writing, and snacking on popcorn, so I shot her an email with that rhyme, just for a smile. Instead she told me, “That sounds like the beginning of a children’s book.” From there I started looking into the hotel room’s mini fridge in a different way: what other foods are social outcasts?

2) The book teaches a great lesson but is also so cute! How did you and the illustrator come upon this design theme?

I wanted my sister, Dayna Brandoff, to be the illustrator mainly as an excuse for us to hang out while working on a project together. Since she’s not a trained artist she had the brilliant idea of taking photographs and manipulating them for a “sketchy” look. But something was still missing. Our characters lacked personality. Enter Alex Miller who put a face to each downtrodden grocery item. Together they brought the book to life.

3) What has been your favorite reaction from a reader?

I got a text message from my sister with a video attachment. My then 2 and a half year old niece quoted the first line of the book with a huge smile on her face. Tough to beat that.

4) Any other installments coming?

I don’t think you’ll see any more installments of Kenny the Kernel himself, but another food-related children’s book is a definite possibility. We have this idea for a girl with pasta for hair that she keeps restyling. “The Girl With Angel Hair Hair.”

5) What’s next for you?

Who knows? I’m still working in film and as a freelance writer and Dayna is still a professional organizer. “What’s next” can really be anything.

Best Holiday Gift Yet!

One of the great things about being a brother/sister writing/illustrating team is having a really proud Dad.  Thanks for this awesome holiday gift, Pops!


the silly goose turtle

 The other day my niece, Tess, woke up from her nap. Earlier in the day she had her first haircut and as a reward her mother (aka my sister, Dayna) bought her a little toy turtle. 

Now -- when Tess wakes up it can go 1 of 2 ways. She can be her sweet, loveable and huggable self, or she can be a little…less than lovable.

Thankfully this toy turtle, whom she named Henry, put a smile on her face as soon as she opened her eyes. Turtles are good like that. 

"You're a silly goose," she told the small, shelled figure. 

"A silly goose turtle?" Dayna asked. 

And like that a new nickname was born. Silly Goose Turtle. She doesn't quite get it yet. 

But it also spawned a new idea. What if that turtle were real? What if he heard Tess call him a silly goose? Naturally the amphibian would believe he was a goose, equipped with all goose-like abilities; he could fly, squawk, lay eggs, migrate...

And Henry, The Silly Goose Turtle, wouldn't let anyone or anything convince him otherwise. Because he'd want  to fly and squawk and lay eggs and migrate. Besides, Tess told him so.

a note about co-illustration

When Jeffrey came to me with the beginning 2 lines of Half Popped, I said it sounded like a children's book.  When the poem began to take shape and a real story began to emerge, he asked if I would illustrate.  Of course I said yes.  But then i got on earth would i bring an entire kitchen to life?  

The answer came as I was playing with an artsy iPhone app.  I could photograph the story, shot by shot, using real popcorn, real carrots, my own fridge.  I could take those photos and render them to look like drawings.  But we still needed someone to bring these inanimate objects to life with limbs and faces and feelings. 

Enter Alex Miller - uber talented artist.  We loved the samples he sent, but more than that, we loved that he spoke "Jeff & Dayna."   You see, we definitely have our own language. He's been my brother for 28 years -- if I intone a word in a certain way, he just knows the feeling I'm trying to convey.  Pretty hard for a stranger to pick up. But Alex took some seemingly ridiculous notes ("I think that Kenny is feeling a little womp womp womp on this page." "We want you to make this a cereal pool party that you'd want to attend." "Sure, they all live in the fridge, but they're not all related.") and he just nailed it. 

So the background images you see, that's all Dayna.  The details are all Alex.  But the feeling behind them -- well, that's a little of all of us.  

We hope you enjoy. 

we have arrived

well....our proofs did anyway.  

pretty exciting day! 

p.s. - Tess took this shot. 

the photographer herself, along with her Uncle Author

where it began - a note from the author

This book started as a kernel of an idea -- 2 simple opening lines of a poem that came to me while snacking in a lonely hotel room: "Kenny the kernel was only half popped, He turned out that way when the microwave stopped."

When I presented the rhyme to my sister, she said it sounded like the start of a children's story.  Well of course it did...

Every year I get older. I mature in so many aspects of my life. And yet, my list of favorite authors has always included Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, Roald Dahl, Robert Munch, Dr. Seuss...and I assume it always will.  

From there we never looked back. 

A half popped popcorn kernel would clearly have some self esteem issues. So who else in a kitchen might feel similarly self-conscious?

As a mother, Dayna has read countless children's books in the past 2 and a half years so her grasp on the genre was crucial. 

I started throwing out ideas like "melting ice cream" and "flat soda." She pointed out that healthy snacks was a wiser direction.  With her guidance, Kenny's friends started taking shape in the form of a baby carrot, a brown banana and vain grapes. 

After finishing the tale and manipulating photos to fit our artistic vision, we sought out an illustrator to bring our characters to life. Or maybe our illustrator found us...

Alex Miller might as well be our long-lost sibling.  Our imaginations seemed to share a playground. We spoke the same creative language and knew this book was going to be a collaboration in the truest sense of the word. 

Writing a children's book is work. There's a business side to things. There's marketing and advertising and word of mouth. But there's also the playfulness and whimsy that is necessary to connect with children. And I believe that can be seen on the pages of Half Popped.