NYT bestselling author from Eastern WA to bring new ‘Bonkers’ book to Tri-Cities schools

A bestselling children’s author is kicking off a national book tour March 11 at several schools around the Tri-Cities.

Patrick Carman has been writing novels for more than two decades now, amassing the attention and intrigue of young readers around the world with more than 5 million books sold in 23 countries.

You may recognize the New York Times bestselling author and Scholastic Book Fair mainstay’s work if you read his teen science fiction series “Pulse” or breakout fantasy novel “The Dark Hills Divide.”

But a new slate of colorful characters take a turn toward the silly and absurd in Carman’s new book series and animated show — “Bonkers.”

“It’s fast-paced, super funny, weird,” the 57-year-old Walla Walla author told the Tri-City Herald. “It’s like ‘Goosebumps,’ only funnier.”

In the series’ first entry — “The Terror in Jenny’s Armpit,” set for release March 5 — 10-year-old Jenny Kim and her two buddies get to the bottom of why a “mysterious thing” growing in her arm pit has been getting so large.

Along the way, the kids “visit an abandoned chemistry lab, discover curious creatures called Snerbs, and uncover a secret so big it might just eat the entire planet.” The novels are geared toward kids age 8-10.

The next novel in the series, “Attack of the 40 Foot Chicken,” releases June 4. More “Bonkers” books will be released three times a year.

This year’s tour will be Carman’s first in nearly five years, since the onset of the COVID pandemic. He’s been all over the U.S., having made previous stops at more than 3,000 schools and conducted assemblies in front of more than a million students.

“It’s kind of like a standup comedy routine,” he said. “We just have a blast.”

Eastern WA author

Carman’s goal in writing books is to help kids establish a lifelong love of reading. But it’s a mission that’s become ever more challenging with the introduction of distracting video platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

“I’m just trying to find any way for kids to turn pages in books,” Carman said. “For me, I just imagine myself as a 9 year old with a phone or iPad, and all the things I could be doing that’s not reading. It would be pretty tough.”

That’s partly why Carman and his team are also releasing an animated online short based on the “Bonkers” universe on the same day the book releases. The goal is to get kids interested in the show to also read the book.

Research has shown just how important it is for elementary students to be reading on grade level by the time they reach third grade, when reading becomes a primary skill and medium for subject-based instruction.

Students who fail to develop a solid foundation of reading comprehension by this point have difficulty understanding the written material that is a central part of education in the proceeding grades.

Walla Walla children’s author Patrick Carman will kick off a national book tour March 11-15 with several visits to Tri-City elementary schools.
Walla Walla children’s author Patrick Carman will kick off a national book tour March 11-15 with several visits to Tri-City elementary schools.

During assemblies, Carman tries to bridge a connection to those students who struggle with books and reading daily. Reading shouldn’t be a chore for kids, he argues, it should be a fun experience.

“For some young readers, meeting a writer is enough to get them started,” he said. “I love going into that situation and knowing that I am definitely speaking to specific kids, kids who need that time to hear from me.”

Carman is a small business owner and former advertising executive by trade, according to a biography. He didn’t get into children’s fiction until he took over reading duties for his daughters. Tales of a young girl’s adventure escaping the walls ensnaring her village became the genesis of his “Land of Elyon” series.

The Eastern Washington author will begin the first leg of his U.S. tour with assemblies and visits to Tri-City elementary schools March 11-15. He’ll visit with more than 4,000 students at 13 schools.

Those visits include these elementary schools: White Bluffs, William Wiley, Sacajawea, Cascade, Badger Mountain, James McGee, Amon Creek, Lewis and Clark, Franklin, Jason Lee, Captain Gray, Mark Twain and Desert Sky.

He will also host a public event and book signing 6 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at Adventures Underground.

This might also be something of a farewell tour, as well. After two decades on the road, the author is considering cutting back on his in-school visits. But he tells the Herald he hasn’t made any final decisions yet.