b'Ididfail!But Ifailedwithfi-nesse.Cooperhas writtenandil-lustratedover20 books now, from thepopularPep-per Party series to theBotsbooks. Healsoillus-tratedMaureen Jay Cooper, with his daughter, giving an author talk at WordsJohnsonsna-bookstore. Photo credit: Chad Hunt. tionalbest-seller, Your Guide to Not the art production department. AfterGetting Murdered In A Quaint English a stint at Penguin as a book cover de- Village, which represented a significant signer, he was headhunted for Broad- departure from his artistic style and a way advertising, where he has broughtchallenge he was determined to meet. hiscreativitytoeverythingfromItwasthemoststressfulbookIve Broadway posters to playbills to bill- worked on because it was so far outside boards and marquees to the ads adorn- my style, and I wanted to make sure ing the tops of taxis. Cooper has beenI nailed it, he says. I stressed myself at it for 18 years, having worked onout so much that I came down with the 144 Broadway plays and musicals. shingles. I was at the wellness center on Making the leap to author and il- Route 22, wracked with pain, but I had lustrator was the result of a personalmy drawing pad on my lap. He has challenge Cooper set for himself to be- also illustrated for the wildly popular come published. So. I turned 40, heLast Kids On Earth graphic novel series, says. I thought, Im gonna get aheadcalling it the funniest thing I have ever of my midlife crisis. Im going to takeworked on. I hope kids love reading it a stab at it. Im going to take a yearas much as I loved drawing it. I laughedExceptional Learning & where I am really all chips in. He splitout loud so many times drawing it. Life Skills Programup his year into three increments. TheAnd it is, ultimately, this urge toMondayWednesdaySaturdayfirst third was devoted to developingspread humor, creativity, and literacy, a commercial book idea; the second,thatpropelsJayCooperontobook to acquiring an agent to sell the book;fairs, independent bookshops, and, es- ONLY What Parents Say:and the third and final one focusingpecially, his many visits to elementary on procuring a book contract. schools.Itsmyfavoritepartofthe19. Its hard to believe someone so gifted in karate $ 95would be so patient and good with kids, butThe goal was by the time I turnedjob, he says. Its the whole reason Ione week trial Sensei Howard is a rare find! - K. Kaplan41, on my birthday, I would have ado it. To pay forward that experience3 classes withbook deal, he recalls. Cooper missedI had as a kid that made me become auniform Shihan is the kid whisperer! He builds confidence his self-imposed deadlinebut only byreader. Time and again, Cooper em- and character in all of the kids. - W. Armstrong aweek.phasizestheimportanceofmeetingAfter School Enrichment ProgramJustapeople who work in the arts. I didntArts & CraftsPhysical Karate Game Time weekaf- realize I could potentially work in theQuiet StudyWholesome Snacksterturn- arts in a realistic way until I met peopleDaily 3:30 - 5:30 PMing41,who were doing it, he recalls. I grew2023hehadup thinking books came from MountSPECIALhisdealOlympus and Zeus would say Heres i alongWhere The Wild Things Are by Maurice$ 85w t hSendak. No real human did that kind p l e n t yof thing! But when I realized peopleper weekofteas- likemedid,itchangedeverything. ingfromCooper is determined that his visits to Jay Cooper illustratedfriends.schools will inspire young readers and Maureen Johnsons nation-P e o - artists to realize writing and illustrat- Call or Text 908-967-8132al best-seller, Your Guide toplesay,ing books is attainablethey can do Not Getting Murdered In AVisit us at BlueLifeKarate.com Quaint English Village. HereSo,youit too.he poses with a fan. failed?When he is standing in a gymna- 1882 Springfield AvenueMaplewood, NJ feature story /27'