Author Jess Keating

You probably know me as Mr. Schu or John, but anyone who met me between 1981 and 1994 knows me as Johnny. (My loving grandma spelled it Johnnie.) I can name the number of people who still call me Johnny on two hands: Mom, Dad, Bobby (brother), Lisa (sister-in-law), Aunt Karen, Colby Sharp, and Jess Keating. Although I've only known Jess for a short time, it feels as though I've known her my entire life. She dropped by to chat with me about zoos, Nerd Camp, school libraries, middle-grade fiction, and reading. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jess! 

Here are three things you should know about Ana.

1. The first thing you should know about Ana is that she and her family live in a zoo, and her bedroom is right next to smelly hippos. Have you ever lived next to hippos? It's very pungent. And it makes being normal in seventh grade sort of difficult.

2. Ana has a twin brother named Daz, a parrot named Darwin, and a grandfather who happens to be a world famous reality TV naturalist. It's very hard to blend in when paparazzi follow your every move!

3. Ana has a secret—something she is terrified people will discover about her. What is she trying to hide? Obviously I'm going to tell you to read the book to find out!

Look for the next book in the series, How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel on January 6, 2015. It picks up right where Ana leaves off in Book #1, and features some very toothy characters! Savvy readers may have noticed that although things may seem fine for Ana at the end of the first book, there are always two sides to every story. Have I said too much?!

When I was in middle school, I wanted to live in a zoo! My parents wouldn't let me—something about lawsuits, I think?—but they did let me paint my room like a rainforest exhibit and stick tiny plastic lizards and poisonous frogs to my bookshelves.

School libraries are one of the first places we learn not only who we are, but also who we want to become. Because of this, school librarians can change lives. When I was in school, my librarian, Ms. Fenton, always kept a list of new books that came in for me to read. She knew how much I loved books, and was one of the first people who cheered me on when I started writing. Sadly, Ms. Fenton didn't get to see my book published, but I did get to thank her by naming a very important character after her! (I think she would like the book version of herself. She's very hip.)

I attended Nerd Camp. I’ll always remember the buzzy-excited-giddy feeling of being surrounded by such passionate book people! Nerd Camp was the coolest event I've ever attended as an author, and I can't wait to go again next year. I got to meet Colby Sharp! And Travis Jonker! And YOU, Mr. Schu! And about a hundred other amazing nerdies all of whom deserve to be named here along with their awesome blogs, but I'm pretty sure your eyes will glaze over and I'll get escorted off the stage if I yammer on for ages, just like they do at the Academy Awards when someone talks for too long, and they start playing the music.

Middle-grade fiction has a permanent place in my heart, and my life. I love that middle grade books are timeless and limitless—they can fill your heart, transport you back in time, and somehow stick with you through your entire life like portable best friends. I count myself lucky to write it!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I've ever been chased by a crocodile! (The answer is no, but I was bitten by one when I was thirteen! Thankfully, he was a baby. I still have a teensy scar on my pointer finger!)

Thank you for having me! (No, thank you!) 

I am giving away one copy of How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 9/5 to 11:59 p.m. on 9/7. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. Awesome interview! Can't wait to read How to Outswim a Shark (and how to outwhat a something after that...). :)


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