Drawing attention: Author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka visits Norris Elementary School  

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  • Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka (“crow-sauce-ka”) talks with Norris School fifth graders about his work and his career path from childhood during a visit to the Southampton elementary on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A Norris School fifth grader holds a book in author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka’s newest “Star Wars Jedi Academy” series as he listens to the Worcester native’s presentation on Friday in Southampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jarrett Krosoczka, left, author and illustrator of the popular graphic novel series “Lunch Lady,” greets Norris School cafeteria staff, including, from right, Liz Moulton, Renee Freniere, David Hayes and Kathy Sullivan, following his talk with fifth graders at the Southampton elementary on Friday, May 10, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka answers questions from Norris School fifth graders after his presentation at the Southampton elementary on Friday, May 10, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Norris School fifth graders, from left, Parker Christy, Braylon Jarrett, Cade Cefalo and Cameron Ball sing a tribute to the school’s cafeteria staff after Jarrett Krosoczka spoke at the Southampton elementary on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Norris School fifth graders, from left, Parker Christy, Braylon Jarrett, Cade Cefalo and Cameron Ball sing a tribute to the school’s cafeteria staff after Jarrett Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the popular super hero graphic novel series “Lunch Lady,” spoke at the Southampton elementary on Friday, May 10, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka takes a photograph of the posters presented to the Norris School cafeteria staff in the style of his popular “Lunch Lady” graphic novel series on Friday, May 10, 2019, in Southampton. Krosoczka spoke to the fifth-grade class about his work and his career path from childhood, then the students recognized the cafeteria staff with the posters and performed three original songs. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka made a quick sketch of the heroine from his popular “Lunch Lady” graphic novel series during a presentation to Norris School fifth graders about his work and his career path from childhood on Friday, May 10, 2019, in Southampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 5/11/2019 6:42:19 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Fifth graders at Norris Elementary School were silent as they listened attentively to author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka recounting the very first picture book he made in third grade. 

As students sat in the school’s library on Friday morning, Krosoczka used a projector to show pictures of “The Owl Who Thought He Was the Best Flyer,” which he illustrated and wrote while attending Gates Lane School in Worcester in the late 1980s. Complete with a cover, a title page and an author page at the end of his book, Krosoczka said the experience of creating it made a lasting impression on him. 

“I just loved using my imagination,” Krosoczka said. “I remember my teacher teaching us all about brainstorming, organizing our ideas, writing a rough draft, editing and revising. And all those lessons I learned as a kid, I use today in these books that I write and illustrate that get published.” 

Krosoczka, an award winning children’s book author and illustrator who lives in Florence, has written over 40 books. He is well-known for his crime-fighting “Lunch Lady” graphic novel series, and his recently published graphic memoir, “Hey, Kiddo,” was named a finalist for the National Book Awards 2018 for Young People’s Literature.

During his visit to Norris, the author and illustrator gave students an inside look into his early days as a young child drawing cartoons and writing his own stories.

Krosoczka said his approach to learning to draw was similar to that of many artists before him. He began by emulating the artwork around him — he would draw sketches of Garfield and Snoopy as a child and then comic-book heroes as a teen.

In high school, he began creating cartoons for his school’s newspaper. “That was a really big moment for me,” Krosoczka said of sharing his work more widely.

“I loved the feeling that it gave me,” Krosoczka said. “I could entertain people through my work, if it was printed and published.” 

Now, Krosoczka said, he sees a lot of children taking those same initial first steps he took as he travels around the country giving presentations to elementary school students. 

“I was a kid, just like them, in elementary school, and I would draw the cartoons I would see in my comic books just like I see them doing as well,” Krosoczka said after the 40-minute presentation to fifth graders. 

Most young readers only see the finished product, not the process behind it, and Krosoczka takes the opportunity to show students how his sketches turn into published works. 

“I demystify it by showing the works I was making when I was a kid in elementary school,” he said. 

Love for the lunch staff

At the end of Krosoczka’s talk, the fifth graders gave a presentation of their own. Members of the school’s cafeteria staff were invited to the library, where the students dedicated musical compositions to them.

A group of four students performed an original rap for the lunch staff.

“I walk into the caf, ready to munch,” rapped one student. “I see you there serving my favorite lunch.”

Another group sang their gratitude for the lunch staff in a song to the tune of “Ode to Joy.” 

A third group, donning headwear adorned with plastic cutlery, sang about eating chicken nuggets to the tune of the radio hit “Old Town Road.” 

Liz Moulton, one of the cafeteria staff, said students had never thanked her quite like this before. Many of the students she has known since they were in preschool. 

“I was a little teary,” Moulton said. “Nobody really recognizes the lunch program normally, and to have the kids focus on it, and to know how important it is to them, is very special.” 

“It’s so nice for them to use their talents to recognize us,” she said. 

Krosoczka’s book series was inspired by a chance encounter he had with a lunch lady at his high school after his first book got published. When he attended her funeral a few years later, he was moved to bring recognition to the hard work of cafeteria staff at schools across the country.

“When she passed away, the drawing I made for her was next to her casket after her widower put it next to it,” Krosoczka recalled. “He explained to me how much that meant to her, that I took the time to recognize her, and it really hit me. 

“It’s a group of hardworking people in our educational system that are so often overlooked or dismissed,” he continued. “And certainly, they have not been treated very kindly in popular culture and media.” 

Since then, Krosoczka has aimed to inspire and empower young people to use their own creativity to show their appreciation and gratitude towards the people who work to feed them every day at school. 

“The point,” he said, “is to do something creative to thank them.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com.




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