By: Holly Snyder Thompson for The Dirt
How did you occupy your time in the early days of the pandemic when we were still disinfecting our groceries and every person in the Western Hemisphere bought a Peloton? For me, most of that time was spent having my entire booty handed to me by distance-learning a first grader, and if I was able to carve out some free time I did do brief stints in sourdough, paint-by-numbers and Wordle, of course.
However, if I were to ask a certain pair of award-winning and best-selling authors/illustrators of kid’s books who also happen to be childhood best friends, they would describe how they spent their sudden surplus of free time creating The First Cat In Space Ate Pizza. Written, illustrated, voiced and filmed by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris, this winsome web cartoon was a delightful reprieve from the doom scrolling addictions we were all forming.
Starting in March of 2020, every Saturday for 12 weeks Mac and Shawn aired a new episode of First Cat from their homes while sheltering in place. Each 5-10 minute episode was filmed in one take and viewed live on Instagram by tens of thousands of kids around the world. Two years (that felt like ten) later, this web series was adapted into a middle grade graphic novel series and the second installment has just been released!
Both Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris have a full catalog of kid’s books. Mac has partnered on picture books with renowned illustrators such as Jon Klassen, Greg Pizzoli, Marla Frazee and Dan Santat to name only a few. He’s authored several middle grade novels (my son’s favorite is Mac B. Kid Spy) and his Shapes Trilogy picture books (in partnership with Klassen) have been adapted into Shape Island on Apple TV+.
Shawn Harris writes and illustrates his own publications, including his most recent picture book, Would You Like to See a Flower?, which was a 2022 Caldecott Honor book. He has illustrated books with authors such as Colin Meloy and Dave Eggers. One of Harris and Eggers’ collaborations, Her Right Foot, was featured in our Camp Avid Summer Reading Bundle in 2020.
Why am I telling you about these hilarious and talented besties? It’s not because Avid Reader is run by an equally effervescent best friend duo… it’s because Mac and Shawn are coming to Davis!
We’re very excited to be hosting Mac and Shawn at The Avid Reader on Wednesday, October 25. They will be at the store from 5:30-7:00pm to do a presentation of the newest installment in this series: The First Cat in Space and the Soup of Doom. They are wonderful performers and your kids will be captivated! Any family that pre-purchases a signed copy of The First Cat in Space and the Soup of Doom will be given priority access to meet and take a picture with Mac and Shawn at this event.
Later in the evening, Mac & Shawn will be joining us for a fundraiser for the Friends of the Davis Library at Armadillo Music from 8:30p—10p. We will be discussing children’s literature and the impact of libraries and librarians on our kids and communities. This is an excellent opportunity to show your support for our local library.
There will be an opportunity to purchase books from Mac & Shawn’s extensive catalog and have them signed. Tickets for this event are $30 and include a beverage from the Armadillo bar. This after hours event is for adults only. Tickets and event details can be found on The Avid Reader website.
Above all, these two children’s authors are fun, silly and engaging. They know how to capture our kid’s imaginations and tickle their funny bones. Mac has said “If a kid is bored by a book, the author is not doing their job.” He and Shawn know there’s a spark for reading in every kid, and believe it’s their job to find it and ignite it.