Back at the beginning of the pandemic, my friends Jen de Oliveira and Mika Song — both experienced and excellent comic-makers — created Sunday Haha. The idea was to recreate for contemporary kids the excitement of receiving, and reading, the Sunday morning newspaper comics. (Which, of course, still exist, but are way less popular than they once were. ) Each week, a group of us kid lit cartoonists created free, brand-new comics that Jen and Mika then packaged up as a newsletter and sent to subscribers’ inboxes.
My first dozen or so contributions to Sunday Haha were about Cooper, a just-hatched baby chick, finding his way in the big, wide – and sometimes quite scary – world. But after a few months of doing Cooper strips, I decided to try something different. I played around with a number of ideas, but then finally landed on one that got me really fired up. It combined two of my desires: (1) to show kids that comics didn’t have to be all about superheroes in epic situations, and (2) to continue my work of celebrating kids and boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Kids LOVE comics. They love reading them and they love making them. But they often get frustrated and discouraged from creating comics because they don’t know what to make them about. This is a problem across all creative disciplines, of course. But I believe it can be especially troublesome when it comes to storytelling, because it can loop back on the child and make them think that they don’t have a story – or anything – worthy of sharing with the world.
For these reasons, and others, I encourage kids to use comics as a medium to tell all kinds of stories. Epic ones, sure – but also quieter, and even totally normal and boring, ones. Especially ones about their own lives! Comics, for instance, can be used as a sort of diary. Many cartoonists keep diaries, and do so in their chosen, most-comfortable creative medium. (Some cartoonists even share these comic diaries on their blogs or social media feeds.)
These were the impulses, in any case, that led to "everyday AWESOMENESS" – my second contribution to Sunday Haha. I drew up a quick Google form seeking information and stories, then publicized it on social media, letting people know that I wanted to celebrate kids and the everyday awesome things they did. I made it clear that these could be big, ongoing projects, or seemingly “small,” everyday sorts of things...
The response has been wonderful, and I got a chance to learn about so, so many incredible kids. I’ve turned about a dozen of their stories into comics, and the response from that has been even better.
Parents and teachers of the kids that have been featured in the comic have reached out to me to let me know how exciting it was those kids to wake up and see themselves celebrated in Sunday Haha. My hope is that it makes clear to them that their lives, and their actions, have enormous meaning and consequence, and that they are worthy of being shared with others – Sunday Haha’s thousands of subscribers, and the rest of the world, too!
Book deadlines and new babies (!) have prevented me from continuing to create everyday AWESOMENESS comics weekly, but I’m still regularly getting nominations, and plan to make more comics as I’m able. In the meantime, I encourage you to sign up for Sunday Haha if you are not a subscriber already.
And if YOU know a kid who deserves to be featured as part of "everyday AWESOMENESS," you can nominate them here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdVv_FS__ipyItMCerfqnwqCZN6mLAYwWIJ39sgIrOuIvVA1Q/viewform?usp=sf_link.
Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, Revenge of the EngiNerds, The EngiNerds Strike Back, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, and Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, as well as the author-illustrator of the activity book Give This Book a Title. Jarrett is also the author-illustrator of the forthcoming activity book Give This Book a Cover, as well as the author-illustrator of the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). He cofounded and helps run the #MGBookVillage, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. He can be found at jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @Jarrett_Lerner. He lives with his family in Medford, Massachusetts.