All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Mac Barnett

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Mac Barnett is the bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, both illustrated by Jon Klassen, and both winners of a Caldecott Honor and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award. His picture books, Leo: A Ghost Story and The Skunk, were recognized as The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2015. Barnett also writes the Brixton Brothers mystery series and, with Jory John, The Terrible Two novels.

Barnett loves his work because, he says, kids are “the sincerest appreciators of stories, a uniquely receptive and honest audience.”

Barnett grew up in California, and graduated from Pomona College where he studied literature under the writer David Foster Wallace. He was always "obsessed" with books and knew he wanted to be a writer, but didn't figure out what kind until he worked at a kids' camp in Berkeley one summer. Barnett would make up stories for the kids and gained a reputation as the man with the fantastical tales. In a 2014 TED Talk, Barnett said, “My job is that I lie to children, but they're honest lies.” Barnett was particularly influenced by The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

After college, Barnett worked at 826 Valencia, a non-profit tutoring center that helps kids with with their writing and homework (founded by author Dave Eggars). He later became the executive director of the SoCal branch, 826LA, where he established the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, a convenience store for time travelers.

The Picture Book Manifesto, written by Barnett and signed by 21 other picture book creators declares that “A picture book should be fresh, honest, piquant, and beautiful.”

In addition to writing books, Barnett now edits "The Goods," a compendium of kids' games, puzzles, comics and stories created by artists and writers for newspapers across the country, distributed by McSweeney’s publishing house. Barnett currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Learn more at Mac Barnett’s website.

Selected Books

from Mac Barnett

The Terrible Two

Age Level: 9-12

It's prankster against prankster in an epic war of trickery, until the two finally decide to join forces and pull off the biggest prank ever seen: a prank so huge that it would make the members of the International Order of Disorder proud.

Buy The Terrible Two

Brixton Brothers: Danger Goes Berserk

Age Level: 9-12

It's a routine case, or at least as routine as a cases get when you're a twelve-year-old private detective who's been sleuthing for just a few months: Steve Brixton must don a neon wetsuit and work undercover to retrieve a stolen surfboard. But when the assignment goes all wrong, Steve finds himself caught inside mysteries involving wild surfers, pirate smugglers, thick-necked goons, and a sixth-grader who can't find his gym shorts.

Buy Brixton Brothers: Danger Goes Berserk

Brixton Brothers: It Happened on a Train

Age Level: 9-12

Retired private detective and current seventh grader Steve Brixton has a new job: He takes out the trash for five bucks a week. But it's hard to leave the old game behind, and on a train trip down the California coast, Steve and his best chum, Dana, are pulled into a mystery involving a fleet of stolen automobiles, a vanishing girl, and a phantom train car. Oh, and there might just be some romance...

Buy Brixton Brothers: It Happened on a Train

Brixton Brothers: The Ghostwriter Secret

Age Level: 9-12

After saving the United States of America in The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, he has opened his own agency. Steve gets a call to solve the case of the Fairview diamond but it turns into an even bigger mystery. MacArthur Bart, author of Steve's beloved Bailey Brothers series, has been kidnapped!! And there is only one 12-year-old detective who can find him. But not without the help of his best chum Dana and The Bailey Brothers Detective Handbook.

Buy Brixton Brothers: The Ghostwriter Secret

The Clock Without a Face: A Gus Twintig Mystery

Age Level: 9-12

The call comes in from the shadowy Ternky Tower: 13 robberies, one on each floor, all the way up to the penthouse, where obnoxious importer Bevel Ternky has been relieved of the numbers garlanding the legendary Emerald Khroniker, his priceless, ancient clock. Readers must conduct their own investigations, scouring detailed illustrations for hidden clues and knotty puzzles. All your answers can be found within this book: whodunit and how and where the real numbers are buried now.

Buy The Clock Without a Face: A Gus Twintig Mystery

Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

Age Level: 9-12

Seventh-grader Steve Brixton is an avid reader of the Bailey Brothers series, and he's about to get a chance to put the detective tactics he's read so much about into practice. He's out to solve a mystery being investigated by America's most secret crime solving agency: the United States Department of Library Sciences. It will take all of Steve's skills to navigate this story of intrigue and crime as he tracks down the missing quilt (yes, quilt) containing all of America's secrets.

Buy Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity