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Archive for 2009

New state standards matches for Chester Comix

Written on Saturday, December 12th, 2009 [permanent link]

See how my 27 comix match up with North Carolina’s social studies standards!

The background:
Chester the Crab was born in 1995 as a narrator for a short series of Earth Day comic strips in the Daily Press newspaper. He and I goofed around for a few years after that tackling such important subjects as: Which came first, crunchy or creamy peanut butter? But in 1999 the testing wave hitting the public schools was growing so big that the newspaper noticed and called together a roundtable of teachers to ask what we could do to help them.

“Make Chester tell stories linked to the state standards!”

I drew five years of Chester adventures with a pen in my right hand and the thick state standards document in my left. I built my stories from the ground up to cover the classroom material (key words in bold, timeline across the top of every page, lotsa maps . . .). Virginia’s Standards of Learning are pretty detailed, so it didn’t surprise me to find that most of my stories met standards in other states as well.

When I launched the Chester Comix business in 2003 to put his adventures in book form, I printed teacher’s guides with the matching standards on the back. But it wasn’t a great system: I couldn’t fit every state onto that list, and when a state tweaked its standards my printed list went out of date.

Now, finally, that idea has moved to this website. Click on the state standards box in the menu bar above and you’ll see a map of the U.S. Click on your state and see a grid of that state’s social studies curriculum and how Chester Comix can help teach it! Please let me know if I’m missing an important detail, or if you think other Chester titles apply. We can edit these grids as the classroom reality changes!

(PS – creamy peanut butter came first)

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I Dream of Sparky

Written on Saturday, November 28th, 2009 [permanent link]


I’ve been blessed to meet most of my cartooning heroes in the past 20 years, but I never got to meet Charles “Sparky” Schulz.

Until two nights ago. I had a dream that I found him — he was undercover, hiding from his worldwide fame as the creator of “Peanuts.” He was a schoolbus driver for elementary kids! Somehow I had reason to get on his bus (though my two sons are well out of elementary school now, I may have been there mentally because that’s still my target audience for my comix) and I easily recognized him under his old guy felt cap. He looked like a kindly grandpa and was very quiet — even as he asked me to not reveal his secret. Of course I promised I would not.

It was a great dream. It made me very happy to make that simple connection, standing on the steps of that bus. The day outside the bus was sunny and warm — were we in California, where Schulz the Quiet Minnesotan had found a place to draw his magic? Or had he moved to my town, Williamsburg, like so many other retirees? My dreams are always based in reality — I’m never flying, never shooting through space talking to aliens. I’m chatting with Charlie Brown’s dad!!

A 42-year-old cartoonist dreaming about Charles Schulz is nothing remarkable — my generation of cartoonists grew up chasing his example. I and many of my peers started drawing by copying the Charlie Brown and Snoopy strips we read in the newspaper. I recreated a bunch of them line-for-line and mailed them to Schulz, and some nice secretary mailed me back the form letter you see above. And it was one of the best moments of my life.

Thank goodness Sparky paid for that secretary to crank out those form letters. That simple piece of paper inspired me to keep going, to keep practicing, to believe that my dream of finding a job as a cartoonist could be real. I’ve had plenty of inspirations from many sources to be an Artist, but Schulz was the shining example that you could get a JOB as a CARTOONIST and maybe conquer the world.

And here he was in my dream, giving up the world to live a simple life caretaking children. Which is what he had already done for decades with his cartooning.

From one of those kids, Thanks, Sparky!

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OK, Twitter too!

Written on Saturday, November 21st, 2009 [permanent link]

Woah, there are a lot of librarians on Twitter!!! And plenty of other cool people, too. So now ChesterComix will be a Tweet you can follow as I hack my way through history.

I remember hearing about Twitter for the first time on an NPR talkshow in 2007. The host kept reading sample Tweets and then asking the founder, “But WHY do I care that Jamie just ate a taco?!?!” I asked the same question. I love Facebook so much that I thought it and this public website blog would keep my update bases covered. Who would care if I ate a taco?!?!

But Twitter is really connecting a lot of interesting people. And it seems a great Do-It-Yourself way to send a short press release. And my business is all about Do-It-Yourself tech. So I’ve added my voice to one of the most insistent pieces of the Web 2.0 cloud of information.

I hope it’s not too boring for you to hear about when I’m researching just how to draw an 1890s farmhouse in Idaho . . .

Check it out:

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Chester crab comics